15 December 2022

RFS mourns death of veteran firefighter 'Doubles'

| Sally Hopman
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Officers and volunteers from the Rural Fire Service are mourning the loss of their mate, David “Doubles” Doblinger, who died suddenly last week. Photo: Nathan Heerey, Queanbeyan City Rural Fire Brigade.

David “Doubles” Doblinger was the sort of bloke you wanted on your side – whether as your mate relaxing after work or on an active fireground where lives were at risk.

But as much as he was a people person, he was also a devoted family man, to partner Wendy and his children. The couple had recently moved down to Tuross from Queanbeyan for what his boss and friend, South-East Commander with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), Chief Superintendent Paul Simakoff-Ellims said, was a sea-change.

Today, the RFS is mourning the loss of Mr Doblinger, who died suddenly on Friday, December 9. The veteran firefighter was 61.

A member of the Lake George District for almost 40 years, Mr Doblinger held a variety of senior roles over those years, and most recently started working for the South Eastern Area Command. He was a member of several brigades over the years, including Wamboin, Ridgeway, Queanbeyan City, Boro/Mt Fairy, Nerriga, Lake George and Jerrabomberra Creek. More recently, he joined the Tuross Heads Rural Fire Brigade at his new home on the coast.

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He was also a former member of the Queanbyean Unit of the State Emergency Service (SES), bringing many of the skills learned through that career to the RFS.

“We give our most sincere condolences to his family during this most difficult of times,” the Queanbyean SES said. “His friendship will be remembered with fondness and love.”

Social media was flooded with tributes to “Doubles” from his firefighting mates with the RFS, friends outside the brigade, family and those who just knew of him as a “top bloke”. The tributes ranged from Carwoola to Braidwood and Lake George.

He was described as “a true gentleman”, “a fire brother” and “a fun and caring man”. His loss was “very sad, our world needs more people like him who dedicate themselves to helping others”.

They also came from as far afield as New Zealand, with one former colleague posting, “Stand down Doubles, your former crew have the watch, your duty to the community, state and country is done. Call the crew and raise your beer cups to celebrate David’s life, thank you for your friendship, leadership, service and sacrifice. Rest in incredible peace mate.”

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Chief Superintendent Paul Simakoff-Ellims, a long-time mate of “Doubles”, said few people in the RFS family didn’t know or hadn’t heard of the veteran firefighter.

“I’ve known him since we both worked with the ACT Government many years ago,” he said.

“He is irreplaceable. He was the kind of person you could always trust, he was always there for you.”

Chief Superintendent Simakoff-Ellims said “Doubles” was the sort of man who knew when someone was in trouble, without that person having to say a word.

“He just knew if someone was struggling,” he said. “Even if they didn’t say anything. And he was always there for them.”

He was also an excellent teacher and trainer. He had been in the fire service for so long, in so many different roles, that he was always happy to answer anyone’s questions, to share his knowledge – if he was asked. He had also volunteered to be at the worst of the worst nature had to offer, including the catastrophic 2009 Victorian fires as well as the devastating 2019-2020 bushfire season.

Firefighter with birthday cake

Veteran firefighter David Doblinger was popular with all who knew him. Photo: James Morris, NSW Rural Fire Service.

“It was his passion to pass on advice, to help other people. You could always rely on him.

“He was also one of the most humble blokes you’d ever meet. He never put himself forward, yet you always knew he was there if you needed help. You always knew you could talk to him – about anything.”

Chief Superintendent Simakoff-Ellims said he recalled a time when a local RFS brigade was struggling to find a leader. Although “Doubles” was involved with another group at the time, he offered to help out temporarily “and he ended up helping that brigade turn themselves around and set themselves up for a positive future. It was just who he was to help.”

Mr Doblinger died suddenly on Friday 9 December, after returning from a training trip in Dubbo.

“David was a truly special individual,” Chief Commander Simakoff-Ellims said. “Our sincerest condolences go out to Wendy and their families.”

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