'TIS the season to be jolly but for our local Rural Fire Service (RFS) fire fighters the summer months stretching out before us will be nothing to laugh about.
Crews around New South Wales and other states have had an explosive start to the bushfire season.
While many Australians are gearing up for Christmas and New Year parties and holidays, our firies don't have festivities front and centre on their minds.
Instead of Santa suits, board shorts and thongs they will be donning fire fighting gear and remaining both alert and on call.
After months of fires and choking smoke blanketing the skies, the Port Macquarie Hastings Canoe Club (PMHCC) decided at its recent annual general meeting to make its 2019 charity donation to the North Shore Rural Fire Service.
Some of the club's most picturesque and popular paddles are within the ambit of this brigade's territory and it is therefore akin to being the club's 'local' or 'home' brigade.
On Monday, December 16, PMHCC president Greg Donaldson and committee member Caroline Swan-Webber, presented brigade captain Kingsley Searle with a cheque for $1000 to assist with the purchase of vital equipment.
Kingsley said items such as thermal imaging devices, 5 watt truck radios, Kestrel wind meters and blowers were all expensive items and the club's donation would help the brigade with future purchases to enhance their firefighting capabilities.
The North Shore RFS station was built in 1993 mid-way between the two settlements of North Shore and Riverside.
The two settlements were linked by a bridge over Limeburners Creek in the 1980s. The brigade's area of responsibility ranges from the Hastings River to the Point Plomer Caravan Park, across to Riverside and includes Limeburners National Park which alone covers 9123 hectares.
Kingsley, who has been with the brigade for 34 years, described the brigade's territory as being "quite unique" and presenting many challenges for firefighting.
He highlighted the area's relative isolation, problems associated with ferries during fires, including them being out of order for periods of time, the large tracts of coastal heath which were both challenging for access and volatile with a lot of tea tree vegetation.
The North Shore RFS has 50 members, 25 of whom are active fire fighters.
It has three trucks and Kingsley said they have always managed to provide crews when needed.
Kingsley likes to see the brigade within the context of a "community organisation" and said there are many ways people can help other than fighting fires. These include washing and cleaning the trucks after use, thereby giving tired firies a chance to have a break, general upkeep around the premises and the all important fund raising.
He said that while the RFS provided the trucks, their running gear and maintenance, one uniform per fire fighter and other items, the rest was up to the local brigades, including food for those involved in fighting fires.
Speaking from a background of firefighting experiences garnered over three decades, Kingsley commented that the fire season has changed.
He said it used to start late September, but was now starting closer to winter with fires around July.
He observed that the nature of the fires had "escalated to another level" and that this year they were re-writing history. He said it is so dry and that stressed trees were dropping masses of leaves creating a great amount of highly combustible leaf litter on the ground.
The PMHCC is a not for profit sporting club engaged in recreational kayaking in the Hastings and surrounding districts. It holds monthly member charity raffles, the accumulated proceeds of which are matched by the club and donated to charities and community groups within the local area.
For further information view the club's website at www.portcanoeclub.com.au.