Highest honour for firies

Robert Cox and Alan Tucker, who both received Australian Fire Service Medals, with John Lawrence (middle) who was awarded with a long service medal for his 43 years of service to the Rural Fire Brigade.
Robert Cox and Alan Tucker, who both received Australian Fire Service Medals, with John Lawrence (middle) who was awarded with a long service medal for his 43 years of service to the Rural Fire Brigade. Caitlan Charles

MORE THAN 1130 hours of collective service was honoured on the weekend with 49 Rural Fire Service personnel receiving long service medals for 11 to 43 years of service.

But it was Alan Tucker from Southampton Rural Fire Brigade and Robert Cox from the Corindi/Red Rock Rural Fire Brigade that took the top honours, having been named on the Queens Birthday Honour list with Australian Fire Service Medals.

Both men said joining the Rural Fire Service was a way to give back to the community.

"My father was the captain before, and I'd done a bit of fire work in Victoria," Mr Tucker said.

"It was a natural progression and there was a need there so I thought I'd join this one."

For Mr Cox, it was a similar story.

"I was involved because my dad was involved," he said.

"I did a lot of years in Sydney with my dad... but when I moved up here, to Corindi Beach, I had no intentions of joining the fire brigade."

After the local fire captain found out about his experience, and asked him to join, he has never looked back.

"I've been there ever since," he said.

A lot has changed in their time with the RFS.

"Things change, when I started it was pretty basic stuff," Mr Tucker said.

"The fire control centre didn't exist and 000 was unheard of."


Mr Cox said they shared communications with the council.

"The council would be talking on the radio, and we'd go out to the fire there and then we'd talk to the secretary in the council chambers," he said.

"The fire control centre was in our kitchen, all the calls came to my house," Mr Tucker added.

Over their many years in the RFS, both Mr Tucker and Mr Cox have seen a lot, but there are a few moments that stick out in their mind.

"In the 2001/2 fire where we lost three houses, and Stuart (Watts) said to me 'don't think about the houses we lost, think about the 20 houses we saved', at that time it did really affect me," Mr Cox said.

"It wasn't the things back in those days to help people, but now we have lots of help and you've just got to make a phone call."

For Mr Tucker, it was the fire that started on the Nymboida River and came very close to coming through South Grafton.

"It was only because the wind changed or it would have been in South Grafton in half an hour," he said.

"That one travelled very quick and burnt out a lot of country quick, and one of our brigade members lost his house while he was out on the fire truck and that really sticks in my mind.

"I was at his house and it was burning, I was waiting for a fire truck, I was in a group vehicle and I had nothing to fight it with."

Mr Cox added that having someone in your brigade affected is one of the more difficult things to deal with.

"Because you know that person really closely," he said.

Long Service Honour roll

Mervyn Baldry 11; Brenden Carr 11; Matthew Casson 11; Alan Cunningham 11; Maureen Cunningham 11; Evan Delaforce 11; Glynnis Duncan 11; Harold Gibson 11; Eileen McLennan 11; Christopher Molloy 11; Chris Bursle 12; Marlene Scroop 12; Grant Whiteley 12; Amanda Allan 13; Paul McCabe 14; Geoffrey Saunders 14; Susan Stevens 15; Joyce Walters 16; Andrew Holland 19; Dennis Milne 20; Bruce Tom 20; Bradley Collis 21; Rodney Dowsett 21; Graham Schipp 22; Graham Winters 22; Paul Matthes 23; Les McFawn 23; Fred Musgrave 24; Susan Musgrave 24; Judith Mussared 28; Neil Jamieson 30; Greig McDowall 30; Walter Murray 30; Ken Thornhill 30; John Worthing 30; Brian Commerford 31; Brian Frederiksen 31; Annette Strong 31; Mark Strong 31; Anthony Wade 32; Margaret Anderson 33; Alberta Delaforce 33; Liz Wade 33; James Page 34; Jeffrey Archer 38; Chris Robertson 41; Alan Tucker 41; Harry Green 43; John Lawrence 43.

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