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Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland

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13 October, 2021

Palmer retires from firies family

Local legend John Palmer retired from his service on the fire department.

By Susan C McDarra

John Palmer with his partner Sue (right) and children Melanie and Ben. PHOTO: Supplied.

FORTY-five years of service to the Longreach Fire Brigade equates to a lot of history in the memory bank for John Palmer who was recognised by 50 of his colleagues, family and friends at his recent “firies retirement dinner”. 

Mr Palmer had taken a lot of “raw young firies who didn’t know much” under his wing who were trained as firies by being “thrown in the deep end”. 

Referring to themselves as the “good old boys from those days” with other longstanding firies including Randal Ravenscroft and Alan Dickson, the comradeship in the fire brigade is evident through the ranks from younger to older members.  

Mr Palmer’s first callouts as a firie were to a grass fire on March 17, 1974, a car fire on March 19, and his first structural fire at the Palace Hotel on April 14 of the same year.  

“I joined the brigade when I was 18 because I wanted to serve my community,” Mr Palmer said.  

“All us young guns used to sleep at the station, so we were first on the trucks.  

“We were 10 feet tall and bulletproof.  

“They were good days because it was like a second home.  

“We were working side-by-side, we trusted each other, and we did what we needed to do. 

“It was a fantastic journey.” 

Since joining, Mr Palmer has never missed the annual Longreach Fire Brigade Championships in November, being awarded the coveted blue ribbon 12 times, and still holds six of the eight event records. 

Mr Palmer has had a profound and inspiring effect on the people around him and was voted Longreach Mayor in 2009.  

In the same year, he received an Order of Australia in the General Division for his services to youth, particularly with athletics and scouts.  

Mr Palmer was an Australian athletics coach for the Oceania team twice, and still holds the role of President after founding the Longreach Athletics Club in 1984 and instigated the regional Outback Sunset Carnival 20 years ago.  

He rarely misses a training day, turning up three afternoons a week and every second Sunday during the season.  

He said he had good role models growing up.  

His Dad was a shire clerk and his Mum was a school teacher. 

“Plus I had a very good boss – Les Jackson – when I was at the CREB (Capricornia Regional Electricity Board) and he encouraged me to do scouting and push that along. 

Mr Palmer’s answer to “when did you get into scouts?” was “I never got out of scouts”. 

He joined around eight years of age and has been a group leader with the Longreach Scouts for 46 years, attending nine world jamborees and 19 national jamborees.  

His sporting roles include many years dedicated to rugby league in various roles over the years.  

Mr Palmer chairs the Western Queensland Consumer Advisory Council and also sits on three state bodies with Health Consumers Queensland.  

“I couldn’t have done any of it without my family and the community’s support,” he said.  

“But I reckon I haven’t hit my peak yet.” 

The younger generation soaking up his knowledge certainly hope so.  

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