- Title: Age no barrier for volunteer Australian firefighters battling bushfires
- Date: 29th December 2019
- Summary: MOUNT HAY, BLUE MOUNTAINS AREA, AUSTRALIA (DECEMBER 28, 2019) (REUTERS) CREW OF KATOOMBA AND LEURA NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE WALKING INTO BUSH TO EXTINGUISH BURNING TREE STUMPS CREW ATTENDING TO BURNING LOG VARIOUS OF CREW HOSING BURNING LOGS (SOUNDBITE) (English) KATOOMBA AND LEURA NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE VOLUNTEER, IAN WHITE SAYING: "Under all the compost, the heat's under there so you've got to get it out. Because it's going to come to the top and light these leaves here later on, possibly." IAN WHITE RAKING DEBRIS AND LEAVES AND CREW MEMBER PHIL LATKA EXTINGUISHING FIRE. CREW HOSING LOG MORE OF CREW HOSING DOWN SMOKE (SOUNDBITE) (English) KATOOMBA AND LEURA NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE VOLUNTEER, PHIL LATKA SAYING: "I think for me, it's being able to bring my skill set to bear with people with similar and very different skill sets to actually make a difference here in the community. People say, you know, I want to help out the community, well, this is actually making a real difference. The community's been very, very good to me, so, yeah, I like to make a bit of a return in the investment." CREW WALKING BEHIND FIRE TRUCK SENIOR DEPUTY CAPTAIN, KATOOMBA AND LEURA NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE, RAYMOND LOWE TALKING ON RADIO TRUCK DRIVING ON FIRE TRAIL LATKA FEEDING OUT HOSE TO CREW (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR DEPUTY CAPTAIN, KATOOMBA AND LEURA NEW SOUTH WALES VOLUNTEER RURAL FIRE SERVICE, RAYMOND LOWE SAYING: "At the moment I've taken holidays. So, I'm on holidays until the 6th of January and I'm spending my holidays out here helping work with the rest of the team and helping the community doing what we can, to hopefully get these fires out and keep everybody safe." KATOOMBA AND LEURA NEW SOUTH WALES VOLUNTEER RURAL FIRE SERVICE MEMBER, JUDITH NASH PULLING FIRE HOSE (SOUNDBITE) (English) KATOOMBA AND LEURA NEW SOUTH WALES VOLUNTEER RURAL FIRE SERVICE MEMBER, JUDITH NASH SAYING: "I have grandchildren but I want to feel as if I meet people of different age brackets. I feel like they need to belong to a community and need to give back as well. That's what I like about the RFS (Rural Fire Service). You've got everybody from their twenties to their seventies and they're still working, they're still belonging and they are still caring for the community and each other." VARIOUS OF CREW HOSING TREE STUMP (SOUNDBITE) (English) KATOOMBA AND LEURA NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE VOLUNTEER, IAN WHITE SAYING: "Because I'm retired I can take the load off these younger blokes, who've got mortgages, family, business to run. They're mortgaged up to the hilt so I'll get in and do it for as long as I can. As long as I'm healthy enough I'll keep doing it. Because that takes the pressure off them. If I'm not there, someone's got to do it, so I figured why not me, so I get in and help out." VARIOUS OF CREW TAKING A TEA BREAK IN BURNT CLEARING (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR DEPUTY CAPTAIN, KATOOMBA AND LEURA NEW SOUTH WALES VOLUNTEER RURAL FIRE SERVICE, RAYMOND LOWE SAYING: "It's very difficult, I mean the time to stand down is going to come at some stage as we all get older and that's why we're training up younger people to take our steps, take our positions and fill in for us. But, that's going to be difficult because there's always going to be that desire to get out because it's the camaraderie that you find out here. That ability to help others and you're not expecting any thanks, you're out here doing it, and it's hard to describe the feeling and how genuine everyone is and just how good it is to be able to help, even though it's dirty and hot work not enjoyable from that aspect. The feeling you get from accomplishing something that may seem impossible is really rewarding. So to miss out on all that, it's going to be hard and one day I'll have to step down and just be back at the brigade shed being support for the crews that go out in those days." VARIOUS OF CREW FILLING UP WATER TANK ON TRUCK
- Embargoed: 12th January 2020 04:42
- Keywords: Australia Blue Mountains blaze bushfires drought firefighters volunteers water
- Location: MOUNT HAY, BLUE MOUNTAINS AREA, AUSTRALIA
- City: MOUNT HAY, BLUE MOUNTAINS AREA, AUSTRALIA
- Country: Australia
- Topics: Disaster/Accidents,Wildfires/Forest Fires
- Reuters ID: LVA001BC11GSN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Armed with hoses, axes and rakes, volunteers from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service trudge through burnt bushland in Australia's Blue Mountains, extinguishing spot fires as they go.
The dirty and hot work of battling bushfires might be physically exhausting for Senior Deputy Captain Raymond Lowe, but he is not stepping aside anytime soon.
Lowe is part of a four-person crew from the New South Wales (NSW) state Rural Fire Service (RFS) who are all aged in their 60s and have given up their time over the Christmas holidays to fight some of the country's fiercest fires.
Lowe is a volunteer and says that for him, the greatest reward is the fellowship among those fighting the fires.
"There's always going to be that desire to get out because it's the camaraderie that you find out here," Lowe told Reuters.
"It's hard to describe the feeling and how genuine everyone is and just how good it is to be able to help."
Lowe, a school administrator by trade, is part of the biggest volunteer rural fire service in the world with more than 72,000 members who regularly work shifts of up to 14 hours to protect their own communities and those around them.
His crew, consisting of grandmother and registered nurse Judy Nash, retiree Ian White and engineer Phil Lakta have decades of service between them.
For Ian White, retirement has meant he has more time to serve his local community than full-time workers.
"Because I'm retired I can take the load off these younger blokes," White said.
"As long as I'm healthy enough I'll keep doing it because that takes the pressure off them."
Volunteer firefighting has long been Australia's primary defence against catastrophe but the intensity of this year's fire season sparked a political debate over weather firefighters should be compensated for their time.
The bushfires have destroyed more than 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) across the country, dwarfing the terrain burnt by fierce fires in California during 2019. Over 800 homes have been lost in New South Wales alone, the RFS said.
There have also been eight deaths linked to the fires, including two volunteer firefighters.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday (December 29) said that volunteer firefighters in NSW would be compensated up to A$6,000 ($4,186) if they'd spent more than ten days in the field this fire season.
Previously, Morrison had suggested that payment of firefighters was not a priority issue.
Cooler conditions in many areas during Christmas week helped contain some blazes, but the fire risk has increased in parts of the country in the final few days of 2019.
(Production: Jill Gralow)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None