April 13 is a significant day for father and daughter firefighters Wayne and Holly Pierce.
A father-daughter firefighter combo is uncommon enough, without both qualifying as firefighters on the same date – albeit 37 years apart.
The matching dates came to light when Miss Pierce phoned her dad to see if he would be able to see her qualify.
“I said to Dad, ‘what are you doing on the 13th of April? It’s my passing-out parade, the day I become a firefighter’.
“And he said, ‘that’s the day I became a firefighter’. And so I thought I have to pass so we can have the matching dates.”
Miss Pierce got a tattoo to mark the occasion of crossed axes and a helmet with the date 13-4.
She was nervous about telling her dad, and did not expect him – at 57 and without a single tattoo to his name – to sign up for matching ink. The only difference is that Mr Pierce’s tattoo includes his station number.
Both are members of the Pleasant Point Volunteer Fire Brigade, and Mr Pierce is now a senior firefighter with 37 years’ service to the brigade under his belt.
Pleasant Point is his home town, and the brigade has always been a family affair, fathers and sons and brothers having been involved over the years.
Mr Pierce’s brother Robin was deputy chief fire officer, and served for 33 years before retiring.
“He was in the brigade and I knew they were low in numbers.
“When I joined, I was working at the fertiliser works at Seadown, and then in 1986 I got a job at the local [saw] mill.
“The deputy and the chief were both bosses there, and there were other volunteer firefighters, so when the siren went off, the mill virtually shut down – both trucks rolled out with mill staff.”
Fonterra for the past 25 years and the shift work means he is able to turn out to daytime calls, which are often under-staffed.
Miss Pierce grew up with the brigade a part of family life, seeing her dad and uncles head out the door when the hooter went off and enjoying the truck-riding privileges of a firefighter’s child.
Attending primary school in the township, then Roncalli College, Miss Pierce took a gap year before heading to Christchurch to do a bachelor of nursing degree, and she now works as a general medical nurse at Timaru Hospital.
But she had always wanted to become a firefighter, she said, and in May last year, joined the brigade and began her training, completing the volunteer recruit programme, which culminated in a gruelling seven-day course at Woolston.
“Physically, it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.”
But passing meant Miss Pierce could exchange the bright green helmet that identified her as a probationary firefighter – or rookie – for the yellow helmet of the qualified firefighter.
As some brigade members have notched up more than 40 years’ service, there is a wealth of knowledge Miss Pierce can draw on.
But her nursing training is also an asset to the brigade, especially for medical call-outs and motor vehicle accidents.
As Miss Pierce lives at home with her parents, she and her dad can car-pool to the fire station, and there’s a bit of a competition to see who can be first out the door.
“I like jumping on the truck with Dad . . . It’s just as exciting as when I was 5.”