Bill Slade, 60, was struck and killed by a falling tree at Anglers Rest, near Omeo, while working with a Forest Fire Management taskforce on January 11.
Bill Slade, 60, was struck and killed by a falling tree at Anglers Rest, near Omeo, while working with a Forest Fire Management taskforce on January 11.

Family, friends farewell ‘ripper bloke’ who ‘died a hero’

Veteran Victorian firefighter and "ripper bloke" Bill Slade was farewelled by grieving family and friends on Wednesday in Wonthaggi.

Hundreds paid their respects to the "loving husband and doting father" at the State Coal Mine.

Mr Slade, 60, was struck and killed by a falling tree at Anglers Rest, near Omeo, while working with a Forest Fire Management taskforce on January 11.

 

Firefighter Bill Slade. Picture: AAP
Firefighter Bill Slade. Picture: AAP

 

Friends embrace at the funeral of firefighter Bill Slade. Picture: AAP
Friends embrace at the funeral of firefighter Bill Slade. Picture: AAP

Celebrant Andrew Henley said Mr Slade had fought fires in Ash Wednesday, Black Saturday and "died a hero" in East Gippsland.

"He was a ripper bloke who loved his wife and kids," Mr Henley said.

"It was a tragic accident, he died doing what he loved.

"He was loyal, strong, dedicated and always thinking of others."

Wife Carol said she was "heartbroken and sad" her beloved husband's life had been cut short.

"We made a great team, I will miss the great times we had yet to come," a relative said on her behalf.

"You were always so proud of us and worked so hard to make our lives so happy."

 

 

A Parks Victoria worker embraces a Forest Fire Management worker at the funeral of Bill Slade. Picture: AAP
A Parks Victoria worker embraces a Forest Fire Management worker at the funeral of Bill Slade. Picture: AAP

 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews arrives at Wonthaggi State Coal Mine. Picture: AAP
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews arrives at Wonthaggi State Coal Mine. Picture: AAP

 

Son Ethan said his dad, who they dubbed "Bushfire Bill" was the family's rock.

"He was so proud of us kids," son Ethan said.

"Dad was one of the most tolerant men. He was selfless and strong. We love you dad."

Daughter Steph paid tribute to her beloved dad: "Thank you for showing us the importance of loving your job, I hope to follow in your footsteps," she said.

"We will do our very best to make you proud."

Born and bred in Wonthaggi, Mr Slade was the eldest of five children and grew up on his parents dairy farm in Archies Creek.

 

The funeral for veteran firefighter Bill Slade at Wonthaggi State Coal Mine. Picture: AAP
The funeral for veteran firefighter Bill Slade at Wonthaggi State Coal Mine. Picture: AAP

 

A guard of honour of Forestry and Fire Management workers lines the road as Bill Slade’s hearse departs. Picture: AAP
A guard of honour of Forestry and Fire Management workers lines the road as Bill Slade’s hearse departs. Picture: AAP

 

Mourners heard he learnt his "strong work ethic" working on the family farm.

Tragically Mr Slade had received his 40-year service recognition only two months before his tragic death.

Parks Victoria colleague Gerard Delaney said Slade was the "glue who bound the team together" who took pride in mentoring young firefighters.

"Bill's advice could always be trusted," Mr Delaney said.

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"He was a worker who wore his fire gear like an Armani suit."

In his personal life, Mr Slade was remembered as a talented sportsman playing both cricket and footy for Kilcunda Bass.

His hearse was farewelled by a guard of honour.

His funeral was attended by Premier Daniel Andrews and Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien.

Slade is one of five Victorians who have lost their lives fighting the state's unrelenting bushfires this summer.

brianna.travers@news.com.au