Winston Steen, the longest-serving member of the Cambridge Volunteer Fire Brigade, has died aged 81.
His wife of 56 years, Yvonne Steen, said failing health over the past few years meant Winston’s passing at home on August 24 was not entirely unexpected. “He had not been well for some time … but he was fortunate in that he had led a very full life.”
Yvonne said because of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions the family will hold a memorial service at a later date.
When Winston retired from the Cambridge Volunteer Fire Brigade in mid-2019, he had clocked up 9188 callouts and multiple awards over his 56 years’ tenure. News coverage at the time made mention of the contribution to the brigade by the wider Steen family over a record 127 years, made up of Winston’s 56 years, 31 by his brother Ken and 40 years from his father Tom.
At that time, Winston expressed pride at what was believed to be one of the longest brigade tenures by a single family and praised his co-volunteers as an ‘exceptionally talented group’.
On hearing of Winston’s death, Cambridge Volunteer Fire Brigade’s chief fire officer Don Gerrand said he would be very much missed.
“He was our longest serving member,” he said. “Wint was a person who didn’t say a bad word about anyone, but when he spoke people listened as his message was always constructive.”
Winston joined the brigade in November 1963. He was working at Steen & Morrow, a business started by his father. He attended five callouts in that first month, and 72 in his first year. By the time he hung up his helmet, the number of callouts averaged around 340. He also won numerous annual brigade competitions and awards.
Among the memorable callouts he referenced at the time was a fire at St Peter’s School in 1984, one at St Andrew’s Church in the early 1960s, Paramount in Carter’s Flat, and the Tamahere Coolstore fire in 2008. He also remembered a spate of arsons.
Winston had been deputy chief fire officer from 2001 until his retirement, serving under four fire chiefs.