Firefighter Bill Bagnall calls time after 40 years
BILL Bagnall simply thought it was the right thing to do when he decided to join the local fire brigade while making his coin as a fisherman.
Now, after 40 years being called out to property blazes, bushfires, rescue operations and massive emergencies, it happened to be Mr Bagnall’s big community-minded heart that has prompted his retirement as a retained firefighter from Fire and Rescue NSW.
‘‘Apparently you shouldn’t be driving the trucks with a couple of stems in your heart,’’ the 71-year-old said.
‘‘Completely understandable. It has been a great experience.’’
It was January 15, 1974, when Mr Bagnall followed a few relatives and workmates into the Nelson Bay brigade.
He may have been working on the fishing boats, but he made his name as a firefighter.
But first he had to pass – the strength test included being able to throw a five-gallon drum (19 litres) from the ground to someone on the back of a fire engine.
Mr Bagnall believes his first job was a bushfire at Corlette.
And to put it in perspective for those old enough to remember, that was almost a year before Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin.
The biggest jobs include a bushfire in the early 1980s that covered an area from Taylors Beach to Fingal Bay and threatened Nelson Bay, as well as the huge fire west of Cessnock in the 1990s.
‘‘It’s the friendships you have had that will stay with you,’’ Mr Bagnall said.
‘‘It has also helped me a lot with my education too.
‘‘I only got a year 7 education so the training was able to help me use my brain a lot more.’’
When he started, the job was fighting fires.
But when the first rescue equipment arrived, so did the training and so did the jobs.
That included car accidents and rescues.
And it was on one of those jobs, nearly a decade ago, that Mr Bagnall was called to a bike fatality only to discover it was his brother Terry.
‘‘I didn’t do any rescue after that,’’ he said.
But the positives outweigh the heartbreaking negatives, and Mr Bagnall says the reward from the job is something he will treasure.
‘‘I have met many other firefighters and other emergency services people, and would encourage anyone who has the time to join and serve the community.’’
Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins said it was people like Mr Bagnall that made the organisation.
‘‘It is truly amazing to hear about people like Bill,’’ Mr Mullins said.
‘‘I congratulate him on his career and his commitment to FRNSW and the people of NSW.
‘‘I wish him all the best for his retirement.’’
DEDICATED: Bill Bagnall is hanging up his hat after 40 years as a retained firefighter. Picture: Marina Neil