Fond farewell to a homegrown firefighting legend
IT ALL started in Laidley for Ross Mutzelburg - watching his auxiliary-fire fighter father rush to the station whenever the siren sounded.
When he turned 23, Ross followed in his father's footsteps, becoming an auxiliary at the Laidley Fire Station himself.
"I knew nothing else but auxiliary firefighting because my whole life (growing up) … the fire siren would go off and (dad) would disappear," Ross said.
"So I thought I'd give it a go, and got hooked."
It started a lifelong career that has taken him across the state - before bringing him back to his home town.
In 2016, Ross returned to the Lockyer Valley to take up the role of area commander for the Queensland Fire and Rescue service - a big change after spending six years at Mount Isa.
"It was quite a change - it's a different world," he said.
"It was a homecoming because I'd been away for 20 years from the area."
But that time has now come to an end, with the senior firefighter this week moving to take up the role of area commander in Ipswich.
While the day-to-day workings of the job won't change, Ross said he would miss working with the region's auxiliary crews - as Ipswich stations are manned 24/7.
"It's just different than permanent firefighters. These guys (the Lockyer firefighters) aren't doing it for a job, they're doing it because they have a passion for it," he said.
"They're leaving their jobs where they earn their living to come and look after their communities.
"I won't say it's better or worse, it's just different and I'll miss that."
His time in the Lockyer Valley has brought plenty of action, including the past fire season - one of the worst the region has experienced in decades.
One of his toughest days came in October last year, as fires threatened the township of Laidley in conditions he described as "nightmare stuff".
"It was the worst fire conditions I've ever seen," he said.
"I've fought a lot of fires in Laidley, including in that very location, but it's the worst I've ever seen.
"It was hectic and for the guys to have saved what they did save under those conditions was just astonishing."
It was a "miracle" more houses weren't lost to the flames, he said.
He described furniture being burnt on the patios of houses - with only the efforts of the crews saving those homes.
After nearly 40 years in the fire service, there's not much he hasn't seen or done - but he said the culture and camaraderie in the service gave him the passion to come back day-after-day.
"Once you're hooked - you're just there. It's not a job, it's like a family," he said.
"You can run into a firefighter anywhere in the world who you've never met before, but it won't take long and you'll be sharing war stories."