Fire and Rescue NSW is ready to tackle the summer months.
Monica Bentham, Tymika Bradford-Robbins and Ben Wager have joined the Gunnedah brigade as summer dials up the temperatures across the shire.
The local residents have filled vacancies at the station as the crew prepares for a hot, dry summer.
Deputy captain Andrew Johns said it was great to see the trio join the team.
“We’re fortunate to have three really good young people come on board, which is great and that helps us in terms of availability,” he said.
“When there are vacancies there is a bit of a strain.”
The recruitment of Ms Bentham and Ms Bradford Robbins also increases the number of female fire fighters in the crew.
“There are three ladies at the station now, which is great and the station is working towards sorting out the gender imbalance,” Mr Johns said.
While the recruits are waiting to tackle their training in January 2019, they have already joined the fire crew for training sessions.
“We’ve had rain in the last few months and vegetation will build up and coupled with high temperatures, everyone needs to be on their guard and ready,” Mr Johns said.
“In the lead-up to bush fire season, we do a fair bit of training on bush fires.
“It is easy to get complacent, so the fire brigade is pretty good at making sure we're geared up and focused on what we need to be focused on in peak season.”
Mr Johns said Fire and Rescue NSW was expecting it to be “one of the hottest summers on record”.
“When we do have catastrophic fire days, which we do expect to see this summer, we will see stations manned that aren’t normally manned,” he said.
“It can save five extra minutes, which can be crucial with a grass fire or a bush fire.”
It is easy to get complacent, so the fire brigade is pretty good at making sure we're geared up and focused.Andrew Johns, Fire and Rescue NSW
While the Gunnedah crew doesn’t need to do hazard reduction, local fire fighters and a truck were deployed to Coonabarabran last month to help with “extensive back burning”.
In our own backyard, Mr Johns is urging locals to be careful as they decorate for the festive season.
“We really urge people not to overload power boards because that’s a real precursor to fire,” he said.
“Make sure Christmas lights are safe. The last thing you want on the eve of Christmas is a fire.
“It’s supposed to be happy time, not a tragic time.”
Mr Johns said residents should also have a bush fire safety plan in place and “whether on farms or in town, clear vegetation from around the house and clear gutters out”.
Meet our new recruits
Monica has been in Gunnedah for about two years and applied to join the Fire and Rescue NSW in July 2017.
“I thought it would be an interesting, challenging way to be involved in my community,” she said.
“I got a phone call to come for an interview in August this year. I’d completely forgotten I’d put the application in because it was so long ago.
“I’m very excited to be involved. I see it as a real privilege to be involved in my community in this way.”
Ms Bentham said she had a “very exciting” 2019 ahead and already enjoyed being part of the Gunnedah crew.
“There’s a really great dynamic. There’s a lot of camaraderie among the crew,” she said.
“You can see they’re a tight-knit bunch and work well together.
“You know they’re got your best interests at heart.”
Ben moved to Gunnedah this year and applied to join Fire and Rescue NSW in January.
He first applied for Fire and Rescue when he lived in Bathurst in 2014 and decided to give it another go.
He said he applied because it was a “diverse” and “exciting” role and enabled him to give back.
“No one day is the same [and] you meet a lot of people pretty quickly,” he said.
“Welcoming is the word I would use [for this crew].”
Tymika has been living in Gunnedah for six years and applied to join Fire and Rescue NSW earlier this year.
She said a friend’s family first suggested she join the brigade when she was living in Bathurst seven years ago.
“I’ve got a get-go attitude,” she said.
“I’ll tackle anything and give anything a crack, and I like to help people.”
Ms Bradford-Robbins said she liked that the Gunnedah crew took an interest in new recruits.
“As they said at the Christmas party, now we’re part of the firefighting family,” she said.
“Get a new job, get a new family.”