ON STAND-BY: Warwick Fire Station lieutenants Chris Gilchrist and Jenny Cooper know bushfires are no longer firefighters’ only concern. Picture: Elyse Wurm
ON STAND-BY: Warwick Fire Station lieutenants Chris Gilchrist and Jenny Cooper know bushfires are no longer firefighters’ only concern. Picture: Elyse Wurm

FIRE UP: Urgent calls for aspiring recruits to step up

FIRE stations across the Southern Downs are calling out for their next wave of recruits, but the looming bushfire season is far from their only concern.

Killarney, Wallangarra, and Allora most urgently need auxiliary crews, though all seven stations within the Warwick Command will accept expressions of interest.

While the positions will be casual, no permanent crews stationed within these areas mean the auxiliary firefighting crews remain these communities’ only support.

Warwick Fire Station lieutenant and Warwick Command recruitment officer Jenny Cooper stressed applicants’ need to be aware of the commitment required for the role.

“It’s not the type of job you’re going to do to pay your rent – it’s the type of job you need to want to do because it does take a lot of time and commitment,” Ms Cooper said.

“It’s very rewarding, but is a lot of training, commitment, and weekends, so we need people to be sure it’s what they want.

“You need an MR licence to be able to drive the trucks, a Blue Card, and we go through a lot of paperwork criminal history checks as well before training even begins.”

Photograph taken by Stanthorpe resident Keith Barnett on the afternoon of the September bushfires in 2019.
Photograph taken by Stanthorpe resident Keith Barnett on the afternoon of the September bushfires in 2019.

With horrific car crashes on the rise across the region, Warwick Fire Station lieutenant Chris Gilchrist said aspiring fireys would need to be prepared for anything.

“We’re all about protecting the community in their time of need and being involved with the crews we work with,” Mr Gilchrist said.

“We’re hoping this fire season might be a bit better with the rain we’ve had – this time last year, we were in full swing with the Stanthorpe fires.

“With all stations in Queensland now, our main job is road crashes. The simple fact is there’s more vehicles on the road, and there’s more gadgets in the car causing distractions.”

After spending 28 of his 31 years in the field as a regional trainer, fire investigator, and safety inspector, Mr Gilchrist said an auxiliary position was the starting point for a long career.

“Once you’ve got that experience, there’s no reason you can’t apply to become a trainer and work with other crews in different types of courses,” he said.

“There’s a lot of pathways once you become an auxiliary. It really depends on what you put into it, and what you want to get out of it.”

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