Monday, June 24, 2024

Firefighter honoured for half century of dedicated service

After 50 years of dedicated service to Victoria’s Country Fire Authority (CFA), Peter Baker has been awarded the prestigious Australian Fire Services medal as part of today’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his exceptional service.

In a statement, the CFA said Mr Baker had helped change the way the Authority operated in multi-agency and large-scale emergencies – “a legacy to be forever proud of”.

Peter first joined the CFA as a volunteer with Belmont Fire Brigade in 1971. He said back then you either played in the local footy team, joined scouts or you joined the fire brigade and that’s what he did.

“The great thing about CFA in my history is it’s all about providing for the community and making the community a safer place – always was, always is,” Mr Baker said.

“Even after working in different roles, I’ve never forgotten the impact of every decision I’ve made. I’ve always thought – what does it mean to the people on the ground and how they can provide service to the community?”

He started as a full-time employee with CFA in 1983 as an Assistant Regional Officer. At the time he was working between three different regions and travelling between them every couple of weeks for 18 months.

“This role was a great opportunity. I learnt three different ways of doing business by working in those three locations. It gave me a greater understanding of CFA and helped me with my future roles.”

While he has had various roles throughout his long career with CFA, one of the highlights was working in the South West Region.

“I learnt a lot from the people in that area – they had CFA and community spirit embedded in them – many of them remain close friends.”

He also lived and worked at CFA’s former training college from 1990-1995 as an instructor.

“This was a fantastic experience which gave me an opportunity to learn a whole lot of new skills such as Hazmat training,” Mr Baker said.

“It also exposed me to other emergency service agencies such as Victoria Police and we worked in a multi-agency training environment.”

Following this, He was promoted to Operations Manager at Melton in District 14 which at the time had one of the fastest-growing populations in the state.

“When I started in Melton it was all volunteer stations and by the time I left, there were six brigades that had become integrated with both volunteer and career CFA firefighters to support the brigades’ requirements in rapidly expanding communities.”

He worked in District 14 from 1995 – 2004 before his career moved him to CFA Headquarters based in Burwood East where he undertook a variety of roles including the Fire Services Liaison Officer for the Victoria Police Counter Terrorism Coordination unit for a six-month secondment representing Victoria’s fire services in planning for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

However, his next role is where he was pivotal in not only seeing the need for a multi-agency centre to manage major incidents, but being instrumental in setting up the foundation work to create the Integrated Emergency Coordination Centre (IECC) – which has since developed into the State Control Centre (SCC).

“In the early 2000s there were two enormous campaign fires in East Gippsland. Back then CFA HQ ran out of Burwood and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (now FFMVic) ran out of East Melbourne,” Mr Baker explains.

“The Chief Officer at the time said we need to improve cooperative decision making between the agencies, and this was what started the work into establishing the IECC.”

“Over the years this has then become multi-agency rather than just fire, to include all emergency services.”

“I was the first CFA person to start working in there so a big part of my role was to align our language and align our protocols, procedures and operational cultures.

“It’s a really great facility for the state and I am very proud of what we originally had and how it’s grown.” 

Mr Baker said he was surprised to be awarded an AFSM and is very humbled.

“The award is for my contribution to CFA but my contribution is based on great teams of people who have done some excellent work that’s truly made a difference,” he said.

“The people in CFA are fantastic throughout the organisation. Volunteers join CFA to provide for their communities and those employed by CFA have the same ethos – to help others and make communities safer.

“It’s all about putting the community at the centre of what we do. It’s a great organisation and I’m proud to be part of it.” 

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