Firefighter of the Year – Eric Simmons Award

07 March 2012
The Rotary Club of Darwin North presented the inaugural Fire Fighter of the Year Award in a ceremony at the Darwin Fire Station on Monday evening.
Brett Holmes and Bronte Way
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The President of the Rotary Club of Darwin North, Paul Asprey, said there was a need to recognise the fire fighters with their own award and the Rotary Club North decided to act.

“We have named the award in honour of Eric Simmons who was a long time member and past President of Rotary North and also the Assistant Director of the NTES for several years. We are very proud to be associated with this presentation and I am delighted that we have two Officers who are well deserved winners of this inaugural, annual award.”

Paul said the Rotary Club had decided to award medals to both the Career Firefighter and Volunteer Firefighter in recognition of the different contributions they made to the community.

“They both do fantastic work, at times they must attend horrendous situations and we felt a dual award would be the best way to recognise their efforts during the year.”

Fire Officers themselves nominated the winners and the Administrator of the Northern Territory, Her Honour the Honourable Sally Thomas AM presented the two Officers with their awards.

Career Firefighter of the Year

Leading Firefighter Brett Holmes (Palmerston)

What is a firefighter?

He is the guy next door

He is like you and me with warts and worries and unfulfilled dreams

Yet he stands taller than most of us

He is a fireman

A fireman is at once the most fortunate

And least fortunate of men

He is the man who saves lives because he has seen too much death

He is a gentle man because he has seen the awesome power of violence out of control

He is responsive to a child’s laughter

Because his arms have held too many small bodies that will never laugh again

He doesn’t preach the brotherhood of man

He lives it

Author unknown

Brett was nominated for his tireless work with children and his role in teaching prevention and preparation in the event of fire and other emergencies.

The 12 year veteran had a leading role in establishing the ‘Smart Sparks’ fire safety program in remote schools across the NT. The program received national recognition for its success in reducing the injuries received by children due to fire.

He has also taken a lead role as the coordinator of the Fire Service’s Juvenile Intervention Course. Often referred by the Justice System, Brett works with these children counselling and deterring the sometimes wayward kids from lighting fires and teaching them the dangers of such actions. He has also been involved in recruiting and supporting other fire fighters to help with the delivery of this program.

His work in high schools has been enthusiastically received by educators in the NT. ‘Choices’ is a program designed to influence better decisions by young drivers in an attempt to reduce road crash trauma.

If Brett can find any spare time he will use his skills as a senior instructor in first aid to train his fellow fire fighters.

Brett said he felt very honoured in being the inaugural winner of the award and admitted feeling a bit embarrassed for being recognised for doing what he and his fellow fire officers do everyday.

“This is what we do, it is nice to be acknowledged by your peers but when it comes down to it I do the things I do because I enjoy it. If we can help one kid, prevent one kid doing what they know they shouldn’t, well then we’ve had a win.”

Brett said there was more he wanted to do with troubled youth and that somewhere out there was a kid that needed help.

“That is beyond rewarding. That is what keeps me coming back. It is what I want to do.”

It is hardly surprising that Brett received numerous nominations for this award. He is held in high regard by both his professional colleagues and the community he helps on a daily basis. His empathy to victims in times of crisis was also mentioned as a strong trait of a most deserving winner of the Firefighter of the Year Award.

Volunteer Firefighter of the Year

Vice-Captain Bronte Way (Howard Springs Volunteer Brigade)

Being the Vice Captain of one of the busiest top end brigades and responsible for building the capability and capacity of the volunteer arm of the NTFRS, it is no surprise to see Bronte nominated for this award.

For 16 years Bronte has volunteered his time and countless hours responding to every situation possible.

Since 2007 he has served as the training coordinator for the Darwin and Rural area and his efforts have helped ensure that the volunteer brigade has never been short of qualified and well trained personnel.

He was recognised for developing a focused, basic fire fighter training program that meets the highest national standard and has worked closely with South Australian Country Fire Brigades and Bushfires NT to make it possible. He admits the training is a constantly changing challenge as new ideas and technology bring developments and advancement in techniques.

Firefighter of the year award medal

He is a dedicated fire officer, a trainer, instructor and assessor when he is not working his other job as a PAWA project manager.

Bronte was deployed to assist with fires in NSW and VIC and recently lent his considerable experience to help his southern officers during the bushfire emergencies around Alice Springs late last year.

Bronte takes it all in his stride and admits this award came as a bit of a shock.

“When you are part of a community you have to give a certain amount back – it’s what makes a community work. This award is a great privilege, an honour but I feel a little embarrassed because I could not do what I do without the other members of my team.

“Fire fighting is a team effort and our whole group, trainers, assessors and the vollies themselves, know that without teamwork nothing would work.

“You have to have a passion for helping other people and I’ve found everywhere I go with this job, interstate or down south, you will find individuals with the same passion.

“My thanks go to the people at Rotary because just like us they are there to help our community.”

Chief Fire Officer Steve Rothwell AFSM closed the event by saying the award was true recognition for the two officers.

“You can see just how much they have done not only for this organisation but for the community as a whole. This is well deserved and I congratulate them on their achievements and I thank the Rotary Club of Darwin North for this initiative.”