Station Officer Mervyn Strack is retiring after 43 years.
Station Officer Mervyn Strack is retiring after 43 years. Renee Pilcher

Going out in blaze of glory

GYMPIE firefighter Mervyn Strack is hanging up his yellow hat for good.

Nearly 43 years after joining the Gympie station, Mr Strack is putting down tools to take a long, well-deserved break.

He will retire on July 2, the day before his 65th birthday.

Mr Strack spent the majority of his time with the Gympie station, never wanting to leave.

However the more recent role, as safety assessment officer for the past five years, has seen him dealing with community fire safety inspections of big buildings between here and Maryborough.

There was no such thing as Queensland Fire Service when Mr Strack joined.

Each station was autonomous, governed by a fire board.

At the time, firemen could not climb the ranks until a position became vacant

“I started as third class fireman and did my time. In those days you started in a position and couldn’t work your way up the ranks unless somebody left,” he said.

“Then they brought in examinations and firefighting became a career path.”

Mr Strack started out when Frank Walters was chief officer of the Gympie Fire Station.

Over the years he has worked with three generations of Walters and is still working with Frank’s grandson Greg Walters, who is posted at the Maryborough Fire Station.

“I stayed as third class fireman until the rules changed and I worked way up to A-grade first class fireman. Then in time, I passed my officer’s examination I remained in the officer position until now.

“A lot of things happened in the meantime.”

In July 1990, the Queensland Government took control of the State’s fire services. The fire board was abolished, and Queensland’s fire stations were linked to form the Queensland Fire Service.

“We had a real career path then. It was just each station doing their own thing before that.

“I was a Gympie Station Officer for many years until I took on the district’s safety inspector role, which is responsible for inspecting all the big jobs – hospitals, high-rises, nursing homes and the like.”

In his retirement, Mr Strack and wife Marilyn plan to see Australia – but just want to take it easy.

“There’s plenty of time to do things.

“It’s been good working with the guys on shift and there are a lot of good fellows coming up to retirement.”

Gympie Times


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