New RFS volunteers tell of their baptisms of fire
"BAPTISM of fire” could have been a phrase invented for a Swan Creek mother and son for their introduction to bush firefighting this year.
Kristina Heathcote and her teenage son George joined the Ulmarra Rural Fire Service brigade this year and almost immediately found themselves on the front line.
Brigade captain John Crean said Mrs Heathcote's first shift turned into a 12-hour saga with a fire as the latest emergency began.
But her son topped that a few days later when the UImarra brigade was called to fight the fire threatening the coastal village of Angourie.
"George spent 14 hours in the Angourie firestorm,” Mr Crean said.
And he loved every minute of it.
"To be honest it was actually enjoyable confronting the fire,” he said.
"Having danger all around you and having to survive was something I enjoyed.”
Sitting back distributing brochures at the brigade headquarters' open day on Sunday, mother and son were able to trade war stories on their experiences.
Unsurprisingly, exposure to danger was not on the the top of Mrs Heathcote's wish list.
"What was good to see was the way all the training we had done kicked in when the fire approached,” Mrs Heathcote said.
"Because we had procedures in place to fall back on, it actually didn't feel like we were in danger.”
Mother and son, who live on a rural property, both decided they should volunteer for the RFS to put something back into the community.
George said he had just finished his HSC trial exams and decided he wanted to get out and do something that would have an effect in his community.
His mother said living in a rural area and with the fire seasons looking more threatening each year, volunteering for the RFS was one of the best ways to help the community.
Mr Crean said while firefighting exposed everyone to danger, the primary responsibility was ensuring safety.
"When we first get to a fire scene we look around to make sure we know the quickest way out,” he said.
"That's been a real consideration for fires like the one at Angourie, because the conditions change so quickly.
"We we always try to have the fire truck headed towards the exit.”