MICHAEL BECK with dog Maurice
MICHAEL BECK with dog Maurice Alf Wilson

Fire truckie risked his life at Ravenshoe

FIREFIGHTER Michael Beck was in Ravenshoe's Serves You Right Cafe in 2015 when a car crashed into it, exploding gas cylinders which left two people dead and 19 injured.

The 52-year-old Michael has been in the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services for 23 years and in January started work as the only permanent fire officer supported by auxiliary on remote Thursday Island, which is the business centre of the Torres Strait in far north Queensland.

Michael holds a heavy vehicle truck licence but because there is only a 10km road network on TI, he can be seen in the two QFS Isuzu light trucks.

"One is what we call an I-Zone Light 4WD and the other an Type 2 Urban-Pumper and for the next months it can get busy with bush fires here on TI. Thursday Island has Auxiliary (part time) fire fighters to call on when they are needed,” he said.

Just across from TI is the much bigger but less populated Horn Island which has a Rural Fire Service and SES station and also an fire and rescue Isuzu fire truck.

Horn Island is where planes land then people catch a ferry across to TI which is too hilly for an airstrip.

Before joining the Queensland Fire Service (QFS), Michael was a mechanic and served with in the Australian Army's Reserve 51st Battalion in Cairns and Weipa before signing up with the QFS at Atherton during 1996.

Michael had also been a trainer with QFES, teaching industry and the mining sector in Queensland and PNG and also taught rescue in PNG.

His occupation can be is extremely dangerous when officers are called to fight house or bush fires.

But Michael wasn't expecting any danger when involved in the Ravenshoe Serves You Right Café” in 2015 (when the tragedy occurred). He and a work college was training a respite group on fire and evacuation rescue techniques prior to joining them for lunch.

"We were at the café having lunch when the accident happened. I had burns to my hands, face and back and spent several weeks in hospital in both Townsville and Brisbane following months in recovery,” he said his recovery is ongoing for the emotional trauma even though his injuries have healed.

Michael's partner Sonia Herrington has moved to TI with him as well as their adopted and much loved poodle cross dog Maurice.

"Maurice spends a lot of time with me,” he said.

Michael is also involved in the coordinator the local Emergency Services Cadets program which teaches participants 11-16 year old's what the QFES offers potential officers and enables them to take that knowledge back to many Torres Strait Islands.

Most people on TI and outer islands have small outboard motor powered dinghies which they used for travel between nearby islands and for transport, fishing and crabbing.

"I haven't got one yet but will look into it,” he said.

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