STRIKING BACK: Trained rural firefighters Jazper, Zarah and Zola Ojacastro stand alongside Larry Coleman, who says the three are among 15 current volunteers who are under-utilised by a rural fire service that would benefit greatly from a Rockhampton-based brigade.
STRIKING BACK: Trained rural firefighters Jazper, Zarah and Zola Ojacastro stand alongside Larry Coleman, who says the three are among 15 current volunteers who are under-utilised by a rural fire service that would benefit greatly from a Rockhampton-based brigade. Sharyn Oneill Roksfire

Brigade plans stymied

LARRY Coleman’s dream of a rural brigade manned by Rockhampton volunteers may appear up in smoke, but he’s not giving up the fight.

Mr Coleman’s plans took a hit late last year when authorities agreed to introduce only two of four recommendations to form a brigade and regional training unit in Rockhampton.

He said without the crucial incident management and rural heavy appliance support units there was little chance of engaging the many would-be volunteers he had lined up. With Central Queensland heading into what has been tipped as a bad fire season, Mr Coleman said the region would have greatly benefited from having an extra 100-plus volunteers prepared to help.“What the commissioner approved was halfway there, but with a built-in minefield for its destruction,” said Mr Coleman, a founding member of the Warringah Shire brigade in NSW.

“I’ll keep pushing this until my grave.”

He said he was disappointed all levels of government had rejected his approaches related to starting the Rockhampton brigade.

QFRS Central Region acting regional manager of rural operations Tony Hazell said work had advanced on both the recommendations that it was agreed would be trialled in Rockhampton – a communications support unit and an air operations support unit.

A volunteer had done training in NSW to enhance the air-based operations.

And, the Rockhampton Amateur Radio Association had offered training to enhance these skills for volunteer firefighters.

He said the region was also better prepared than in 2009 with significant hazard reduction activities completed.

Mr Hazell said the current model of many rural brigades across the region remained the best way forward.



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