On the 24th of December, 2019, the following story was published by Port Macquarie News. Click HERE to see the original article.
“Tis the season to be jolly”, but for our local Rural Fire Service (RFS) fire fighters the summer months stretching out before us will be nothing to laugh about.
Crews around New South Wales & other states have had an explosive start to the ‘bushfire season’. While many Australians are gearing up for Christmas & New Year parties & holidays, our ‘firies’ don’t have festivities front & centre on their minds. Instead of Santa suits, board shorts & thongs they will be donning fire fighting gear & remaining both alert & on call.
After months of fires & choking smoke blanketing the skies in & around Port Macquarie, the Port Macquarie Hastings Canoe Club (PMHCC) decided at its recent annual general meeting to make its 2019 charity donation to the North Shore Rural Fire Service. Some of the club’s most picturesque & popular paddles are within the ambit of this brigade’s territory & it is therefore akin to being the club’s ‘local’ or ‘home’ brigade.
On Monday December 16, PMHCC President Greg Donaldson & committee member Caroline Swan-Webber, presented Brigade Captain Kingsley Searle with a cheque for $1000 to assist with the purchase of vital equipment. Kingsley said items such as thermal imaging devices, 5 watt truck radios, Kestrel wind meters &blowers etc were all expensive items & the club’s donation would help the brigade with future purchases to enhance their firefighting capabilities.
The North Shore RFS station was built in 1993 mid way between the two settlements of North Shore & Riverside. The two settlements were linked by a bridge over Limeburners Creek in the 1980’s. The brigade’s area of responsibility ranges from the Hastings River to the Point Plomer Caravan Park, across to Riverside & includes Limeburners National Park which alone covers 9123 hectares. Kingsley, who has been with the brigade for 34 years, described the brigade’s territory as being “quite unique” & presenting many challenges for firefighting. He highlighted the area’s relative isolation, problems associated with ferries during fires, including them being out of order for periods of time, the large tracts of coastal heath which were both challenging for access & volatile with a lot of tea tree vegetation.
The North Shore RFS has 50 members, 25 of whom are active fire fighters. It has three trucks & Kingsley said they have always managed to provide crews when needed. Kingsley likes to see the brigade within the context of a “community organisation” & said there are many ways people can help other than fighting fires. These include washing & cleaning the trucks after use, thereby giving tired’ firies’ a chance to have a break, general upkeep around the premises & the all important fund raising. He said that while the RFS provided the trucks, their running gear & maintenance, one uniform per fire fighter & other items, the rest was up to the local brigades, including food for those involved in fighting fires.
Speaking from a background of firefighting experiences garnered over three decades, Kingsley commented that the fire season has changed. He said it used to start late September, but was now starting closer to winter with fires around July. He observed that the nature of the fires had “escalated to another level” & that this year they were “re writing history”. He said it is so dry & that stressed trees were dropping masses of leaves creating a great amount of highly combustible leaf litter on the ground. Kingsley believes climate change is a reality. He said the 1960’s & 1970’s provided warning signals but that in 2020 it will be” here now, in our faces”.
The PMHCC is a not for profit sporting club engaged in recreational kayaking in the Hastings & surrounding districts. It holds monthly member charity raffles, the accumulated proceeds of which are matched by the club & donated to charities/community groups within the local area. For further information view the club’s website at www.portcanoeclub.com.au