Faces of Tamworth: Veteran firefighter Dennis “Grossy” Gross

Dennis Gross is one of those blokes who is involved in everything, and loved by everyone. He’s perhaps best know for his service as a firefighter. In 2017, The Leader caught up with the man they call “Grossy” on his last day as a fire chaser. 

AFTER nearly half a century on the job and at least 20,000 call outs, Dennis Gross, hung up his fire-fighting uniform for the last time.

On their last day, it’s a tradition for old-timey fire fighters to take their helmet off and hang their uniform on the hook for the last time, as the rest of the brigade celebrates their service.

The two Tamworth fire brigades farewelled Mr Gross at West Tamworth Fire Station on Wednesday afternoon, paying tribute to his 47 years on the job.

Mr Gross joined just after his honeymoon, and he remembers the exact words a mate used to convince him to join the brigade: “Grossy get your arse up to fire station, we need more firies”.

He vividly remembers his first job, rushing over to the post office in a uniform that was far too big for him.

“Back in those days we had an axe and belt – here I was going through the main street dragging this bloody axe and belt along the ground,” he said, laughing.

Captain Brian Howard has worked along side ‘Grossy’ for 25 years.

“You couldn’t have a better bloke by your side in a difficult and dangerous situation,” Captain Howard said.

“He’s everybody’s mate, and he’s been a really good mentor to lots of young firies, taking them under his wing.

“A lot of fire fighting work is hard, dirty and arduous – when the fire dies down there is a lot of cleaning up to do, and Grossy is one of the first blokes to get stuck in and get the job done.”

Captain Howard said the brigade estimated Mr Gross had been on “at least 20,000 call outs” in his 47 years.

“When he joined all those years ago, the firies were doing it pretty tough – they didn’t have a lot of safety equipment,” he said.

At his send off, Mr Gross’ fellow fire fighters also paid tribute to his wife, Helen.

“Fire fighters’ partners do it pretty tough when their husband or partner goes off to work,” Captain Howard said.

“They haven’t got a clue what they’re doing or what danger they’ll be in. It’s a worrying time when they dive out of their bed at 3am to respond to their pager.”

Mr Gross has been at just about every big fire the region has seen in recent memory.

“The starch factory was a big one – I was at Scully Park watching Wests, and heard this big bloody boom,” he said

“We look over and see all these bits of flake falling down, which turned out to be bits of the tin roof.”

Mr Gross said he’d have no trouble keeping himself busy, but he’d miss the camaraderie of the brigade.

“You go through the good times and the bad times, you support one and other,” he said.