Joondalup firefighter celebrates 40 years on the frontline

Firefighting father and son Len and Brad Wellsteed.
Firefighting father and son Len and Brad Wellsteed.

LEN Wellsteed (67) has spent more than 40 years on the frontline as a firefighter.

The senior firefighter joined the Fire Brigades Board in September 1979 and has been at Joondalup Fire Station since it opened in Drovers Place 23 years ago.

“They used to call us the ‘koala bear club’,” he said.

“There was a lot of bush out here then; we got a lot of bush fires.”

Prior to Joondalup, he served at the Perth fire station for 14 years, then a year at Claremont followed by two in Wangara.

With no plans to retire in the foreseeable future, Mr Wellsteed said he came from a “firey family”.

“My dad was in the job for 37 years,” he said.

“I’ve got a son (Brad) that’s been in the job 14 years; I had a brother that was in it and I have got two nephews that are in it.

“I’m very grateful that I’ve had good genes and I’ve been able to keep fit to do this job.”

Firefighting father and son Len and Brad Wellsteed.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Craig Waters said while many firefighters served for about 30 years, 40 was “exceptional”.

Mr Wellsteed said he still vividly remembered attending a crash soon after he qualified to drive an emergency tender.

“I went to Welshpool crossing – a guy went through the barrier and got hit by a train,” he said.

He also recalled a crash involving a policeman at the Marmion Avenue and Burns Beach Road intersection, and said he had attended most of the crashes marked by crosses along Wanneroo Road north of the station.

While Mr Wellsteed said there had been a lot of change over the four decades, particularly with their equipment and vehicles, firefighters “still have to put the wet stuff on the hot stuff”.

United Professional Firefighters Union president Kevin Jolly said Mr Wellsteed had been a larrikin when they first met in the 1980s, and had also contributed enormously by fundraising for the burns unit at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Firefighters held a morning tea at the Joondalup station on December 6 to celebrate Mr Wellsteed’s 40-year milestone, including fellow crew members who were not born when he started his career.

Joondalup Fire Station B Platoon firefighters Kevin Hogan, Niall Baron, station manager Darryl Browning, Len Wellsteed, Paul Newman, Theresa McKirdy and Morgan Cooper.

Station manager Darryl Browning said the station had a bush fire-fighting truck as well as heavy and light tankers, and four shift crews with a shift officer and five firefighters.

The station covers suburbs between Hester Avenue to the north, the Wanneroo town site to the south, the coast to the west and Bullsbrook to the east.

Mr Browning said it was a busy station, covering a range of incidents from structure and bush fires to car crashes.