Firefighting veteran reveals highs, lows of 39-year career
AFTER almost 40 years riding the highs and lows of an emergency services career, Mark Walker knows now is the time to hang up the helmet for the final time.
When Mr Walker, the Camira station officer, officially retires later this year he will have served 39 years as a member of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
"It's been a great experience, there's been a lot of good times and a lot of not so good experiences along the way but overall it's been well worth it," he said.
Mr Walker's passion for the organisation and his crew led him to spend 13 years as president of the Queensland Firefighters Union.
It is a drive he maintains despite just weeks remaining in his 39-year-career.
"It's just important that firies, anyone in the workforce, is properly represented," Mr Walker declared.
"It's critical in our industry, there's lots of changes and it's a highly dangerous field on some occasions, and we need to have representation there."
His highlight has been working every shift since 1995 with the close-knit firefighters on C shift.
"You're all working together, it is a family," he said.
Yesterday the C shift roster gathered at Bundamba Station to farewell and thank their mate.
The industry has evolved since Mr Walker started as a tender 22-year old.
About 38 years ago road crashes were not common calls for firefighters.
These days the firies are among the first to arrive, and what they come across will often stay with them forever.
"The one that always sticks in your mind is the first fatality you go to," Mr Walker said.
"Every one you go to is a tragic incident and they're all tragic as each other."
While the fatalities have been heartbreaking, the 60-year-old fondly recalls the hope and exhilaration of other jobs.
In 2000 the middle-aged firefighter rushed to a crash where a semi-trailer carrying train bogey wheels rolled over, crushing an elderly couple in a car.
"We fully expected that to be a fatal incident when we arrived," he said.
It took Mr Walker two hours to free the couple, expecting them to come out lifeless.
"Both of them survived with relatively minor injuries which was just amazing," he recalled.
Mr Walker plans to travel in retirement and spend time with his five grandkids.
Karana Downs Station officer Kerry Weir described Mr Walker as "a genuine, straight up and down guy".