Take your job and shave it - firie quits over beard rule
ONE of the Western Downs' most experienced firefighters has been forced out of his station over a bureaucratic beard ban.
Ken Brown, who has served with the Miles Auxiliary Fire Service for the past 18 years, resigned this week after refusing an order to shave his beard.
Ken said he was given the choice - shave, move into a support role doing station-based duties or leave.
For Ken, a proud bearded man of 15 years, there was only one option.
On Monday he hung up his helmet, handed back his shirts and walked away from a job he loved.
Ken had been awarded the National Medal for Service, a Diligent and Ethical Service Medal and the Queensland Flood and Cyclone Citation.
He has had to identify dead friends at road crashes and has removed an incinerated cousin from a burnt-out car.
And he has done it all with his beard.
But a long-standing Queensland Fire and Emergency Service rule prevents firefighters from sporting beards as they could interfere with the life-saving breathing apparatus they wear in emergency situations.
However Ken said he had never failed an annual BA face fit test.
In fact, he said his BA actually was wider than his goatee.
Ken also said the occasions on which he would be required to wear a BA kit would be on less than 5% of jobs.
"I just can't believe it," he said.
"I think they thought I was going to run home and shave but this beard is in my DNA."
Ken said he joined in 1997 following a fatal car crash near Miles, where a lack of officers hindered the job.
His full-time job is driving a school bus and when he is called out to emergencies during work he has to pay a replacement driver $10 an hour more than he earns as a firefighter.
"We don't do it for the money," Ken said.
"I acknowledge I was given an option not to resign but for me there was no option."
Miles Auxiliary captain Ray Duncombe said he was losing a "respected and experienced" firefighter.
"As everyone is aware we are struggling for staff as it is and to be put in this situation, albeit not unexpectedly, is extremely disappointing," he said.
But while he might not be an official firefighter, Ken said that won't stop him helping his community.
"If I come across an accident now I won't drive past," he said.
"I won't let someone die."
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Dalby area commander Warren Buckley said it was all a matter of safety.
Inspector Buckley said the organisation was "really cracking down".
"Beards have never been allowed in the organisation," he said.
"This should have been knocked on the head a long time ago."
Insp Buckley said QFES would not budge on the beard ban, despite moustaches being allowed.
"We'd love to keep him if he shaved off the bottom of his beard," he said.
"But the policy is that beards are not allowed."