Driving force behind firefighter training wins award


Long-serving firefighter Paul Barker. Picture: Matt Jelonek d464765
Long-serving firefighter Paul Barker. Picture: Matt Jelonek d464765

MANY career and volunteer firefighters will know the name Paul Barker, a lead instructor who dedicated half his career to training emergency drivers behind the wheel.

The ability to navigate a 12-tonne truck at speed ‘under siren’ requires a controlled calmness many drivers would struggle to acquire.

“The challenge is to understand that other people on the road don’t do what you expect… you can’t expect everyone is going to get out of your way,” Mr Barker said.

“We tell our drivers they can be the best firefighters in the world, but their first priority is to arrive safely at the job.”

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Mr Barker, of Glen Forrest, retired in April last year with almost 40 years of service; 30 as a station officer at Wattle Grove and 19 years teaching recruits to drive fire vehicles at the WA Fire and Emergency Services Academy in Forrestfield.

In that time, his level of dedication and commitment was described as ‘second to none’ and on Australia Day he received an Australian Fire Service Medal.

He became the lead driving instructor early in his career, a title he held for 15 years, and most Department of Fire and Emergency Services driving instructors trained under him.

DFES said Mr Barker’s leadership in emergency driver education was exemplary and his many challenges in a long career included coaching many hundreds of volunteers and attending 28 firefighter schools.

DFES said there had been few accidents with fire trucks attributed to bad driving technique from career or volunteer firefighters.

Since hanging up his hat, Mr Barker is more likely to be seen playing drums with his cover band Wolfpack at local venues across the Hills.