Rural fire fighters fight a large grass fire which threatened properties near Tungamull.
Rural fire fighters fight a large grass fire which threatened properties near Tungamull. Chris Ison

'My life in the firing line': Where it began for this Rocky man

BRAD Kingston can still see the flames as they tear apart the Tattersall's Hotel in his home town of Blackall.

It was a blaze that gutted the iconic building back in 1994 and he was young then, naive even.

He was just 18, maybe 19 he says, and didn't know what he was in for.

But those massive tinders brought with them a spark he still has today.

 

The Caves Rural Fire Brigade first officer Brad Kingston has 23 years in the fire fighting game.
The Caves Rural Fire Brigade first officer Brad Kingston has 23 years in the fire fighting game. Matty Holdsworth

"The first one was a huge building and it took a huge effort to tackle that, huge effort," Brad recalled.

"It took a lot of people coming together who had never seen a structural fire, myself included.

"We were lugging hoses around and really in the thick of it. People were coming out of homes to try and help, it really gave me a passion for it."

Now a volunteer fire fighter of 23 long years, he has seen it all.

 

Strike team leader Brad Kingston (front) with Gary Dash, Steve Hardsman, Doug Veach, James Zurvas, Gael Hardsman, Phil Shaw and Marie Weisse are heading to the North Coast where there are some 70 fires burning.   Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Strike team leader Brad Kingston (front) with Gary Dash, Steve Hardsman, Doug Veach, James Zurvas, Gael Hardsman, Phil Shaw and Marie Weisse are heading to the North Coast where there are some 70 fires burning. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison ROK241012cstrike1

Modern technology has these everyday mums and a dads more prepared than ever - the wide-eyed shock of the physical flames, not so vast as it once was.

The first officer at The Caves Rural Fire Brigade, Brad and his 40-strong team technically cover from Marlborough to Glenlea, Rossmoya to Ridgelands.

In reality, firies "get around" as Brad tends to put it. When summoned from above, they're only too happy to answer.

And there was a time where Rockhampton needed them more than ever. The infamous 2009 bush fires.

"We were mostly put in there to protect homes along Yeppoon Road, but halfway through we heard a call over radio that Koongal was copping it bad," he said.

 

On that day, a terrifying scenario was unfolding across the city.

"We had zero visibility when we got to Koongal, couldn't see the size of the flames," he said.

"Multiple things were going wrong and there were so many fires to put out. It was overwhelming and you couldn't help everyone.

"The speed of the fires were crazy, it was very difficult to get a bearing.

"The day felt like 40 hours long at the time but now it feels like it went very quickly. It is hard to explain.

"We were lucky to have extremely good leadership, they held us together."

Brad says fighting fires is not for everyone, it takes certain characteristics not suited to everyone.

 

Robert Aspinall, Clark Feadon, Brad Kingston, Jason Dobson, Anthony Carter (at front), Jeff Farrell.     The Caves rural firies shed too small to house all their equipment, but they need money to build a new one.           Photo Sharyn O'Neill / The Morning Bulletin   ROK180811scave1
Robert Aspinall, Clark Feadon, Brad Kingston, Jason Dobson, Anthony Carter (at front), Jeff Farrell. The Caves rural firies shed too small to house all their equipment, but they need money to build a new one. Photo Sharyn O'Neill / The Morning Bulletin ROK180811scave1 Sharyn O'Neill

Selflessness, bravery, dedication come to mind.

"You have to be willing to sacrifice a bit and I don't think it is for everyone, no," he said.

"But I find it very rewarding. I think the sense of knowing you have achieved something pretty great, like saving live-stock, houses, sheds or lives, people are really grateful that you turned up.

"You do get excited and that passion is there. I picked that up very early."

At The Caves, Brad's team is always looking for volunteers, they have a higher percentage of females than most, and many more behind the scenes.



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