Frank earns award for being on fire with community contribution

Frank Turner has been recognised for the flaming good contribution he has made to the Raglan community – but he intends to do more.

The 63-year-old car spray painter was last week presented with a Mayoral Community Award for 41 years of service to the Raglan Volunteer Fire Brigade, along with commitments to rugby and being a community representative on the Raglan Coastal Reserve Advisory Committee.

Frank, who is already Raglan’s longest serving volunteer firefighter, the deputy fire chief and the treasurer for 30 years, reckons he’s going to do 50 years of service with the brigade.

“If I live that long,” he laughs, amid the toxic fumes of a recent spray paint job in his workshop in Wainui Rd.

On Thursday last week, Frank was one of 12 recipients who were honoured by Mayor Allan Sanson at Waikato District Council chambers in Ngaruawahia for their significant contribution to the community and the vitality of the Waikato.

He reckons he didn’t know anything about it until “I got the mayor’s letter”, but gathered up the family to support him.

“I just bloody sat up there and they read out what you have done and the mayor gave you the bit of wood,” says Frank, in his usual understated manner.

“No! Shit no,” he says, when asked if he thinks he is deserving of the “piece of wood”.

Why not? A pause. “I don’t want to blow my own trumpet!”

Frank, who was born and bred in the district – born in Te Mata, went to Raglan high school – started as a fire cadet in 1975 as a 22-year-old.

He was working with panel beater Denny Robertson, who at the time was a volunteer and would shoot away whenever there was a call.

“He said ‘do you want to join?’ (And I said:) ‘Might as well, you are going!’”

Frank’s still enjoying it four decades later but admits he might not race as fast as he used to.

No, not because he’s old – being 4 kilometres out of town means he’s hard pressed to make the first fire truck.

He’s done loads of jobs, and is reluctant to speak about anything amazing he may have done.

“Had a boy save my life,” he finally offers. It was at a house fire in Cogswell Rd.

“He tapped me on the shoulder and as I turned around this beam dropped down beside me.

“I would have been killed,” says Frank, who remembers it like it was yesterday but it was probably more like “20-odd years ago”.

“I’m still here to tell the tale,” he says, even though that tale is being dragged out of him.

Things have changed a lot since the old days in the volunteer brigade.

Putting out fires is still the same, but “I’m not allowed to rock up to a fire call in my shorts and jandals any more. It doesn’t look very professional and it’s not very safe”.

The brigade now gets a lot more callouts too.

“Those days if you got 20 calls in a year we were probably boasting. Now we get between 100 and 120 callouts. It’s ambulance and the all the medical stuff. There are far more motor vehicle accidents on the roads nowadays… more cars on the road.”

Frank is a life member of the Raglan Volunteer Fire Brigade and the Raglan Rugby Club.

He started coaching and refereeing the Raglan junior boys when his boys – Reece and Bryce – were playing, and moved up the grades with them.

Frank’s been president of Raglan junior and senior rugby, and has put in 25 years as a Waikato Rugby referee, all over the district.

He didn’t play much himself, he says. He got injured during his school years. “Wrecked my neck.”

Today, he can still be seen out on the paddock on Saturday mornings, refereeing Raglan’s juniors.

But unlike the firefighting, he’s on the “wind down” with the rugby, he reckons.

Inger Vos