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MFB Senior Station Officer celebrates 50 years as a firey

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24 Sep 2016
The week Senior Station Officer Bart Pribilovics celebrated 50 years with the MFB.

It’s hard to imagine the bravery you’d need to shove a wet sponge in your mouth and run into a burning building.  But Senior Station Officer Bart Pribilovics merely chuckles at the memory.

Fifty years ago on Friday 23 September, Bart became an MFB firefighter. The Egyptian native immigrated to Australia as a 12-year-old.

In mid-1966 he was flicking through the paper looking for a job and saw an advertisement saying “Firemen Wanted”. He presented to Eastern Hill Fire Station and waited more than two hours to see the Deputy Chief who signed him up on the spot.

Now, five decades later, Bart is a respected and well-loved senior officer, whose wisdom and advice has spurned on many young fireys to progress through the ranks. “Working with all these young guys keeps me young,” he explained.

Bart has worn three different uniforms (the Lancer, Firemark and PBI Gold tunics), broken six ribs, punctured his upper arm in a car explosion, recovered from smoke inhalation and been dug out of the rubble from collapsing roofs. He’s saved his fair share of people too and iconic the image of him carrying out another firefighter rescued from a fire has been immortalised in an MFB painted montage.

He’s lost count of the big fires he’s attended but notable incidents included timber yard fires, a tyre fire in Port Melbourne, a blaze in Spencer Street that killed three homeless men, and a raging building fire at Ezywalkin that closed Chapel Street for two weeks. He did attend Coode Island but only on fire duty.

He’s seen the rapid evolution of technology including the wet sponge in the mouth to today’s breathing apparatus, the vast improvement in ladders and pumpers and sophisticated new techniques used to fight fires.  He also witnessed the development of fire-fighter expertise in Hazmat, Urban Search and Rescue, Marine fire fighting, High Angle Rescue and Emergency Medical Response.

The one constant has been his wife, Pamela Anne, who he will celebrate another milestone with next year – fifty years of marriage. The couple has three children and one grandchild.

Bart’s shift mates and colleagues from over the years came together to honour the senior station officer on Wednesday 21 September at Windsor Fire Station. Mid speeches the tones rang, and Bart was quick to put down his cuppa to jump on the truck before he was quickly told to sit down and enjoy his afternoon tea!

His advice to firefighters is to always be safety conscious.  “Don’t rush in, hold back, take a second to think,” he said.

As for how long he hopes to keep working? “I’ve had surgeries done on my shoulders and knees so I think I’ve got another 10 years left in me,” he joked.

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