FRV firefighters recognised with prestigious award in Australia Day Honours

Thursday, 25 January 2024 at 5:58 am

The outstanding contribution of Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) firefighters has been recognised in the Australia Day Honours List. 

Deputy Commissioner Costa Katsikis, Assistant Chief Fire Officer William (Bill) Johnstone, Commander John Katakouzinos, and Station Officer Damian O’Toole have received the prestigious Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) in recognition of their exceptional dedication to the Victorian community. 

The AFSM is the highest recognition for members of Australian fire and rescue services and honours distinguished service.

Fire Rescue Commissioner Gavin Freeman AFSM welcomed the news and congratulated the recipients on their dedication and commitment to service. 

“It gives me great pleasure to see the outstanding efforts of our firefighters recognised with this distinguished award,” Commissioner Freeman said. 

“The extraordinary expertise of those honoured and their dedicated work over many decades has had a profound and far-reaching impact – both within FRV and across all the communities we serve,” he said.

“I extend my congratulations and thank them for the very meaningful contributions they have made to keeping Victorians safe.”

Deputy Commissioner Costa Katsikis 

Recently appointed FRV's Deputy Commissioner, Operations Central, South and East, Deputy Commissioner Costa Katsikis has served the Victorian community for 35 years with the former Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and now FRV. 

Throughout his career, Deputy Commissioner Katsikis has excelled in a diverse range of operational frontline ranks and roles and has proven to be an exceptional crisis manager. 

Deputy Commissioner Katsikis has been instrumental in the development and implementation of new technology, equipment, operating systems, and processes to ensure a safer workplace, improved responder health and safety, and an enhanced emergency response capability for Victoria. He also displays a passion for educating, mentoring and developing others and is a strong advocate for gender equality. 

Assistant Chief Fire Officer William (Bill) Johnstone 

With a career spanning more than 40 years, Assistant Chief Fire Officer-Regional Commander Bill Johnstone started as a volunteer at Gisborne fire brigade in 1983. He served with the Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting Service at Avalon, Tullamarine, Hobart and Cairns before returning to Victoria and joining the Country Fire Authority’s (CFA) career ranks in 2000. 

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Johnstone has extensive experience in operational management and has played vital leadership roles during major incidents including the Kerrang Rail tragedy. He was also the inaugural Assistant Chief Fire Officer of CFA District 27 in the wake of the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire. 

More recently, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Johnstone has been the lead Regional Controller for the major floods in north and northwest Victoria. His distinguished management and influence in the emergency services sector is exceptional, and he has been integral to the successful response and recovery of Victorian communities.

Commander John Katakouzinos 

Commander John Katakouzinos began his career with the CFA as a volunteer at Springvale and became a career firefighter in March 1999. He has held a range of operational roles and is currently on secondment to CFA as Commander of Aviation based at CFA headquarters. 

Renowned for his passion for standardised training in fire aviation and rescue, Commander Katakouzinos' exceptional contribution to improving safety and interoperability extends across state and national levels, including safer rescue equipment and the development of Australia's first mobile fire aviation flight simulator. 

Station Officer Damian O'Toole 

Over a 35-year career, Station Officer Damian O’Toole has demonstrated professionalism, leadership, tenacity and passion for specialist knowledge and skills at complex fire, rescue, and emergency incidents including the 2009 Black Saturday and 2019-20 bushfires.

Station Officer O’Toole has recently concluded 10 years as a full-time fire investigator in the State Fire Investigation Unit – a tenure achieved by only a few dedicated fire investigators. During this time, Station Officer O'Toole has worked tirelessly to provide accurate fire cause and origin determination to enhance fire safety outcomes for our community. Station Officer O'Toole has also provided mentoring to many of FRV’s current team of fire investigators and training to the Victoria Police Detective Training School.  

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