Rural fire officer to retire

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Serious retirement after two earlier efforts will come this Friday for Otago Rural Fire Authority rural fire officer Eric Spittal.

Mr Spittal says he started out with two work ambitions in mind, to be a fireman and a policeman.

“I’ve achieved both,” he said.

Twelve years in the police force saw Mr Spittal serve in Gisborne, Kaiapoi and Waimate. He also did three terms as a borough councillor in Waimate and spent three years in the army.

His firefighting career includes serving as a volunteer and a front line fireman and spans close to half a century of service.

“Looking back I have crammed a lot into my life,” he said.

“I started my apprenticeship on steam engines in Wanganui.

“I have also been fortunate enough to work with landowners on the big high country burns.

“Frontline firefighting and management calls for huge hours and the sacrifices made by my family have been tremendous.

“The pager is never off and you cannot afford to miss a call.”

Technology is one of the biggest changes Mr Spittal has seen in his working career.

“We seem to be in constant catch-up mode,” he said.

“Just as you learn something, they are changing the technology.

“A lot of firefighting these days refer to codes. You have to keep across the technological advances.”

Mr Spittal also paid tribute to those who serve alongside him.

“As a commander, you don’t put your men or women into any situation that you wouldn’t do yourself,” he said.

“They [fellow firefighters] are like my children, I love them all.”

With his third and final retirement looming, Mr Spittal has a few things on his bucket list, including a trip around the North Island.

“I would like to have a good look around,” he said.

“Now is the time to take a step back.”

By Jacquie Webby