Neil notches up 25 years fire service

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Firefighter Merv Neil, seriously injured in the Icepak Coolstores, Tamahere, fire two years ago has received a long service award.

Merv Neil - 25 years of service

Neil was one of six Hamilton firefighters to be presented with a 25-year service gold star medal at Labour Weekend but in his case it was one year late. Neil, who had critical burns to 71% of his body from the April 2008 explosion at Tamahere, was in no state to receive the award when his quarter century of service was notched up last year.

Camaraderie and a few laughs were the motivations for turning up each work day for 25 years, reported the Waikato Times.

The long serving firemen to recieve the award along with Neil were David O’Donnell, Tony Quirk, Steve McSweeny, Steve Culhane, and Blair Fothergill.

“I don’t do gold stars,” Neil told the paper. “I’ve never been one to go in my suit, but because there’s six of us it’s not so bad.”

He’s been keeping busy doing administration and light duties since January, but two weeks ago he had his first taste of being back on a fire truck.

Station officer David O’Donnell and senior firefighter Blair Fothergill have spent the past eight years working in Hamilton.

“It’s gone bloody fast,” Mr Fothergill said.

Not knowing what the day would bring and the camaraderie was the main reason Mr O’Donnell turned up to work each day.

“And the excitement, adrenaline rush and there’s plenty of laughs,” he said.

Mr McSweeny had won two “toughest firefighter” competitions during his tenure, while Mr Neil and Mr Culhane were the only two to serve their 25 years in Hamilton.

Mr Culhane said the job had tough days, and Tamahere would go down in history, but they pulled through with help of the community and the love of their families.

The six awards at once is a first for Hamilton fire district, which usually presents one or two each year.

Mr Neil and Senior Station Officer Daryl Trim will also receive long service and good conduct awards, which signifies their service to the community.

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