Old memories flood back to former fire chief
JOHN Grant joined the fire service in 1949 as an 18-year-old.
The former chief officer of the Gladstone Fire Station has battled thousands of fires in his time but he always focused on mateship and discipline.
On Saturday he will be reunited with the mates he worked with.
"I'm very proud of the staff that I have had," he said. "A lot of my men have taken up senior positions all throughout Queensland."
Sixty-five years ago he couldn't afford the repayments on his motorcycle and walked into the local fire station looking for work.
"But I didn't think I would ever make it as a fireman," he said.
"I spoke to the chief officer and asked if he had any positions. He said he had just opened a resignation letter and I was to start tomorrow at 8am."
Two decades later Mr Grant fought the biggest fire in Australia's history and decided to apply for a job at the Gladstone Fire Station.
"I came down here (from Townsville) in 1969 as a deputy officer and within three months I became the chief officer," he said.
"Back then I only had five firemen and a few auxiliaries."
Mr Grant could not count the number of grass fires or ship fires he had fought, but said he knew he had only ever lost one ship.
The Moorah caught fire on September 11, 1970 in the Gladstone Harbour.
"We didn't have a fire boat," he said. "All we had was a water jet and suddenly the skipper of a boat shouted out 'chuck it on here'.
"We fought it all night and put that much water in it, (but) it started to go down. We had to stop so it didn't sink.
"Then whoosh, it must have hit a fuel tank and just went up."
He said he wasn't burnt in that fire or any other fire in his 41-year career.
Mr Grant said he was excited to relive the countless fires with the men who took his orders and got his respect.
Saturday 4pm - Former firemen will visit the Gladstone Fire Station
7pm - Reunion dinner will be held at the Queens Hotel