Commemorations celebrate heroes

Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times
Leschenault Fire Brigade captain Michael Papalia with John Doust, left, Glen Wilkinson, Michelle Wilkinson and David Wilkinson.
Camera IconLeschenault Fire Brigade captain Michael Papalia with John Doust, left, Glen Wilkinson, Michelle Wilkinson and David Wilkinson. Credit: Picture: Nicolette Barbas, Nicolette Barbas Picture:

Firefighters have been recognised and honoured for their work as part of International Firefighters’ Day.

Also known as St Florian’s Day, International Firefighters’ Day — on Monday this year — was adopted in 1998 following a tragic incident that occurred in Linton, Victoria, where five firefighters were killed trying to extinguish a bushfire.

Leschenault Volunteer Fire Brigade captain Michael Papalia has been a volunteer firefighter for 42 years.

“Every day firefighters risk their lives to serve their communities,” he said. “We respond to several incidents a year at any time of the day and while we don’t do it for recognition, it is important people take a step back and recognise the work firemen do.”

During the day, Mr Papalia works at Tronox as an acid improvement specialist.

“I got involved with the brigade because I wanted to give back to my community,” he said. “I’m lucky enough that work is understanding and allows me to go out to urgent calls if needed.” With more than 50 firefighters making up the Leschenault brigade, Mr Papalia praised the camaraderie between members.

“I think if I had to give someone interested in being a firey advice it would be that apart from having a family, this is among one of the best things in life you can do,” he said. “When you come back from a big fire that you have successfully put out without losing any buildings or lives, it is such a good feeling.”

Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan said this year’s commemorations were particularly moving with the tragic deaths of six firefighters during Australia’s Black Summer bushfires.

“We hope every time that a firefighter braves a fire they will come back safely, but sadly that does not always occur,” he said. “So today we gather together online to commemorate those that gave everything and celebrate the current efforts and selfless dedication of our firefighters.”

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