Fifty years of camaraderie and service of the Lake Hawea Volunteer Fire Brigade was finally celebrated on Saturday night.

Past and present volunteer firefighters gathered to mark the community’s milestone, which had been rescheduled throughout the year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Stories spanning five decades were shared, and central to them all was the dedication of volunteers to their community.

Former Lake Hawea firefighter and current United Fire Brigades Association (UFBA) New Zealand president Amber Hollis acknowledged the fire brigade’s impact.

“I wouldn’t be the firefighter I am today without the foundation of the Lake Hawea Brigade. The brigade has been the centre of this community for 50 years and the members have supported the community in their time of need and done it selflessly.

“Please be proud of what you do and have pride in your fire family and remember you are stepping up when others wouldn’t or couldn’t.’’

Brigade member Lorne Capell paid tribute to the volunteers and their families.

“We are united in our willingness and dedication to serve this community . . . as firefighters, and the families of firefighters . . . We have had 50 years of good times, sad times and times of many more emotions. Sadly there are many that can’t join us here tonight and they live long in our hearts.’’

Among those remembered was Christine Hewson, who was awarded a posthumous life honorary membership.

Ms Hewson was the first female chief fire officer in New Zealand’s Fire Service, appointed in July 1993.

She started in the brigade in May 1979, and rose through the ranks, becoming station officer in 1989.

Ms Hewson’s family were presented with the honour by the brigade’s founding member Dick Cotter and current chief fire officer Brent Arthur.

Son Trevor, who also served in the brigade, thanked the brigade for the honour.

“On behalf of Christine’s family thank you for everyone that has been involved in organising [tonight] and the posthumous award for Mum,” he said.

“Those that knew her well, knew she wasn’t one to back down on any fight or argument. . . and would also wage battle for the little guy, and she was always keen on looking after the little guys in this world.”

Luggate chief officer Rod Anderson also shared his memories of Christine.

He was Luggate CFO throughout Ms Hewson’s time as the Lake Hawea CFO.

“For me, she was a terrific chief officer and a pleasure to work with, and to the family I would just like to acknowledge she was a lovely lady to work with,” he said.