GAAM Emergency Products’ production controller Bill Sinclair recently celebrated 50 years of service. Bill is highly respected by his peers and colleagues - his knowledge of GAAM fire pumps is legendary. Today, Bill proudly supports Australia’s firefighting community by building pumps for our emergency services and fire brigades.
How did you start working for GAAM and how has your role evolved over the years?
I grew up in Fitzroy where I was trained in fitting and turning when I was 14 years old. My friends and family were working at GAAM and they taught me how to build pumps. I was then hired by GAAM in 1968 to fit pumps to petrol engines. My first project was fitting a GAAM MK60 pump to a Briggs & Stratton engine which led to building the GAAM MK44C. Back then, producing over 30 pumps would be considered a good week.
In those days, we were only a small team with four of us working out of a factory in Brunswick. I worked closely with the business owners, Jack and Stewart Falconer, to help build new pump models for the Bush Fire Council of NSW and Country Fire Authority (CFA) in Victoria. We later moved to a much larger factory in Thomastown. Since then I’ve become production controller, trained staff, and seen a lot of changes.
How has the fire industry changed over the years?
In 50 years, I’ve witnessed first-hand the evolution of the fire protection industry and its growth due to fire protection being a non-mandatory requirement to today where it’s now legislation in Australia.
We also did everything ourselves in the early days including working our own foundry to making castings however, the demand was nowhere near as high as it is today. The Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 and the NSW fires in 2005 were defining moments for our industry, with the State Government acknowledging the need to provide more equipment for fire fighters; they were using old trucks that were 30-40 years old and many had been in continuous service since 1968. Since then, fire equipment has been in high demand due to new regulations around fire preparedness and our work processes have had to evolve to meet that demand.
Workplace safety has also changed significantly. Back in the day a lot of people took things for granted with the “it couldn’t happen to me” perception but there’s always danger. For instance, in our warehouse we no longer use ladders. They were blacklisted because there were too many falls, but we didn’t have forklifts back then so we relied on ladders to reach the 30ft high racks.
What has been your involvement in firefighting?
While I was never a firefighter, my colleague Ian Price and I were instrumental in designing the GAAM MK250, MK300, MK450 and MK70 pumps, which continue to be used as frontline firefighting pumps across the country.
I will always support our firefighters by being available to do quick repairs to pumps. When you’re fighting a fire you never know what is going to happen, they spread so quickly and could easily surround you, so everyone is working together and watching each other’s backs.
GAAM has a longstanding partnership in place with all the major fire authorities across the country. As Australia experiences its worst bushfire season in living memory, the GAAM team has been working overtime, day and night, to ensure pumps and equipment are delivered to firefighters who are fighting fires on the front line.