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Colin Ritchie, left, with Robert Webb from the Taihape Volunteer Fire Brigade. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/AMELIA NURSE

Firie Colin Ritchie on frontline, rain or shine

Colin Ritchie has attended almost every call-out during his 50-year career as a volunteer firefighter.
Even when he’s about to enjoy a good roast dinner and the siren beckons, he prepares to head to the frontline, an action that he says has become a “habit”.
He was recognised for his five decades of service at an event last month, where he received his Double Gold Star and thanked for his reliability – a fact that has him hold a 93 per cent attendance record.
Colin, who lives in Te Mata, joined the Taihape Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1972 after witnessing
a major fire at his local fruit and veggie shop.
As a qualified mechanic, he brought his practical skills to the fire service, especially since motor vehicle accidents were a major cause for call-outs.
“With Taihape being a small community, we had a lot of road accidents, and a lot of them were people that you knew,” he told The Profile. “I lost a really good friend… but I know he would’ve been pleased that I had been there for him.”

Colin Ritchie with the contingent who came up from Taihape to celebrate. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/AMELIA NURSE

Colin’s move to the Thames Coast was thanks to a little serendipity.
He had established his own workshop and towing business in Taihape, and he met a couple whose car had lost its radiator.
He lent them a vehicle for a week and, when they came to return it, they invited Colin and his late wife Kate to visit them in the Coromandel.
His friend had recently bought the Tapu Motor Camp and, after stopping in, Colin discovered “what a wonderful little place” the Thames Coast was.
It took about six to seven years for he and Kate to finally move to Te Mata and for Colin to join the Tapu Volunteer Fire Brigade.
“Down in Taihape there were fires and lots of accidents, but up here, there were things I had never struck, like flooding and drownings,” he said. “You can put a fire out, or cut someone out of a car, but you cannot stop water, and that blew me away.”
When Colin joined the Tapu brigade in 1998, he had already earned his Gold Star for 25 years of service. He said he was now “elated” to receive his Double Gold Star.
“I didn’t even think I would make it to Gold Star,” he said, “so I just couldn’t wait to get [the double]. When I was a kid, I wanted to be either a fireman or a train driver, and when we came to Tapu, I thought: ‘What a wonderful little community’ – it had a pub and it had a fire station.
“It really is such a good community.”
And to top it all off, the number on Colin’s Double Gold Star medal is ‘309’ – much like the 22km road iconic to the Coromandel.