By Michael Roberts | posted on August 27, 2020
WHEN Gary Byass gets involved in a community organisation he’s generally in it for the long haul.
The 67-year-old was recently awarded life membership for 40 years with the Albany Rifle Club and last month received the National Medal for his 50-years of service with the Albany Volunteer Fire and Rescue Brigade.
Fighting fires is in Mr Byass’ DNA.
His father Jack was captain of the Northam Volunteer Fire Brigade and became heavily involved with the Albany chapter when the family moved in 1969.
Mr Byass shared the same passion for being part of a volunteer organisation and relished the opportunity to compete in fire fighting competitions.
Every Easter the Albany team would travel to Perth by train to battle it out at the state championships.
Mr Byass held a WA record for the ‘1 Man Y’ event for 15 years and was champion fireman for the Great Southern zone from 1978-1984.
These days competitions are few and far between, according to Mr Byass, with many organisations across the state not bothering to get involved anymore.
“It is a dying out sport,” he said.
“There used about 74 teams at one stage, but now it is just dying off.”
Mr Byass captained the Albany Fire Brigade in 1985, served as Foreman for 11 years and was made a life member in 2006.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Assistant Commissioner Paul Ryan specially came down from Perth to present Mr Byass his 50-year service medal at an annual awards night in July.
“It gives me great pride,” he said.
“It’s a great mob of people here. I love the comradeship; we are one big happy family.
While Mr Byass doesn’t fight fires anymore, he still stays incredibly active with the organisation and helps out wherever he can with fundraising and social events.
He doesn’t plan on hanging up the boots anytime soon either, hoping to
reach 60-years of service.
“That’s the main one,” he said.
“That is the Queen’s medal. I hope the health holds out, I want to keep going as far as I can.”