2 September 2022

Murrumbateman volunteer firefighters honoured for their service

| Sally Hopman
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NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Kyle Stewart, left, Member for Goulburn, Wendy Tuckerman, Captain of the Murrumbateman RFS, Richard Alley, NSW RFS Zone Manager Superintendent Peter Alley, Yass Valley Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones and NSW RFS Area Commander Chief Superintendent Paul Simakoff-Ellims. Photo: Red Fox Photography.

No one really knows, including the firefighters themselves, what makes a man or woman run towards a fire when everyone else can’t get away fast enough.

It’s certainly not the money, when you consider the majority are volunteers, nor is it just “something to do” as most of the rural firefighters also have day jobs.

“It’s just what we do,” said Richard Alley, Captain of the Murrumbateman Rural Fire Service (RFS). “Probably because we’re crazy,” he joked.

“I don’t know how to answer the question about why we do it, we just do.

READ ALSO ‘Below normal’ bushfire outlook for Capital region but potential threat still there

“The team I work with are a special bunch of people. Every time they go out they put their lives on the line.

“Many people have lost their lives doing this sort of work. But even one life lost is one life too many.”

The volunteer rural firefighters also don’t do what they do for any reward, although when it is time for a pat on their strong backs, you get the feeling it is appreciated.

Last Saturday night, 100 years of the Murrumbateman RFS was celebrated with a special event. Not only was the brigade’s centenary commemorated, its men and women were awarded with medals for honour and service by the NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner Kyle Stewart. They included 15 National Emergency Medals (NEM), two National Medals (NM) and 14 Long Service Medals (LSM).

Man with fire helmet

Press photographer Mike Bowers was MC for the Murrumbateman celebrations and was presented with an official helmet for his efforts – and for when he covers fires for the media. Photo: Red Fox.

Richard is following a tradition of firefighting – “all my family does it”. His father, NSW RFS Zone Manager Superintendent Peter Alley was at the celebrations to see his son and the Murrumbateman team honoured.

MC for the event was legendary press photographer and Talking Pictures host Mike Bowers from ABC TV.

“To thank him, we gave him a new helmet – it’s one of the upgraded ones we’ve all received and he was pretty chuffed,” Richard said. “It’s top of the range. He’ll be able to use it when he covers the fires for the media.”

Deputy Commissioner Stewart said the Murrumbateman brigade had a proud history and had put a lot of effort into developing its members over the years and strengthening its relationship with the community.

READ ALSO Alarm bells sound as increasing regrowth fuels bushfire risk

“Sir Walter Merriman was the first captain in the early 1900s and was the driving force to start a brigade in the area – I’m certain he would be proud to see how far the brigade has come,” he said. “Today the Murrumbateman brigade has 66 members and played a considerable role in the 2019-2020 bushfires, deploying members right across the state.”

To mark the celebrations, 15 Murrumbateman brigade members were honoured on the night, awarded the NEM for helping to protect lives and property during the catastrophic bushfires between September 2019 and February 2020.

“They performed admirably during an incredibly difficult fire season and went above and beyond when deployed to other regions to help local brigades battle devastating blazes,” Deputy Commissioner Stewart said.

Display of medals

Some of the medals awarded to Murrumbateman RFS volunteers at the 100th birthday celebrations. Photo: Red Fox.

“Congratulations too, to the members who are being presented with their long service and national medals with over 300 years of service between them.”

The awards were presented to: Peter Sturgeon (34 years), LSM, NM, NEM; Raymond Heir (24 years), LSM, NM; Mark Williams (40 years), LSM, NEM; Andrew Boorman (28 years), LSM; Fiona Wright (28 years), LSM; Jeffrey Badcoe (24 years), LSM, NEM; Kingsley Hunt (22 years), LSM, NEM; David Shannon (19 years), LSM; Deputy Captain Mark Thomas (18 years), LSM, NEM; Bronwyn Jekyll (16 years), LSM, NEM; Andrew Taylor (14 years), LSM, NEM; Steve Crabb (13 years), LSM, NEM; Steve Laggner (13 years), LSM; Kevin Drummond, NEM; Gail Herbert, NEM; Senior Deputy Captain Daniel MacMahon, NEM; Deputy Captain Grant Morey, NEM; Jeremy Read, NEM; Benjamin Verco, NEM; and Captain Richard Alley, NEM.

“The hard work and professionalism of all NSW RFS members does not go unnoticed and while they do not ask for praise, we should take this milestone to acknowledge their contribution and commitment to their community,” Deputy Commissioner Stewart said.

“We must also thank the family, friends, employers and colleagues of all these and all volunteers. We know it takes their support to help our members do what they do to save lives and property.”

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