Twenty-six volunteers – with a combined 717 years of service – have been awarded Premier’s Citations and long-service medals for their work with the Cooma Rural Fire Brigade.
The longest-serving volunteer is Cooma brigade captain Graham Povey, who’s been serving for 52 years.
District coordinator for the Snowy Monaro Darren Marks said that while volunteers do not sign up for the medals or accolades, the members were quietly chuffed to have their dedication acknowledged with the citation which recognises the outstanding contribution of volunteers during the 2019-2020 bushfires season.
But brigades are now firmly focused on the current fire season which carries an above-average fire risk in the region.
“You wouldn’t say we were eager for the seasons because I’m sure everybody would be happy if nothing happened but everybody is ready for it,” Mr Marks said.
“We have spent the offseason training and servicing and overhauling the trucks – there was quite a bit of work involved because they had to work fairly hard last summer.
“Everybody was worn out, strung out, and glad that the fire season ended and for the rest over winter and now we are preparing for what is going to be a milder, but still risky, summer ahead.”
The Cooma-Monaro Brigade received 20 new trucks in the recent allocation to help keep its fleet of more than 100 tankers ready for service.
Nine were new off the showroom floor while the others are made up of 10 to 15-year-old refurbished and second-hand vehicles.
And while the brigades welcomed the new trucks, the fact that the crew has finally been able to debrief about the last fire season has also helped them prepare for the current one.
“Part of the problem was that we went straight from the fire season into COVID so the members of the brigade did not even get a good chance to talk to each other about their experiences,” Mr Marks said.
“That is starting to happen now and is a good thing for everybody to be able to share the experiences of last summer.
“There have been challenges but the team seems to be pulling together around themselves. The RFS is aware of the mental health challenges so there is some support coming in from them as a whole.”