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Service more than just fighting fires

Bryan Styles, now QSM. PHOTO/FILE

Bryan Edward Styles – The Queen’s Service Medal for services to the United Fire Brigades Association and the community

CHRIS COGDALE
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When Bryan Styles was encouraged by his then boss Gary Smith and some mates to join the Carterton Volunteer Brigade in 1980, he never thought that 39 years later that he would receive the Queen’s Service Medal.

If being offered the QSM came as a big surprise, finding out about it had its own twist

“I never expected it whatsoever.

“I was actually in Melbourne at the time and was speaking to my daughter at home and she said a letter came from parliament.”

“I thought it was from an MP so got her to open it so she could throw it out.

“When she told me what it said, I told her to seal back the envelope and not tell anyone.”

Styles is Chief Fire Officer of the Carterton brigade and is a life member and former vice-president [2013] and president [2014] of the United Fire Brigades’ Association of New Zealand.

He was also a member of the UFBA’s Technical Panel from 2005 to 2010, involved with the overseeing of the UFBA’s firefighter competitions.

In his time on the UBFA, Styles has advocated for all 585 member brigades and fire forces on various New Zealand Fire Service committees and interest groups.

He has also been a trustee of the UBFA Benevolent Fund, which provides financial assistance to firefighters and their families in times of financial stress.

The sporting side of the fire brigade was something that Styles relished, not surprising given the competitive nature of “Womble”, as he is affectionately known.

As well as being a member of the Carterton team that won the national fire brigade waterway championships, Styles was a more-than-useful rugby prop forward, having represented Wairarapa-Bush in 104 games from 1982, and the province’s first division heyday, through to 1997.

The competitive nature even extended to Styles tackling the notorious Auckland Sky Tower run, although he admits he walked most of the 1103 individual steps.

“It took me just under 20 minutes and the last few flights there are more steps, so I was just about crawling when I got to the top.”

Styles said there have been some hard moments as a volunteer fireman.

“The Carterton balloon crash [in which 11 people died in 2012] took a huge emotional toll on the brigade over the following 12 months, but our camaraderie pulled us through.”

He said the role of a volunteer fireman has changed over the past 39 years.

“There’s a lot of medical callouts, like CPRs, car crashes, and other rescue work, and the fire part is only a small part of it.”

But it’s the mates he has made that he relishes most.

“The camaraderie, the friends I’ve made all over New Zealand.

“If something goes wrong there’s always a fire brigade mate to help out.”

Styles and his wife Melissa run The Workshop behind the Carterton Mobil Service Station, where you’ll see “Womble” with his head buried under a truck bonnet or doing another wheel alignment.

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