Part 2 of Mark's Interview below!
Mark has been a firefighter since 1974 and an officer since 1986. “I am part of Fire & Rescue and my role is the Command/ Control/ Coordination of emergency incidents within an area roughly twice the size of Hinchinbrook Shire. Ingham F&RS respond to fires (both rural and urban), rescues ranging from cars, trucks, ships, aircraft, houses, machinery, vertical/high angle such as Wallaman and Jourama Falls, etc. And we assist QAS with Emergency Medical Service”.
Mark loves his role because he loves helping people, citing waterfall and car rescues as being some of the most challenging but rewarding rescues. Although Mark doesn’t do what he does for any acknowledgement he takes pride when seeing someone he helped to save out in the community and doing well. “I don’t want, nor do I need the acknowledgement, just the knowledge that they are able to get back on with it again. That is the reward.” further adding “Within investigations, when your investigation has uncovered a problem or a fault within a piece of machinery or equipment where someone has died or been injured, and you establish what actually happened to make it occur and establish the events that caused the particular occurrence; investigations and reporting can cause the product to be recalled and that makes you feel like you have really done something to help ordinary people.”
I asked Mark if his role was something that he had always wanted to do. “No, I wanted to follow in the footsteps of three of my uncles who were pilots in the Air Force. And my family wanted me to be a policeman. But, there was something similar about Fire and Rescue, something that was similar to the police. In the end, it was only by the accident of circumstance that I joined Fire & Rescue.”
Knowing that Mark’s career may be one that young people aspire to have, he was asked what his educational background was. “Thirteen years of school from 1961 to 1973. But I now hold a Postgraduate Diploma of Investigations and a Graduate Certificate in Fire Investigation through Charles Sturt University. Also an Advanced Diploma of Public Safety in Emergency Management and Firefighting Management as well as other things from other universities and TAFE colleges.”.
Mark was asked if there were any difficult aspects of his job. “In my job, I have seen a lot of people die.” Speaking of one occasion in particular, “We had rescued two children from a burning house in an inner suburb of Melbourne and when we brought both of them to the waiting Ambulances they both looked fine and only lightly suffering from smoke inhalation with no burns. The ambo’s looked at the little girl first and they were happy with her but, the little boy, they grabbed him and raced him away. Lights and sirens to the Royal Children’s Hospital, where he died about twenty minutes after getting to the hospital. That child and a number of other children who died under similar circumstances in Australia in the early 1980’s, are the reason why we now conduct the ‘Fire Ed’ program throughout Australia for grade one and grade two children. One of the main teaching points, is that these firefighters here in front of you, are just like your Mum and Dad or your big brother or sister. So, one of the firefighters will then put their protective firefighting uniform on and gloves and helmet. The children can see that they are still the person they were just talking to a minute ago. Then they put the breathing apparatus on and then we tell the children that the firefighter is going to put on a mask because it helps the firefighter to breathe in the smoke. When the mask is put on, the firefighter gets down on the floor, crawls around between them and talks to them with the mask on. Some of the children touch the mask and the air cylinder. Then, the firefighter takes the mask off, the children see that they are the same firefighter, the same person that they were talking to a few minutes before and not Darth Vader.”
I asked Mark if there were any inspirational people who helped him overcome past adversities. “Fire and Rescue is teamwork” quoting, “A champion team will always beat a team of champions.”, “Ron Barassi who was an AFL legend said that. If you have not got a cohesive team all working to the same goal and expecting the same outcome, then forget it, go home now. I think that my inspiration has been those who have been able to cohesively balance a disparate team into a working and cohesive element within and as part of that bigger picture”.
Mark was then asked if there were any lessons he has learned in life. “Some people will go to Mars and some will wash the dishes for the Astronauts on the morning they go to Mars. Each person plays a role and forms their part within that role. The Prime Minister is nobody without the advisors and admin officers who support him.” Mark further added that there are times when you will have to seize opportunities in life “I have missed many opportunities because I was not prepared to say ‘I am, I will, I can’ because it’s ‘not all about me’ well sometimes it actually is about you! Don’t be afraid to sell yourself when you have to!”
Understanding now how intense Mark’s job can be, I asked him what he likes to do in his spare time. “Read or watch documentaries. I am currently reading ‘The Great Game’ about the problems near and around the Afghan, Indian, Pakistan border region between 1859 and the 1900’s. I have just finished reading ‘God is not Great’ by the late Christopher Hitchens and if you have ever had that question in the back of your mind about religion, read this book!”
I asked Mark how he keeps motivated “I have my family to look after and protect. I have a community that still requires looking after and protecting. Serving my family and my community is my greatest motivator. If I have learned anything in forty-five and a half years in Fire and Rescue, it is that I am here not to be a receiver, but to give and help and try to ensure that people are, and continue to, remain safe.”
With COVID-19 currently in full-swing, I asked Mark what he is doing to stay positive at the moment. “The usual. I have a family to look after, and my role within our community still requires my attention.”, Mark wanted to mention that he is looking for volunteers. Speaking to the youth, he said “You are the future of this great nation, of our State of Queensland and of the Hinchinbrook Shire. We need you to step-up, be motivated and carry forward the traditions of the past and push them into the future with your new ideas and techniques. The Rural Fire Service, the State Emergency Service, Forrest Beach Fire & Rescue need personnel now. They need you now so that they can impart the knowledge and the experience, so that you (youth of Hinchinbrook) can take on those future leadership roles.”
A big thank-you to Mark for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this interview. We really appreciate it here at HCSC.
Photo: Mark's son Jack, his wife Marilyn, his daughter Samantha, Mark, and Heather Shanks (Nanna)
If you are interested in volunteering:
Click here to be taken to the QFES volunteers page for some more information about volunteering.