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Ivan Smith – AFSM
In his 50 years of service, Ivan Smith has seen firefighting change from beaters to bombers, but some tough memories of the early days will remain with him forever.
Ivan started at CFA in 1967 when he joined Narre Warren North Rural Fire Brigade. Eight years later, he became the captain.
He was a deputy group officer with the Pakenham Group on Ash Wednesday and took up the lead role in what is today known as an incident control centre. He was the equivalent of the incident controller, leading operations during the Beaconsfield fire.
Out of that, he recalls one particularly heart-breaking experience.
“I was right there, talking to a crew from Narre Warren who were dying,” he said.
“You never lose that feeling or the memories. I was the captain of Narre Warren North, their neighbouring brigade, and I knew them all.
“Since 1983, and being so close to the crew that died, I made the decision that yes some mistakes were made, and I’d never lay down until we ironed those things out.”
Since then, Ivan’s career has focused on demonstrating exceptional operational leadership and training both in and outside CFA.
As an accredited Level 3 incident controller, he further demonstrated his leadership as incident controller of the Bunyip State Park Fire on Black Saturday.
The strategic planning in the days leading up to Black Saturday and the use of trigger points ensured that no lives were lost and asset losses were minimised.
Ivan has led operations at major fires since 1973, which paved the way for him to champion the Australasian Inter-agency Incident Management System (AIIMS) and its introduction to CFA and other agencies.
Despite his many achievements, Ivan said what's kept him connected to CFA for 50 years is the organisation’s sense of community.