FIGHTING some of the biggest fires in WA is second nature to Doubleview resident Adam Bannister.
Mr Bannister’s highly specialised role as an air attack supervisor involves co-ordinating firefighting efforts alongside the pilot and using fixed-wing fire bombers to extinguish them.
He was also a founding member of the team that developed the model to use aerial fire suppression aircraft in WA, a technique still used today.
His role and 28 years of dedication have earned him an Australian Fire Service Medal as part of the Queen’s Birthday honours.
While he was “chuffed” with the recognition, Mr Bannister said he would dedicate the prestigious medal to his wife and family.
“Because fires don’t stop and start for weekends, it inevitably went over holidays and time with family and I really feel it’s recognition for the support network,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s very challenging and you need someone who’s there to allow you to follow your dream.
“We go above and beyond what we have to do; it’s a passion. I’m very fortunate that I’m in a job that I love.”
According to Mr Bannister, the role requires a balance of calm, rational thinking and strategic decision-making.
“It’s a big adrenaline rush; you use that energy to keep your mind clear and make those decisions, so you don’t get tunnel vision,” he said.
“You need to have that ability to look after one another, know how everyone thinks; in the air you need someone to cover your back.
“You have to be able to listen to three or four conversations at once: the pilot, the guys on the ground and the pilot who will drop the water.”
Despite co-ordinating a fleet of 16 aircraft fighting fires in Canada this year, Mr Bannister said the 2011 Margaret River fires were among the most challenging.
“You would go and get water and when you came back that house would be gone, so the conditions were really challenging,” he said.
“The beast that is fire will never be tamed, so you have to learn to work with it and not be a master of it because given certain conditions it will take its own path,”
“It is tragic when homes and property are lost but you have to imagine how much worse it would be if the guys on the ground and in the air weren’t there.”