Clyde volunteer and former CFA career member Ian Ronald Symons will today receive the prestigious Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) as part of the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Ian will receive the medal after more than 55 years of service with CFA.
He first began his service with CFA at Lardner Fire Brigade in 1965 and served in different roles within the organisation ever since. Ian was appointed to CFA career staff as a Regional Officer in 1970 and his strong abilities led him to be appointed as Deputy Chief Officer (Operations).
Ian’s tenure as part of the CFA has seen him honoured with a National Medal, 45 and 50 Year Service Awards and a CFA Life Membership.
“I would watch on as my father worked for the CFA when I was younger and I suppose I saw a future in being a part of the fire services family,” Ian said.
“Volunteers are the salt of the Earth. They’ll do anything for their community and I’ve always had a healthy respect for any volunteer because when the chips are down they’ll always be there for each other and we saw that this past summer.
His impact on public safety within CFA spans far and wide. He has been recognised for his contribution of leading the Critical Incident Stress Management Program, serving as an instructor at Fiskville and writing training materials and fire ground practices for new generation equipment and major appliances introduced to CFA between 1977 and 1982.
“I was working in Geelong in 1977 when significant grassfires burnt through the western district and that was my first real eye-opener,” he said.
“At the time I realised sometimes the guiding doctrine outlining how you should manage these incidents doesn’t always work. From then on, I set out to send support early rather than wait until people needed to ask for it.”
“After Ash Wednesday we reviewed the Incident Control System at the time and I took part in providing input in making measured amendments to how our emergency services deal with all sorts of incidents.
“An experienced volunteer member proposed the idea of having a designated Incident Controller, but we also needed to designate personnel in charge of putting the fire out and another responsible for planning where the fire would go, how quickly and what resources would be needed to contain the fire and put it out.”
Ian and his Operations Planning Committee began implementing this approach just prior to the formal adoption of the Incident Control System (ICS) by CFA. ICS changed how incidents are dealt with not only in Victoria, but interstate, and has now been adopted across all different emergency services.
“It was great to be a part of a period of change, especially when the new system proved to be a safer and more efficient way of doing things,” he said.
As a nominated by the Chief Officer, Ian observed and mentored the performance of Level 3 Incident Management Teams (IMT) as well as working with CFA to prepare for the Bushfire Royal Commission in relation to the Black Saturday bushfires.
Ian’s extensive experience and a wealth of knowledge have directly improved the safety of the Clyde community over recent years because of his valuable contributions to emergency preparedness and fire prevention through his work with Municipal committees.
Many of his innovative ideas have been adopted across the organisation and continue to benefit the CFA and protect communities, particularly through activities of District and Regional Planning Committees and welfare programs.
Since retiring as a career staff member, Ian may not be on the frontline, but he has continued to devote his time to the community as a volunteer mentor to younger brigade members.
Ian has been described by his peers as an exemplar for staff working with volunteers, an excellent trainer, educator and a very capable fire manager.
“The reason I have remained involved is because I understand I have a lot of experience and knowledge behind me and there are still ways I can help CFA protect the lives and property and local communities,” Ian said.
His excellent leadership and communication skills have helped him excel in managing personnel in a volunteer-based organisation.
“Nobody sets out on a career with CFA to receive something at the end of their time but I see this honour as recognition of my contribution and it’s comforting to know that I’ve been able to make a difference along the way,” Ian said.