FIREFIGHTER graduates Peter McConkey (31) and James Reece (29) have both swapped uniforms for a career change their work with other services has prepared them for.
“I’d been in the Army for 11 years previously and I’d done a bit of disaster relief up in north Queensland after the cyclones and so I’d seen what Queensland’s fire and rescue service had done and thought it was the sort of career stream I’d like to go into; and obviously still get to do a fairly physical job and get challenged,” Mr Reece, of Parkerville, said.
“I really enjoy the team work aspect of it, coming from a military background and then coming to this it’s good to continue working with people.”
Both he and Mr McConkey, of Swan View, were among the 24 new Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) firefighters to graduate earlier this monthbefore Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan and DFES commissioner Wayne Gregson.
They completed an intensive 18-week training course to develop their skills in firefighting, road crash rescue, hazardous materials, community safety and urban search and rescue.
Mr Reece is now based at the Midland Fire Station but helps cover other stations across Perth when staff are on leave.
“The shift work means I get to be home a bit more than what it used to be and I don’t have to worry about going overseas,” he said.
“I think (my background) helped especially during the school because there are some aspects to it that are similar to military training.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there and hopefully getting to learn a bit more. We’ve got a few years of study still ahead of us and then finding a station I want to spend a bit of time at and becoming a core firefighter at one of those stations.”
Mr McConkey, a paramedic with St John Ambulance for about five years, said his exposure to working for an emergency services organisation and shift work had proved helpful.
“Just the other night we had a motor vehicle accident, fairly minor, but there was ambos, police and a few other fireys on scene and it was weird, my first instinct was to rush to the patient and help out the other ambos because that’s just what’s ingrained in me; I had to consciously tell myself to step back and I’ve got a different role this time round,” he said.
“I’m at Welshpool at the moment with a great bunch of guys… I was a bit apprehensive about what to expect from station life but they’ve all been really welcoming.
“Coming from the ambos where every day and night you’re basically out from the start of shift and you don’t really get back until the very end, this hasn’t been as flat out as what I’m used to which is good, it just allows you to find your feet.”
Mr Gregson said the graduating firefighters had all come from different walks of life, with different life experiences and backgrounds.
“Theirs is not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
“They will regularly see and experience things that will test their resolve.
“To be here ready to take on that challenge requires a great deal of compassion and commitment.”
Mr Logan congratulated the graduates and reminded them to relish the challenges and rewards this career would bring.