News & Media

Rick Owen - AFSM

By: CFA News

Category: Honours & Awards, People

  9.33 AM 26 January, 2016

Location: General

Views: 2002

Four generations of CFA firefighters spanning across a century with a combined 200 years of service, it’s easy to see why Rick Owen has been awarded an Australian Fire Services Medal as part of this year’s Australia Day Honours.

Rick has been a volunteer and career staff member of CFA for more than 30 years, starting as a junior member at Dandenong Fire Station in 1980. His two brothers Mike and Tony are also part of CFA’s senior operational team.  Their father, grandfather and great grandfather were all firefighters – his great grandfather was even a Captain at Golden Square.

“I lived on CFA properties across the road from the fire stations most of my life so I’ve always been exposed to it,” Rick said.

After being a junior for 6 years, Rick became a senior volunteer at Dandenong Fire Station in 1986. He became the 2nd lieutenant in 1991 before pursuing a fulltime career with CFA in 1993.

“I always liked being a firefighter. I grew up around it all the time so it seemed natural for me to take it on as a career,” Rick said.

Rick has undertaken various roles throughout his career at CFA, including a Fire Safety Officer, Instructor, Station Officer to Senior Station Officer. He’s currently on a secondment at the Victorian Emergency Management Training Centre at Craigieburn as officer in charge of the recruit program.

In preparation for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the Federal Government gave CFA new gas detection equipment. Rick saw the equipment and asked if he could look after it.

“My officer in charge at the time said I could experiment with the equipment so I did and I had an open green field in front of me with no rules or boundaries,” he said.

“I had a science background from school so I always had interest in this type of thing but it was great being able to experiment with the equipment and discover new things.”

Rick’s discoveries with the gas detection equipment were mainly self-taught. As his interest increased further in this field, he did two courses to assist him – one in Queensland and one at Baltimore in the United States.

“I used the equipment at fire grounds and fire investigation scenes to test it. There were also a couple other guys involved in the project with me so it really was a team effort,” Rick explained.

Rick wanted to take his findings to the next level by applying for the Emergency Services Foundation scholarship program to the United States. His submission was accepted and he left in 2012 and covered 13 locations in 26 days.

“American firefighters were already quite advanced with what I was researching back home – but there were some areas where we had had some successes where they hadn’t,” Rick said.

“I definitely learnt more about our hygiene and prevention on and after attending a fireground and I’ve brought those practises back here.”

Following Rick’s study tour, a Fire Smoke Coalition trip was arranged by a group of American’s who came to Melbourne under Rick’s guidance to learn some of our practises here.

Rick’s extensive amount of research, experimenting and trials have changed the way CFA operates today.

“Our hygiene and protection of the public and our firefighters has been one of the main changes at CFA,” Rick said.

“Through our gas detection equipment, I’ve helped discover when it’s safe for residents to return to houses following a fire and when it’s safe for firefighters to take their Breathing Apparatus off.

“We also used to only use gas detectors for gas leaks and Hazmat incidents, we now use them for everything. Our new equipment has more sensors in them which gives us a bigger range of results.

“More and more brigades are now buying these detectors which is great.”

Rick gives presentations around Victoria on his learnings and teaches emergency services about firefighter safety and hygiene.  He’s delivered more the 35 presentations to around a total of about 1,000 people.

Rick was stunned when he received a letter about the AFSM. He said his wife had to talk him into accepting it.

“I thought, I’ve done a lot of work but there’s also a lot of other people involved in the work – it was really a team thing,” Rick said.

“It is nice to be awarded – I’m very humbled. There’s still a lot of work to do, it never finishes and I look forward to continuing with that work.”

Rick’s wife and two daughters are very proud of his award and everything he’s discovered and shared along the way.

Last Updated: 26 January 2016