Valley Veterans | NSW Rural Fire Service are the heroes among us

Some of the wonderful RFS Volunteers of the Valla RFS Brigade (back from left) Ella Pade, Belinda Williams, Clare Warner, Byron Rundle, Michael Hughes, Michael Williams, Chris Knight. (Front from left) Annette Brougham, Abby Pade, Wayne Pade, Bede Rundle. Photo: Mick Birtles
Some of the wonderful RFS Volunteers of the Valla RFS Brigade (back from left) Ella Pade, Belinda Williams, Clare Warner, Byron Rundle, Michael Hughes, Michael Williams, Chris Knight. (Front from left) Annette Brougham, Abby Pade, Wayne Pade, Bede Rundle. Photo: Mick Birtles

There was a cartoon on social media last week that showed Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and all of the other well known comic strip super heroes in a group being approached by a dishevelled member of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) who had clearly been fighting fires.

The single sentence caption said it all; Superman was saying to the RFS person "welcome to the club mate".

The difference between the characters in the drawing is that one of those depicted was a real life hero.

Over the last few weeks we have seen nature, and in some cases man, throw everything at our brave firies, and again and again they have done everything they could to protect lives and property.

So far this season we have already seen the number of fires across the State rapidly approach the 3000 mark. New South Wales' long dry spell combined with strong winds and at times a combination of malicious or careless acts by some individuals has kept the RFS on its toes and fires have destroyed bushland, killed and displaced wildlife and destroyed their habitat and come close to homes here on the Mid North Coast.

While we rely so heavily on the RFS to be there to combat the fires that threaten us there is so much we can do to help ourselves and take some of the load off our fire fighters.

Former Soldiers turned RFS volunteers Patrick Wolf and Michael Williams on hand to advise locals at the NSW RFS Get Ready Weekend at the Valla RFS Brigade. Photo: Mick Birtles

Former Soldiers turned RFS volunteers Patrick Wolf and Michael Williams on hand to advise locals at the NSW RFS Get Ready Weekend at the Valla RFS Brigade. Photo: Mick Birtles

Last weekend at 13 locations from Crescent Head to Valla Beach the RFS held a 'Get Ready Weekend' where they invested considerable time and effort into helping the rest of us understand what we can do to prepare ourselves and our properties for the bush fire season.

Having our own street threatened by fire last week was a very big wake-up call for my family so we went along on Sunday to the Valla Rural Fire Brigade's 'Get Ready' event.

The team from the RFS Valla Brigade were there in force to speak to the public about having a bush fire survival plan and to reinforce the need to be prepared for the bush fires and minimising the risk to your own property and those around you.

Not surprisingly we found that among the Valla RFS Brigade were a number of defence veterans, still giving back to the community through their service to the RFS.

Former Army soldier Belinda Williams of Valla spoke to my wife and I about the simple measures we can take to prepare our property to lessen the chances of our home catching fire and she provided us with a pack containing literature that we can follow to prepare for the bush fire season.

Valla residents Stewart Peters and Ellie Dalceska-Peters advised on bushfire survival from RFS volunteer Greg Sainty. Photo: Mick Birtles

Valla residents Stewart Peters and Ellie Dalceska-Peters advised on bushfire survival from RFS volunteer Greg Sainty. Photo: Mick Birtles

During the afternoon I also met Patrick Wolf, a veteran of the British Forces' Royal Signals Corps who saw active service in the Persian Gulf 1959-60. Patrick has been with the RFS for 19 years and recommended volunteering with RFS as a meaningful way to serve the community. Some of the many roles for volunteers with the RFS include catering, communications, logistics and fire fighting.

The Valla Brigade currently has around 20 active members and like all of the RFS Brigades on the Mid North Coast, they are always looking for new volunteers. Another former soldier turned RFS volunteer, Michael Williams of Valla, showed me some of the equipment the RFS uses to fight fires. The excellent condition of the equipment and the skill of the brigade members to operate it is perhaps a reflection of the stewardship of the Valla Brigade Captain Peter Brougham.

Nearly 60 Valla locals paid a visit to this year's Get Ready Weekend at the Valla Brigade and walked away armed with knowledge that will reduce the risk to life and property this fire season. Visitors also were treated to a free sausage sandwich or hamburger as an added bonus.

For me the highlight, in addition to learning how to improve our chances of survival in a bush fire, was rubbing shoulders with the real life heroes of the RFS.

'Thank you for your service'.

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