Age no barrier for Pat and Errol

Errol and Pat in action out on the fire ground.

By Tania Phillips

Age is no barrier to joining the Rural Fire Brigade and helping the community according to Pat, 70, and Errol Noye, 78, of Turkey Beach.

Both joined after they’d retired and not only have the pair been members of the Rural Fire Brigade for almost 20 years now but both, particular Errol who has been first officer, have been operational fire fighters for a large chunk of that time.

“We sold our business in Bundaberg in 2004 and moved up here a couple of months later,” Pat explained.

“We attended an Australia Day breakfast down at the fire station in 2006 and signed up as support members. Errol wasn’t a support member before becoming a fire fighter and in 2011 I became a fire fighter. I’m no longer a firefighter – I work in the background now.

“That’s how it all started and it snowballed from there.”

Pat admitted that she hadn’t intended to become an active firefighter at first, joining as a support person before becoming brigade secretary and fire warden.

However the need for a group to conduct backburns during the week when most people were working drove her to join Errol on the fireground at the age of 59.

“With Errol it was a case of them needing fire fighters and then we found when we came to do hazard reduction burns, the best weather was normally during the week and a lot of our members worked,” she explained.

“They were having trouble getting crew so I organised another three ladies and we joined up, just to do hazard reduction burns during the week but from there I ended up going to a couple of wildfires and things like that and just fell in love it.

“There is an awful lot of comradarie between brigades on the fireground and that’s what I loved, I really loved it. I’ve made a lot of good friends by doing that. It was good.”

Back problems saw Pat retire from the fire ground but she is still an integral part of the brigade.

“I’m still listed as a firefighter but I hurt my back a few years ago and it limits me these days,” she said.

“If they get stuck I’d go to a hazard reduction burn now but I wouldn’t go to a wildfire again, it’s just not safe. We have an operational support unit and I was one of the first, with another lady, to man that. Its an refurbished ambulance and we have an office internally with computers and radios and access to maps. At the back we have another TV and that’s where the guys can be debriefed and they can bring up maps to show the guys on the ground. We are in radio contact. I haven’t done that for a little while – the past couple of times I’ve been in Incident Control Centre.”

She said there were plenty of roles for anyone wanting to join in and help no matter how active they were.

“I’m 70 now and I’d still be on the ground if I hadn’t hurt my back – I can tell you that now because I absolutely loved it. Hubby is still there – he’s 78 in November and he’s still on the fireground. When they had the big fires in NSW a couple of years back he did three deployments down to NSW.”

The Turkey Beach brigade has 37 members including 17 active firefighters and Pat said it was great to be part of the team.

“It’s a good little brigade, we are all good mates and we all work together well -it’s more like a family,” she said.

“It definitely keeps us busy now. It certainly keeps us out of trouble and off the streets.”

She said she would recommend it to other retirees.

“Give it a go, that’s what I would say just give it go!”

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