AFTER serving his community as a firefighter for 38 years, Dimbulah local Frank De lacovo has called it a day and retired from the Dimbulah Fire Station.
Mr De lacovo operated as an Auxiliary Firefighter from 1981 to September 17 this year and was involved in the quashing of the recent bushfires that plagued the region, just prior to his retirement.
Mr De lacovo commented on his early days as a firefighter and his reasoning behind his 38 years of service.
“They just needed volunteers in Dimbulah as there weren’t too many at that time,” he said.
“So my friend and I decided to join the fire service I suppose and help out the town.
“When we started off all they had for us was a helmet, a set of overalls and gumboots, and that’s how we fought fires.”
Times have changed however with firefighters being fitted with oxygen tanks and fireproof suits in order to battle the raging blazes that can occur.
“Everything has been updated today,” Mr De lacovo said.
“Where our station was (Dimbulah) we just used to fight fires, we didn’t have the equipment to help people in crashes and accidents.
“But then they gave us the right equipment, but it was only a hand pump so we used that to cut people out of cars.”
Due to the locality and community where Mr De lacovo served, a popular adage was used when the siren rung to signal a fire.
“We used to say ‘whose barns are on fire now’ you know,” he laughed.
Being an auxiliary firefighter, Mr De lacovo received all the appropriate training of a full time firefighter and even regularly engaged in competitions within the district.
A favourite memory from his career was when the local Dimbulah Fire Station won an exercise during one of these competitions.
“The event we won was where they put an assembly of cars and give you a scenario,” he said.
“They might crush a car with dummies inside and you’ve got to cut them out in a certain time while coordinating with police and ambulance.
“We were up against full timers and out of the two events on the day we came first in one which I thought was bloody brilliant.”
Mr De lacovo spoke glowingly about the cohesion and brotherhood present within the auxiliary fire service in Dimbulah.
“All us there, we all got along and we all treated it as a family,” he said.
“We all blended in really well and had each other’s backs.”
A strong bond is needed in a profession where loss and grief can become prevalent; this is just the case as Mr De lacovo alluded to a terrible experience where a young boy was unable to be saved in time from a fire.
“You know in the service we had pagers, and every time it would go off you would just be hoping that it wasn’t someone you know,” Mr Delacovo said.
“It just makes it all the much harder.
“However when a situation like that does arrive, the Queensland Fire Service is really quick to respond with counsellors and assistance where needed.”
There were many influential people throughout Mr De lacovo’s career that helped and shaped him into becoming a better firefighter, one such man is Dennis McKinley, a retired firefighter and now Lions Club member.
“He started off as an auxiliary and then moved onto Atherton and then to Mareeba where he became the boss for the area,” Mr De lacovo said.
“He was one person who was really good, he got everything we needed for our station.
“Whenever we needed something in the station to help us fight fires, we would get it as soon as possible.”
Mr De lacovo spoke about the Auxiliary fire service and how it can be a Segway into a fulltime career.
“You get new recruits and you tell them, if you like it and you’re good at it, there’s always a chance that you can become a full time firefighter,” he said.
“We’ve got one bloke in Dimbulah there now and he’s really good. “Hoping that one day he will become a full time firefighter.”
Mr De lacovo currently works at Casali’s in Mareeba as a mechanic and operates a bus run during the schooling terms.