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Keith Pakenham AFSM
A humble man who dedicates his life to CFA has received an Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM) as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours today.
CFA staff member and volunteer, Keith Pakenham has been part of the CFA family for more than 30 years yet he’s modest about receiving the prestigious award.
“It’s hard to describe how I feel. I didn’t even know someone nominated me – I still don’t know who did, but it’s an honour,” he said.
Keith joined CFA as a volunteer firefighter in 1984 at Noble Park Fire Brigade because he wanted to do something for the community. It didn’t take him long to prove his skills and dedication to firefighting by progressing through the officer ranks before becoming the captain in 1999.
But it wasn’t just firefighting that sparked Keith’s interest in CFA. Keith always loved taking photos at incidents and in 2007 he became a full-time employee at CFA as a photographer.
“I was taking many pictures through the years so when I became redundant from my other job, I decided to follow my passion for photography with CFA,” he said.
“I enjoy the paid work but I still love the volunteering part as well. I get to meet so many people and I get a chance to show their family and friends what they do for the broader community.”
Across Keith’s 31 years of volunteering with CFA, he’s battled several significant fires across the state and interstate. His commitment to CFA reached a new level in 1997 when he missed his wife’s 40th birthday while on a strike team in New South Wales.
“I was only meant to be gone three days so I’d be back for her party, which I had organised, but they kept me nine days so I missed the whole thing,” he said.
“I’m lucky I have a very understanding wife – she probably had a better time without me there!”
Keith was also very much involved in the February 2009 bushfires where he was one of the first photographers on scene at Marysville.
Keith transferred to Dandenong Fire Brigade in 2003 where he remains a current member. Living near an industrial area, Keith attends many factory fires but one that stands out the most is the Dandenong TriTech factory fire in 2011 which took more than 130 firefighters to control.
“Another incident that stands out in my mind was the Minster Carpet factory fire in Dandenong in the ‘80s which ran over a couple of days,” he said.
Keith is known to almost everyone in CFA not just because he works day and night, but because of the incredible lasting impression he leaves. He has almost limitless knowledge and love of CFA and always has a story to tell.
“What I love about CFA is it’s a great big family – people welcome you wherever you go,” he said.
His wife Susan said he’s always running out the door right when she puts dinner on the table.
“I’m used to him going – it’s now normal for me, but I’m very proud of him and his well-deserved award,” she said.