Ray ready to hang up fireman's hat
THE red-headed Ipswich kid who dreamed of nothing but becoming a fire fighter blazed a career path right to the top.
Ray Eustace, the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service’s north coast assistant commissioner, today runs a staff of 680 across 46 auxiliary and full-time fire stations from his Maryborough office.
And when he comes up for his 47th year in the profession, which will be on July 7 next year, Ray will hang up his navy cap with the gold braid, pack away his blue uniform and place his bevy of medals somewhere safe for his six grandchildren to treasure in years to come.
“I think I can say I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve in my career and I’ve never lost my passion for it.”
There are also “the things you never forget”, says this son of ambulance man Jack and Vera.
Ray remembers his first job as a 19-year-old auxiliary fire fighter while he was also doing an apprenticeship in painting and decorating at the Commonwealth Department of Works on the RAAF base at Amberley.
“I’d put my age up a year to get in to the auxiliary brigade at Redbank in April 1964. There were 10 of us.
“I loved it from day one.
“That first job was when the Redbank Woollen Mills went up. It was a boiler house explosion and it was an oil fire. There were just two of us. Back-up from Ipswich arrived with a crew of four. They put out the blaze with a foam blanket. We were all black from the burning oil.”
By May 1966 Ray had become a permanent firie at Ipswich.
“On my first nightshift we got three calls. We were out doing one job and then right on to the next.”
In his first 12 years before he was appointed station officer in 1978, at the age of 32, Ray hand-led some big fires. The North Ipswich Woollen Company was an inferno from end to end that he saw on the skyline before his shift started and went straight into the station.
“I remember we treated that one as a surround and drown.
In March 2003 Ray became assistant commissioner for the North Coast Region, managing the Maryborough, Hervey Bay, Gympie permanent stations, as well as Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach auxiliary stations.
Along the way he has been recognised from the very top many times for his outstanding service.