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Saturday 29 October 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Local
Puaikura Volunteer Fire Brigade team at the Brigade’s 20th anniversary. Asaeli Vunibaka, far right, was awarded the Barry Hill Memorial Trophy for the most valuable member. 22102844
19 years of age Jacopo Dozzo falsified his ID details
because he thought it would give him a better shot at becoming a firefighter.
Dozzo, who was living in his home country
Italy at the time, wanted to start a firefighting career but knew the recruiter
had countless applications to sift through.
“It’s not that easy because basically you
need to know someone to get in,” Dozzo says about the Italian firefighter
“I thought if I do my application as an ID
with a job description of stunt man surely that will stick out of the crowd.
“I really wanted to get in there and
instead of working harder I said let’s work smarter.”
Dozzo had to settle for “actor” as an
occupation after the immigration officer told him there was no category for “stunt
The result: No firefighter job and
Fast forward to last Saturday and Dozzo
was on stage at the Puaikura Volunteer Fire Brigade’s 20th anniversary taking
home the Firefighter of the Year Award and a five-year service medal.
Dozzo’s firefighter journey started when
his friend casually mentioned he needed to go to fire brigade training. Dozzo
asked how to join and was told to “just turn up” and in March of 2017 he was in.
“It’s been rewarding,” Dozzo says.
“As a foreigner in this country, it is one
of the ways I can say thank you to the community.
“If this would pay as much as Turama (his
current job) I would do a career firefighting but actually it is fun just doing
it whenever we can.”
The most memorable fire for Dozzo happened
right by his house. He was close enough to hear the crackling of the fire.
Dozzo was first on the scene and learnt
how hopeless people feel before fire trucks arrive.
“You realise the people who have their
house on fire how they feel, knowing that if there is no water that house is
going to go.
“It was the one that I felt the most
because I was there, I was in my gear, but there was nothing I could do.
“That was intense, you honestly cannot do
Vunibaka was awarded the Barry Hill Memorial Trophy for the most valuable
Vunibaka joined 12 years ago and says Hill
was instrumental in his growth in the brigade.
is quite special, it’s more than an award for me,” he says.
more than money.
that award, it’s not just an award it’s part of my journey.”
says one of the most beautiful things about being a volunteer firefighter in
the brigade was serving people.
serve people, it brings that inner blessing or inner happiness that you’ve done
something good in the community,” he says.
says in 2013-2014 there was a series of fires around Avarua and two schools
It was one
of the toughest things he had witnessed.
walk into the classroom and you see half burnt little papers with writing on
it, it breaks your heart because I’m a father too, it breaks your heart.
“I know the
struggle the parents went through to put this kid in this classroom and it
burnt down like that.”
who hails from Fiji, says joining the fire brigade was a way he could give back
to the community.
He says attending
fire incidents is sad and he tries to comfort the owners.
just go and put out the fire, you know the people, you know the very people you’re
passed away Jason Moorfield became the fire chief and Tarina Moorfield became
the station officer.
says Hill took the brigade to where it is now but the leadership of Jason and
Tarina polished it off.
turned everything into a modern standard.
taken it to another level since Barry passed.”
Cook Islander Nia Remuera is one of the
pioneer members of the brigade since it started in 2002.
“I’ve really enjoyed it from the beginning
until now,” Remuera says.
Remuera joined the volunteer service after
returning from New Zealand where he worked in the Air Force as a co-pilot.
He joined the brigade alongside long term
fire chief Barry Hill who passed away in 2020.
“Some of the boys left, they went back to
New Zealand and I just stayed on and helped Barry.”
Remuera says a memorable incident he
attended to was a five house fire in Nikao.