October 31, 2016
About 60 volunteer rural firefighters and their supporters, Rural Fire Service senior officers and invited guests gathered at McEuen Rural Fire Brigade’s shed in Cushnie on Saturday for celebrations, awards and thanksgiving.
The celebrations were for the official opening of the brigade’s $45,000 shed extension, which has doubled the size of the facility and now allows it to house a 7000 litre water tanker alongside McEuen’s two incident units.
The awards were for firies who have served in local brigades for either 10 or 15 years, including a posthumous award to John Evans which was accepted by his daughter Kayleen Weir and son Jeffery Evans.
And the thanksgiving was for the McEuen Rural Fire Brigade’s neighbours, feedlot owners Kevin and Jan Perkins, who donated 600 sq metres of land for the brigade’s first shed in 2002, and have now given another 1200 sq metres for the extensions and a new amenities block.
McEuen RFB has only been in existence for seven years, and it services an area of 8400 sq km.
It was formed from the merger of three smaller rural fire brigades – Chelmsford, Cushnie and Fairdale – in 2009.
In 2010, the brigade shared in a bequest made to all the former Wondai Shire’s rural fire brigades, which gave it $10,000 to put in the bank.
And a successful Gambling Community Benefit Fund application a few years later expanded that to the $45,000 needed to build the extension.
Brigade First Officer Greg Day said gathering the money for the shed’s extension was the easy part of the job … all it required was time and patience.
What turned out to be much harder was complying with the Queensland building code, which threatened to stymie the project several times.
However, the generous donation of extra land by the Perkins family allowed the extensions to be built as originally planned.
The surprise donation of a toilet by Dominique Bellonte, a Wilkesdale woman who almost lost her life in the 2013 floods when the Stuart River flooded her home, allowed a bonus amenities block to be built as well.
“You know, some people say you don’t get anything for free these days, but I don’t agree with that,” Greg said.
“My response when I hear that is you must not be mixing with the right people.”
Fire brigade volunteers from Ballogie and Brooklands also had reason to celebrate on Saturday.
The two brigades were presented with new trucks to boost their firefighting capabilities.
At the truck hand over, RFS Burnett Acting Area Director Neil Kelso – who compered the day – joked that things had improved a lot for rural firies since the days when the only equipment supplied was a potato sack, and firies had to find their own sack.
Mayor Campbell said the region was lucky to have so many volunteer firies, and commended them for the outstanding job they did protecting residents’ lives and property.
RFS Assistant Commissioner Tom Dawson, who travelled up from Brisbane for the day, handed out the long service awards and truck keys, and was later presented with a South Burnett gift basket by the McEuen Brigade for his support.
Afterwards, guests chatted over an afternoon tea provided by brigade supporters.