From fences to fireballs, reflecting on half a century of service
In a career spanning nearly five decades, Brian Simeon has seen it all.
But for the veteran firefighter and station officer the sight of a 60 metre fireball at a suburban petrol station eight years ago has forever been seared in his mind.
On that May afternoon in 2009, Brian’s Welshpool crew were some of the first emergency services responders on the scene when a fuel tanker ignited.
“Maddington arrived first to the reported petrol tanker fire and had pulled up fairly close as the tyres had ignited,” Brian said.
“The guys on the ground did a good job cooling the tanker, which meant we kept the structural integrity intact on the side we were working from. However, the other side facing the petrol station exploded.
“No one was injured but the noise made when the two compartments blew out was scary. That’s definitely one of the reasons why it’s so memorable.”
The dramatic events are a far cry from the first call out Brian attended back in 1970.
It was an uneventful fence fire that was seemingly attended by every firefighter available in Perth.
“I felt like a fish out of water and there were so many firies on scene that I stood there doing nothing. I questioned if the job was right for me because it was so boring,” he said.
Encouraged to apply for the fire brigade after finishing a mechanical apprenticeship, Mr Simeon was one of the youngest ever to become a firefighter in Western Australia at the humble age of 21.
“After coming to the realisation that I didn’t want to be a mechanic, someone I knew in the fire brigade suggested I give firefighting a go,” he said.
From then it was a 47 year journey that saw Brian witness firsthand the evolution of firefighting practices in WA.
“When you look at the improvements to the fire trucks, the personal protective equipment, the procedures in place for safety, support services, the rescue equipment on every truck and technology like thermal imaging cameras, we’ve come a long way.”
Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) District Officer Antony Nicholas said throughout it all, Brian’s dedication to imparting his knowledge to the next generation of firefighters has been testament to his passion for firefighting.
“Brian’s professionalism and determination to set high standards for our firefighting youth will endure as some of his most admirable traits,” Antony said.
The impact Brian had on his fellow firefighters and DFES personnel was no more evident when over 100 people gathered at Welshpool Fire Station earlier this year for his farewell.
His journey came full circle when he was congratulated on his achievements at the graduation ceremony of Trainee Firefighter School 81.
“I was very pleased to be congratulated by the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner as I have the upmost respect for both of them,” he said.
“Receiving a morning tea, farewell send off, the opportunity to speak at the United Firefighters Union Annual Dinner and the retirement plaque has all been very humbling.”
Brian’s advice to men and women thinking about applying for the fire brigade is simple.
“Do it. It’s the best job in the world.”
“The conditions are good, you’re doing something different every day and there are opportunities to advance to different positions within the brigade.
“I can’t speak highly enough of it. I’ve genuinely enjoyed every single minute of it.”