Kitted out to beat the flames

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Adam PoulsenMidwest Times
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Volunteer firefighters Gary Olson, Keith Hughes, Doopa Parker and Leo Soentjens will go beyond the call of duty to carry out bushfire mitigation works throughout the Mid-West and Gascoyne regions.
Camera IconVolunteer firefighters Gary Olson, Keith Hughes, Doopa Parker and Leo Soentjens will go beyond the call of duty to carry out bushfire mitigation works throughout the Mid-West and Gascoyne regions. Credit: Adam Poulsen

With bushfire season looming, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services has developed a special team of volunteer firefighters tasked with helping to prevent out-of-control blazes.

The Mid West-Gascoyne Regional Volunteer Mitigation Team will go beyond the call of duty, travelling throughout the region to carry out bushfire mitigation works.

Its 25 members were recruited from Moora, Jurien Bay, Dongara, Geraldton, Wiluna, Carnarvon, and Shark Bay.

“These people are committed to their communities, not just where they live, but right throughout the region,” DFES Mid West-Gascoyne Superintendent Craig Smith said.

He said the team conducted prescribed burns on unallocated crown land around town sites, while other forms of mitigation including mulching, slashing, creating fire breaks, and chemical weed application were carried out by other authorities.

“It’s a shared responsibility,” he said. “We can identify risk out there as best we can, but we can’t mitigate all of it. We’ve got to rely on landowners to do their part as well.” Four team members recently met with Supt Smith in Geraldton, where they were presented with kit bags containing personal protection equipment. They took the opportunity to share a few stories and laughs over a barbecue.

Jurien Bay Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service member Gary Olson recalled his humble beginnings as a volunteer in Brunswick Junction.

“We started out with a branch off a gum tree and you could thrash like hell at grass fires,” he said.

“Then when you got a bit better you were given a wet sack. But it was years before you could ever get a knapsack (fire extinguisher).”

Waggrakine Volunteer Bushfire Brigade member Keith Hughes said he had been with the brigade since its inception, after volunteering in Derby since the early 1980s. “My mate was the postmaster up there and I was with Telstra,” he recalled.

“My mate said ‘come and join us, we haven’t got any vollies’, and I said ‘all right’.”

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