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Jim Maxwell is ‘proud’ of his 50 years at Thames Volunteer Fire Brigade. Photo: GORDON PREECE

Half a century at Thames Fire Station

Representing Thames in international challenges stoked Jim Maxwell’s fire during his 50 years with Thames Volunteer Fire Brigade.
The former deputy chief fire officer told The Profile he was a 17-year-old apprentice fitter and turner at A&G Price when he got a call out to join the fire service in 1960.
“My father owned a butcher shop [Maxwell & Sons] in town and he employed a fireman when I was a little joker so I grew up getting to know this other guy and as I got older I used to go and watch them running their waterway competitions,” he said.
“I hung around there and then one day when I was 17 I was asked if I wanted to join the fire brigade, and I joined as what they call a messenger because you couldn’t be a fireman until you were 18 back in those days.
“So I used to hang with the chief and if he wanted something done I used to go and do this or go and do that and eight months later I was a fireman.”
Jim said he then resigned from the brigade in 1965 to relocate to Auckland before returning to Thames in 1978 when he became an engineer at Kopu Engineering and resuited as a Thames volunteer firefighter.
He became the station officer in 1982 which he held until 1987 before being reappointed to the role in 1990.
Between 1992 and 2006 he was the third officer and was put through his firefighting paces.
“I’ve competed in waterways competitions for probably 25 years and we had a very good road crash rescue team [in Thames] which I managed and coached and we ended up winning an Australasian title with that [in 2004 in Melbourne],” he said.
Jim said that win ignited the Thames team to compete in the World Rescue Challenge in Plymouth, England that same year.
“When you go away to competitions you learn a lot, you make mistakes, then you make mistakes again but that’s the guts of getting a winning team,” he said.

Jim said his highlights also included receiving the Queen’s Service Medal [QSM] in 2002.
“I was gobsmacked, I really was, I wondered why me?” he said.
“Then later on I was very proud to have received it because I got that as being a fireman and what I’ve done for Thames.”
“The fire brigade is held in high esteem the whole time and we command a lot of respect and I think we give a lot, we try and entrench on the young ones that we are part of the community.”
Jim was then appointed deputy chief fire officer in 2006 before he became involved in operational support in 2018 training firefighter recruits.
“When I stood down as deputy I was going to leave, but you can’t be a member of something and not do something and I wasn’t going to go to fire calls because I was getting old,” he said.
“I love giving young people the same training as when I joined and getting them up to a national standard.
“It’s a good feeling when these guys and girls go away to a course and they come back with a qualification, from a recruit firefighter to become a firefighter, I really enjoy it.”
The 80-year-old said he had no plans to extinguish his fire service flame.
“I’m proud of the Thames Fire Brigade and I think we’re a very well oiled unit, and I’m proud to be a Thames fireman,” he said.
“Right now I have no thoughts about leaving, so providing my health will hold up and providing I keep the respect of other firemen, I’ll stay.”
Jim will be formally presented with his Double Gold Star Medal on March 18.