A vacant secretary position at the local fire brigade more than 20 years ago turned into much, much more for Frank Rankin, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The 76-year-old was recognised this week for his many contributions to the Byford Volunteer Fire Brigade, receiving the Australian Fire Service Medal as part of this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours.
Mr Rankin first joined the brigade as secretary in June 1991, but said he wouldn’t get involved elsewhere within the organisation.
“It was like famous last words,” he said.
“There was a big fire in Byford a bit later and they didn’t have anyone to drive the big truck so I drove it and that was it, I was in.”
Having fought on the front line for a good 11 years, senior personnel asked him to step up and take on a more senior role.
Mr Rankin took on the role of lieutenant before embarking on the role of fire control officer, of which he held for a further 14 years.
With many of the brigades operation figures misplaced from his early years in service, Mr Rankin can only guess as to how many times he has stepped up for duty.
“I can put figures on probably 1200 to 1400 callouts but the rest I am estimating, but it would be somewhere between 1800 and 2000,” he said.
“One of the most spectacular fires I went to was the Collie kiln fire, which was just south of Byford off Soldiers Road, halfway to Mundijong.
“They had a drying kiln and that caught fire.
“The flames were visible for miles and we had our appliance parked near one of the LPG tanks that was there to operate the kiln.
“We had two appliances and our job was to keep the gas tank cool so it didn’t explode.”
Mr Rankin also recalls the Kelmscott Roleystone fire in 2011 and the fire at the nearby Byford tavern as spectacular, but terrifying events in his firefighting history.
Having recently had two knee replacements, Mr Rankin admits he has to face reality about his operational future with the brigade soon, however he would still like to continue to serve the brigade as secretary as long as he can.
“It’s like a family here, but it is also a worldwide family,” he said.
“Everywhere I go I say I am a firefighter from Perth Western Australia and you are welcomed with open arms.”