By Justin Flynn
Greg Leece has spent more than 40 years fighting fires as a volunteer and a professional.
The Ocean Grover is a prescribed firefighter with the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning (DELWP) and a CFA volunteer and is currently a Community Safety Coordinator at Ocean Grove Brigade.
Greg received an Australian Fire Service Medal at the recent Australia Day honours.
He started as a CFA volunteer in Seymour at age 16.
“It was fun because back when I joined, the rules weren’t quite as stringent as they are now,” he said.
“There’s a whole lot of OHS that everybody’s got to abide by. Back then you could get on the truck and actually go to the fire and now you’ve got to get formally credited and pass a whole lot of stuff.”
Greg’s role at DELWP has taken him all over the state. He is recognised as a leader in fire planning across Victoria and also for his valuable mentorship of other firefighters and those in the Planning Section.
Greg has been deployed across Victoria as part of incident management teams and has served at all major campaign fires since 2000 including the Great Alpine Fires 2002/03, the Great Divide Fires 2006/07, the Black Saturday fires in 2009 and at the Gippsland fires in 2019/20. He has also deployed to fires interstate.
“I was working as planning for Wye River when it got burnt,” he said.
“We were in Colac in the incident control centre and you could see the cloud go up when the fire took off and it was creating its own thunderstorms.
“You just knew anything in its path was going to be in trouble.
“I can remember watching Ash Wednesday burn Woodend from the top of a hill.”
Greg credits wife Denise, daughter Laura and twin sons Luke and Ryan for his recognition.
“Me being able to do this is, in a long way, dependent on having a family that actually supports you doing it,” he said.
“Denise has basically managed households – I can’t remember how many Christmases we haven’t been able to finish or I haven’t been there for.
“The support of family to be able to have the length of service I’ve had has made it probably the reason it’s successful.”
Greg said volunteering and working with DELWP had the benefits of helping the community and personal satisfaction.
“Because I’ve been so mobile with work, it’s a great way to meet people,” he said.
“By taking on officer roles, you’re helping the broader community.”
Greg said technology was the aspect of firefighting that had changed the most over the years.
“We’ve gone from fully paper based stuff to things we can do fully electronically,” he said.
“The capacity to get weather services is so much different than it used to be. It will continue to evolve.”