“MY first experience was the most horrific,” Busselton Fire Station captain Rob Papalia says about his first traffic emergency service response.
“It was just prior to a Christmas back in the early eighties,” he said.
“This accident involved two families, one travelling to Bunbury and one coming home from Bunbury, meeting head-on in the Tuart Forest.
“The result was a number of adults and children injured along with fatalities occurring.
“It was at a time when modern jaws-of-life equipment was not available to volunteer fire stations.”
Mr Papalia said the accident left responders feeling “inadequate” because they did not have the appropriate tools to complete their job.
He said the accident was the impetus for service clubs for Busselton raising funds for a rescue trailer, hydraulic tools and a Toyota vehicle to tow them.
Mr Papalia joined Brunswick Junction Volunteer Fire Brigade in October 1978 and in July 1981 he transferred to Busselton Volunteer Fire Brigade.
He has attended about 1870 calls in his 35 years of duty.
Mr Papalia said most emergency responders would remember vividly the first traffic accident.
In 2014, Western Australia recorded its highest road fatality number for years, a statistic Mr Papalia said could be improved through more education programs.
“Education of both young and old drivers is possibly an avenue to abate some of the fatalities,” he said.
“A good school education defensive driving lessons funded by state government would be a good start for all young drivers.”
Mr Papalia said limiting the power of vehicles for younger drivers similar to the system with motorbikes could also help.
He said some of the biggest factors contributing to road fatalities in WA included fatigue, alcohol, in-attention and drugs.
Mr Papalia said drivers needed to make sure they had adequate rest, drove defensively and limited distractions within a vehicle including mobile phones.
“Apart from education a greater police presence on the roads might be a deterrent to stop some drivers taking the gamble,” he said.
However, Mr Papalia admitted it was difficult to maintain a routine being a volunteer emergency service worker because call outs could come at any time of the day or night.
“Broken sleep is always hard to recover,” he said.
“Interruptions to family events can also cause concern.
“However, my family although not happy, have always accepted and understood the reason for serving our community.”