ON CALL: A boilermaker by trade, Bob Ironside joined the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services in 1984. He currently serves as the Brassall station officer.
ON CALL: A boilermaker by trade, Bob Ironside joined the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services in 1984. He currently serves as the Brassall station officer. Cordell Richardson

Firefighter reveals toughest day in 35-year career

THROUGH the difficult days and uncertainty that is part and parcel of fighting fires for more than three decades, Bob Ironside knows he can always count on one thing.

Much has changed since he started with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services in 1984, with the then 28-year-old boilermaker seeking more consistent work to support his young family.

New techniques, equipment and technology have allowed firies to provide a vital helping hand in ways they never once could.

But Mr Ironside said the heart and resilience of the diverse range of people who choose to throw on the uniform each day had always remained the same.

"I work with some of the best people in the world," he said.

"When I joined the people they tried to target were tradies. Tradies think on their feet. They're problem solvers.

"Some of these guys might be electricians, others might be mechanics. We can draw on all of their experiences to make our a job a lot easier."

He has been the station officer at Brassall since it opened in 2013 and has worked in the area for close to a decade, having spent 26 years based in Logan.

 

Brassall Fire Station Officer Bob Ironside.
Bob Ironside. Cordell Richardson

It was while working in fire investigation, where he remained for 13 years, that he experienced his darkest day on the job.

"I got called to a job (involving) a young child in a two storey walk-up," he said.

"I found him dead in the bedroom. That was probably the worst day (of my career).

"It does (take a toll) on some people. I've had some very good friends that have suffered from PTSD. The camaraderie sort of insulates us a bit."

The focus for firefighters has changed, moving away from call-outs to fires and car crashes towards education and awareness to stop accidents spiralling out of control in the first place.

"The whole structure has changed," he said.

Motorised hydraulic tools were needed to gain access to people trapped in modern cars and advances in rescue capabilities, including vertical, trench and swift water rescues, had been the biggest "quantum leap" for firefighters.

Smoke was previously not seen as an issue but is now widely known the biggest danger in a structural fire and modern homes had exacerbated the issue.

The 63-year-old has not set a date when he will hang up the boots but said the light at the end of the tunnel was getting brighter and brighter.

"I'll miss these guys," he smiled.