At the beginning of the month, more than 40 volunteers were recognised at a medal ceremony in Bungendore for their combined 800 years of service to the Lake George District NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).
The honoured ranged from 12 years of age, to well over 60. Burra Brigade’s Thomas Moore came home with the title for most years under his belt with a career spanning 64 years. RFS Deputy Commissioner Peter McKechnie said there were 12 National, 24 Long Service, and five Humanitarian Overseas Service Medals awarded.
The latter group were recognised for their actions in a deployment to Canada during the 2017 bushfires, which was similar to the work previously done by another member honoured on the day.
Born, raised, and still residing in Bungendore, Heather Hubbard began her life in the public service with the Australian Civil Defence Service. For 12 years she was overseas in remote areas of Canada, doing work which remains confidential. Upon returning to Australia, Heather joined the State Emergency Service (SES) until becoming an active member of the RFS in 2001, where she has remained since.
While most of the work done by Lake George District’s 22 brigades is in handling paddock fires, and motor vehicle accidents along the Kings Highway, two years into her service, Heather was one of the firefighters driving trucks into Canberra during the 2003 bushfires that engulfed the Territory.
“It can be a pretty scary place at times, but you can’t dwell on things and just have to move on.
“But we do look after each other and you learn to adapt.”
Now in the latter stages of her career, Heather continues to support the RFS through their catering and community engagement units.
“Everyone thinks that we join the service to put the wet stuff on the red stuff, but there’s so much more work going on behind the scenes.
“There’s mitigation, logistics, aviation, ceremonial, counselling, remote area support, I mean the list goes on and on.”
Part of the RFS’ community engagement effort is going to schools and teaching the youth about what to do in fire emergencies. Heather said they tell them to always get down low to avoid the smoke as they exit the house that’s on fire, and to head straight to the letterbox so the RFS can find them.
Heather said that when they visited a school they always met the children in their full gear. As they take off the gear, it shows the students how firefighters are just human beings underneath, which is necessary due to the fact that many children run to hide in a house fire as they find the full kit scary.
Part of the work she enjoys the most is answering some of the strange questions that kids ask at these events.
“I remember being at a preschool a few years ago, where I was telling them to dial triple zero in an emergency.
“To help them remember this I explain, ‘When you hurt yourself, you say oh, oh, oh’. After this, one little three-year-old stood up and said to me, ‘When I hurt myself I say oh, sh–.”