Western Downs fireys recognised for assisting NSW fires
More than a dozen Western Downs heroes were recognised for their bravery and mateship when they travelled more than 1000km to provide much-needed relief on the frontline of the worst bushfire disaster in Australia's history.
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Rural Fire Service auxiliary firefighters from across the region gathered at the Bennett Rural Fire Station on Thursday, February 16, to receive citations from the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, for the crucial role they played in helping beyond fatigued NSW firefighters.
Queensland Rural Fire Service regional manager Wayne Waltisbuhl said their Queensland teams are highly regarded on all levels for the exceptional work carried out during those dark months.
"Everyone should be very proud… it's just the new norm now that if someone needs a hand, we'll help out."
Bennett Rural Fire Brigade First officer Gregory Olsson went on three deployments down south and said it was great to see volunteer fireys being acknowledged.
"The NWS guys were out there right through Christmas fighting fires and they were buggered, and for us to go down there and do the gruelling dirty work, mopping up and blackening out, it was so important to let them have some rest and go home to their families," he said.
"And if a fire broke out we dealt with it - it's all well and good fighting fires but it's about getting in and doing the work, backburning, so that doesn't happen.
"It may not be a glorious job, but it's an important job. We were just pleased we could go down and help."
During the soul crushing fire season, 34 people lost their lives, 2779 homes were lost, and at least 18 million hectors of land was burnt to ashes leaving many endangered species on the brink of extinction.
Weranga Rural Fire Brigade First officer John Ruddiman said there was no hesitation in heading down south, he just wished they were called down sooner.
"It was devastating to see the wildlife on the sides of the road burnt out everywhere, it was horrific," he said.
"It was different to anything I have ever seen, and I've been in some large fires… it was just ash, no trees, it was just like a moonscape.
"How those fellas lasted so long without calling us up… they had been fighting fires day and night for two months before we head down."
Full list of citation recipients at the Bennett fire Station award ceremony:
Bennett Rural Fire Brigade
Kogan & District RFB
James Hollist Jnr
Weranga Goranba RFB