For 53 years, including 35 as captain, Peter has been protecting lives and properties in the community in which he was born.
The 69 year old has been recognised for his distinguished service to CFA and the community with an Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
“It’s a tremendous thrill,” Peter said.
“It’s not just for me it’s for the many people in this brigade who have provided tremendous support to me over the 35 years as captain and 53 I’ve been an officer… This (AFSM) is as much for them as it is for me.”
As a boy, Peter would pedal after his older brothers to the fire station on his trike. Eventually he was adopted as the Brigade mascot, before joining on his 16th birthday.
Now, as then, he says the fire brigade is still ingrained in the fabric of Upwey.
“I’m still proud the brigade is held in such high regard and coming up to 100 years it’s certainly been a part of the furniture of the community”
During his half a century of service he’s seen the community grow and change from bushfire risk to more structure fires.
But he says it’s still the major bushfires which occur with regularity which pose the greatest hazard to the community.
“1983 (Ash Wednesday) was very traumatic. It started just over the border from us in Tecoma. It was certainly one of the most challenging command events (for me as Captain).”
“The fire came back into Upwey late at night with significant aggression. We had a similar occurrence in the same area only two or three years ago when the south of Upwey was certainly threatened by a significant fire.”
Peter says his greatest achievements have been finally handing over the red captain’s helmet and helping to renew the brigade with youth by establishing the Junior Brigade.
“It’s great to see the youth in the Brigade. We’ve always had a very good junior brigade which has been a good incubator for us to bring skills up. The previous captain came up from the juniors and numerous officers.”
“I was instrumental in starting that junior brigade, and it’s one of the more proactive things I’ve ever done in my career.”
The irony of his extensive tenure as captain and his focus on fostering the younger generation is not lost on Peter.
“The future is in the youth, whether it be in business or the brigade or community groups. Succession planning is one of the fundamentals of good business management and that philosophy applies to a brigade as well.
“I feel a bit of a hypocrite having been captain for 35 years and that wasn’t by design. I think what I didn’t do right was not give enough focus to succession planning in the early days.”
Peter also served on CFA’s Board of Management and believes the future of the organisation is bright.
“Having spent four years on the board I have a much greater insight into the operational function of CFA and the corporate side of the organisation and how well managed it is. It certainly encourages me that CFA has a long a prosperous future.”