Fire still burns: Des Firth will this week be rewarded for his work as a volunteer firefighter for the past 36 years.
Fire still burns: Des Firth will this week be rewarded for his work as a volunteer firefighter for the past 36 years. Debrah Novak

Firie volunteer happy to help

FROM fighting raging bush fires to attending serious car accidents, Des Firth has given a lifetime to volunteering.

This week, the Braunstone 56-year-old will be recognised for his work as a Clarence Valley Rural Fire Service member during National Volunteer Week.

A volunteer of the Ulmarra-based service since he was 20, Mr Firth did not regard himself as someone special for joining up.

“Back in those days it was something everyone did,” he said. “You would help out your community and help out someone in need.”

Now group captain of Clarence Valley Council’s south west zone, Mr Firth said he started being trained in ‘the basics’.

“The older fellas would teach us the right way to do things,” he said. “You can progress up through the ranks and go as far as you want to go.”

Mr Firth said it was ‘the mateship’ that made his volunteer work so rewarding.

“You run into people from all over the Valley (while fighting a bushfire),” he said. “You make new friendships during big fires, as people come from other areas to help. It’s good mateship.”

Mr Firth said he had fought many a fire in his 36-plus years as a volunteer firefighter – the most memorable being the 1994 fires which threatened Coutts Crossing through to the coast.

But he said firefighting was just one of the many facets where volunteers were essential to the Rural Fire Service.

“There’s the catering unit, which feeds everybody during a fire, the communication unit, and the air wing, which is set up to fill the planes with water and foam during a fire,” he said.

On Wednesday, Mr Firth will join with about 150 volunteers from across the area when Volunteering Clarence Valley (VCV) holds a morning tea and pamper day to commemorate National Volunteer Week and thank those who work so hard for no payment.

VCV assistant co-ordinator Anna Hill said this year’s celebration was expected to treble the usual numbers in attendance.

She said VCV sent letters to all local non-profit organisations asking them to nominate volunteers who had been volunteering for five-plus years to receive an invitation – and they were met with a flood of replies.

The event will be at the new School of Arts Building in South Grafton and includes entertainment by a stand-up comedian from the Crazy Comedy Crew in Coffs Harbour, and pamper sessions, including massage, for those volunteers deemed ‘extra-special’.

National Volunteer Week runs until Sunday.



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