Sometimes, when Mark Whybro drives past a particular building or through a particular intersection, it will trigger a sad or unpleasant memory.
Mark, the 222nd person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, spent four decades in Fire and Rescue NSW, which sometimes involved responding to horrible fires and accidents. Mark says the department always took mental health very seriously – but some incidents are hard to forget.
As Mark explained, when you fight a fire, you experience an incredible surge of alertness and adrenalin, which helps you cope with what can be frightening and dangerous situations.
Before he left Fire and Rescue NSW last year, Mark was one of five assistant commissioners – just below the two deputy commissioners and the one commissioner. Part of the reason Mark rose so high was because he was driven to serve and make a difference. For example, Mark pushed hard to devote more resources to prevention.
Before he left Fire and Rescue NSW last year, Mark was one of five assistant commissioners, who supported two deputy commissioners, the executive and the commissioner. Part of the reason Mark rose so high was because he was driven to serve and make a difference. For example, Mark pushed hard to devote more resources to prevention and education, as he believed it was much, much better to stop the emergency from happening in the first place.
These days, Mark consults to Fire Protection Association Australia, the national peak body for the fire protection industry, and chairs the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Australia, the leading national resource for independent, non-commercial information about home fire sprinklers.
It was such a pleasure to meet Mark. For starters, he’s very friendly and has a great sense of humour. Also, he had the patience to answer my endless fire-related questions, on everything from fire science and fire prevention to fire fighting and fire investigations.
I also got some free advice – some Christmas trees are a fire hazard!