Teenager’s efforts fighting fires and giving back to his local community
IN BETWEEN finishing up Year 12 last week, Mitch Simmons was on the frontline helping fight fires.
The 17-year-old is a member of the Alton Downs Rural Fire Brigade, having signed up when he was 16.
He was deployed down to Hedlow Airport to help fill up the aeroplanes on the Saturday (November 9) before moving on to help with structure protection.
Recalling the events of the fire Mitch said the conditions were pretty bad.
At one point they were sent down a road and the fire jumped across it with no opening to turn around as the fire was two metres in front.
He had school work on Monday and Tuesday to finish up Year 12 and was back out helping on Wednesday.
While it did get very intense at some points, Mitch was proud they were able to save dozens of houses.
The number one thing in fire fighting is people over properties.
It is drilled into them if it gets too unsafe to get out.
The fire crew is one big family, they all help one another out and because of this, Mitch has never been worried about his safety.
“Everyone has everyone’s back,” he said.
While they do lots of training, there is nothing like learning on the job.
Since signing up Mitch has helped with the Mount Archer fires in September, one at Gladstone in January and the Gracemere fires last November.
They are taught a lot of different techniques on how a fire behaves.
“You learn it in the best way you can in your courses but nothing prepares you more than on-the-job training,” Mitch said.
Reflecting on his involvement with the rural fireys for the past year, Mitch said it had been an amazing experience so far and was not what he expected at all.
“I would recommend it to anyone, it teaches you a lot of life skills, not just fire skills,” he said.
Looking to the rest of the season and considering summer hasn’t even started, Mitch is expecting a lot more call outs.
“The conditions aren’t favourable with this season, it has already hit 40 degrees and we’re not even into summer,” he said.
“It’s going to get worse and just have to hope it doesn’t get too bad.”
He is now hooked as a rural firey for life now and said he won’t leave the Alton Downs brigade.
“I think every volunteer loves what they do and they love giving back to the community, so we do what we can,” Mitch said.