Tinonee RFS brigade training influx of new members

Ready to fight: Four of the Tinonee recruits Greg Bennett, Stami Donovan, Ricky Pahina and Jono Webster, and Mark Wyner from Kundle Moto Brigade (second from right), after passing their BF assessment. Photo supplied
Ready to fight: Four of the Tinonee recruits Greg Bennett, Stami Donovan, Ricky Pahina and Jono Webster, and Mark Wyner from Kundle Moto Brigade (second from right), after passing their BF assessment. Photo supplied

The catastrophic bushfire crisis of 2019/2020 might be over, but members of Tinonee Fire Brigade still haven't had much time to catch their breath.

When talking to brigade captain Russell Coe and secretary Sue Odgers at the fire station a couple of weeks ago, I asked them whether they had a chance for some rest. The answer came in the form of a laugh.

Obviously they were kept incredibly busy, as were all brigades, during the fire crisis in our region. Not least of the Tinonee Brigade's jobs was saving the village of Tinonee itself. The scars of the fire can be seen right up to the eastern and southern edges of the village.

Too close for comfort: Tinonee as seen from the Apex Lookout at Bays Hill, Taree on Sunday, November 10. Photo: Scott Calvin

Too close for comfort: Tinonee as seen from the Apex Lookout at Bays Hill, Taree on Sunday, November 10. Photo: Scott Calvin

"A lot of people think that the fire we got here was back burning but it wasn't. It was actual fire," Russell said,

This was very alarming to me. I live in Tinonee, and I was one of those people who were under that impression. The bush telegraph rumour mills works extremely well in our village.

"Due to the conditions we weren't allowed to put fire on the ground, which made sense. It was too windy, too hot, too dry. Luckily the weather conditions when it went through their were in our favour," Russell said.

Once the emergency passed on the Mid Coast Tinonee Rural Fire Service (RFS) crews were then tasked to the bushfires threatening Lithgow and the Blue Mountains. They also still had plenty of things to deal with locally - lots of call outs for trees that were dropped or still smouldering, and new fires starting.

Rain has been an enormous blessing when it comes to the fires (and the drought), however it hasn't meant the Tinonee brigade can put their feet up for some well-earned rest just yet. They now have the task of training the influx of new recruits.

Thanks to the chaos that gripped our region during the fires, the brigade has 13 new recruits signed up. Prior to the fires, they had five new recruits that were partly trained. That means they now have 18 new members.

The brigade didn't even have to do a drive for those new members. The 13 new recruits "pretty much just turned up and said 'we want to help'," Russell said.

New recruits undergoing training. Photo: Julia Driscoll

New recruits undergoing training. Photo: Julia Driscoll

"They saw the pretty intensive situation a few months back and they said they'd like to help out."

Of course, potential members have to be trained before they can help out.

"A lot of them have stated that they've been meaning to join for a long time, but just haven't gotten around to doing it. But due to the big fires, that spurred them on," Russell said.

Training firefighters and support people for the RFS is a process that takes about six to eight weeks. People intending to be firefighters complete the BF (bushfire course), while support staff can elect to do a slightly scaled down course - BFS ( bushfire support).

"We're only a few weeks into training the new recruits because we were focusing on the previous five to get them through," Russell explained.

Training for the new recruits was taking place as I was talking to Russell and Sue.

There are an awful lot of talent and skills that have turned up. It will really help a lot.

Sue Odgers, secretary Tinonee RFS

Not all of the new recruits will be jumping on fire engines and fighting fires. Sue estimates she has three or four women who will fill support and administration roles within the brigade.

"There are an awful lot of talent and skills that have turned up. It will really help a lot. It's been fantastic," Sue said.

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