Volunteers just want to help out
FOR 20 days Mick Stokes and John Penna battled terrifying flames and extreme conditions.
But these two heroes, just like the region's other 200 local volunteers, won't receive a single cent for their efforts.
In fact, the maintenance bills are even piling high, to be paid at the brigade's own expense.
So why do they put on their protective suits each day and grab a fire hose on minimal sleep?
Because for Mick and John it's not about the money - it's about helping and protecting their community.
A sign hanging from the Cawarral Rural Fire Brigade shed yesterday also bore an important message -“Let us spend time with our families”.
Mick, 47, has left behind a wife and four children to battle fires at all hours with some shifts lasting up to 14 hours or more.
He also gave up his part-time work wages as an army reservist for the last month.
“You just have to make a choice,” he said.
“I don't get paid if I don't work.”
View photo galleries:Aerial photos of Rockhampton fires
Mick and John, who have volunteered for six and nine years respectively, yesterday said the volunteer work had been strenuous.
“Its extreme conditions - it won't get drier than this,” Mick said.
“There's a lot of stress but we've done a lot of training that finally paid off. The fire at Tungamull was pretty hot and fast.”
John, 73, was a bush firefighter in the 60s and he joined the Cawarral Rural Fire Brigade when he retired at Cawarral nine years ago.
He said with his children living all over the world, his wife is getting used to him being out helping people.
Cawarral Rural Fire Brigade division controller Ivan Western, who has worked around the clock since the fires began, said he wanted to thank the families of volunteers for their support.
He also said the community had been excellent.
Salvation Army have been feeding more than 100 people each night at the Cawarral shed, local store workers had made themselves available 24 hours a day and locals have supplied home-baked goods.
Although most fires in the Rockhampton region are presently under control and burning within containment lines, Mick doesn't believe it's all over yet.
He said in the meantime he will enjoy a much-needed break.HEATING UP
Cawarral Rural Fire Brigade's items damaged while fighting savage bushfires the last 25 days:
• Door handles melted on all trucks
• Melted helmets
• A new truck almost exhausted
• Three pumps blown
• Nine blown tyres
• More than $1000 spent on fuel
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