Farewelling senior fireman John Wheeler (left) on his last day at the Maryborough Fire Station before his retirement is station officer Andrew Madders.
Farewelling senior fireman John Wheeler (left) on his last day at the Maryborough Fire Station before his retirement is station officer Andrew Madders.

Firey retires after 43 years’ service

WHEN a 21-year-old John Wheeler became a firefighter, he thought 10 years would be the maximum time he’d spend in the service.

Forty three years and eight months later, he stepped off the fire truck for the last time at 65 years of age this week.

“My last day as a firey was surreal,” Mr Wheeler said.

“I never thought I’d be there that long. When I started, I visualised about 10 years max, and I’d move onto something else, but I was there for more than 40 years.”

Before he retired, Mr Wheeler was considered the longest serving fireman in the Maryborough area.

“The service has changed a lot since I started in 1976. That was back in the board days before it went to the state government about 1990,” he said.

Over the years, Mr Wheeler attended too many fires to count but one he vividly remembered was the Maryborough City Hall in 1990.

“There were three of us on duty that night – the station officer and two firefighters. I was driving the truck,” he said.

“Someone knocked on the station window and said there was a fire at the town hall. We opened our doors and you could just see it, roaring, smoke billowing out.

“We had every firefighter in town including auxiliaries at that job.

“It was the work of an arsonist who had lit a few fires around town; he ended up going to jail.”

Mr Wheeler said coronavirus restrictions meant his retirement travel plans were temporarily on hold.

“Now with COVID-19 we can’t travel much but when we can we’ll be doing the grey nomad thing, travelling over Australia.”

Station Officer Andrew Madders congratulated Mr Wheeler on this retirement, saying everyone at the station had enjoyed working with him.

“I worked with John myself for 30 years,” Mr Madders said.

“He’s been a great fella to work with; he gives me a bit of cheek like saying ‘You’ve got a lot to learn yet, boy!’

“We all hope John enjoys his retirement. I know he’ll miss the station and camaraderie we have.

“I’m sure he’ll come back down here for a cuppa with us sometimes and also join our social outings.”

The 1990 fire substantially damaged the Maryborough City Hall’s interior, which later underwent major restoration work.



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