TIME OFF: Graham Alder returns his hat to admin officer Jill Lees, who also retired after 15 years.
TIME OFF: Graham Alder returns his hat to admin officer Jill Lees, who also retired after 15 years. Lee Gailer

Fine career comes to end

HE'S fought thousands of fires, attended to hundreds of traffic crashes and yes, Graham Alder rescued a cat from a tree.

It's the old fireman cliché, but it did happen - and it was far more comical, he remembers.

As Mr Alder celebrated his 65th birthday yesterday, he hung up his fireman hat after serving at Gympie's fire station just shy of 50 years.

"It's been a rewarding job," he said, looking back at his 49 years. "Every time you go out the door you're helping somebody."

At the age of 16 he joined what was then called the Gympie Fire Brigade as a cadet fireman. Back in 1963, on his first day, the fire engine was a 1942 International, made of wood. Officers wore brass helmets.

He was called up for national service in 1968 and returned to Gympie after two years to go on and complete his firefighter's and officer's exams before being promoted to station officer in 1982.

He was away doing national service when the Northumberland Hotel on Channon St burned down in 1969, but was a young father in charge of his own fire fighting crew when the Tattersalls Hotel in Mary St was destroyed by fire in 1989.

MEMORABLE: Graham Alder was on duty when the Tattersalls Hotel in Mary St burnt down in 1989.
MEMORABLE: Graham Alder was on duty when the Tattersalls Hotel in Mary St burnt down in 1989. CONTRIBUTED

His fire truck was at the rear of the hotel in Young St and Mr Alder remembers how people escaped the burning structure by climbing on to the roof of the building next door.

As for rescuing a cat, he remembers that day fondly.

"The cat was stuck up in a tree and was that high the ladder wouldn't reach it. So we hosed it and it fell out into its owner's arms."

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Joined the Gympie Fire Brigade as a cadet fireman in 1963.
  • Promoted to station officer in 1982.
  • Fought the sensational Tattersalls Hotel fire in 1991.
  • Created a fire museum at Gympie Fire Station and restored the station's original apparatus, a 1942 international fire truck.
  • Awarded the third clasp to the National Medal in 2009 for 45 years of service.
  • Initiator of a project to preserve Gympie's fire service history at the Gold Mining and Historical Museum.
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