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Malcolm Angus - Hopeman Lodge 1964

Malcolm Angus recently qualified as a Rural Fire Fighter.

"When I enlisted as a Trainee about five months ago I was issued with what are called PPE’s (Personal Protection Equipment) which were Trousers, Jacket, Helmet, Goggles, Gloves and Flash Hood. My size of Boots were out of stock. They would be ordered. In the meantime it was agreed that I could attend training and hazard reductions in my own hiking boots which, though lacking steel toe caps, had fire resistant soles and leather uppers.

Life as a Rural Firefighter in AustraliaOver the next few months I attended training and helped at a number of hazard reductions. I found my Brigade members to be very kind, enthusiastic and helpful. These men and women, some teenagers, some slightly older like myself, are volunteers giving up their time to train the four rookies. One of them being 50 years my junior.

My Captain originates from America, has a wry sense of humour and instinctively demonstrates exceptional Situational Leadership skills. He is far better at it than any Officers I served with in the Australian Army or Corporate Leaders I worked with in Executive Management.

After qualifying I was permitted to attend fire calls and last week I volunteered for a big Hazard Reduction just north of Sydney in the Kuringai Chase National Park. Four of us left in the Cat.1 Fire Engine at 5.30 am heading south into Sydney with the morning commuters to  rendezvous  with about twenty other brigades and about forty people from National Parks and Wild Life who are responsible for National Parks.

The P and W.L staff were in charge and had planned the burn. There had been no fire in the area for 18 years and there was a significant build up of flammable scrub and leaf litter.

The day started slowly with us spot firing along one side of the main road through the Park encouraging the fire to burn away from the road in a westerly direction. There was little wind at first and the fire burned reasonably slowly with sporadic rushes and flare-ups into the canopy of trees. We were meant to keep the flames below two metres so had the hoses ready to pour cold water on anything too enthusiastic.

Apart from the exuberant flare-ups singeing my nose I was also concerned for the little creatures, lizards, beetles and a single bush mouse, etc  that were scurrying across the road to safety. I would lift my hose out of their way and I encouraged my fellow fighters to do the same. Probably to their amusement, but they said nothing unkind.

The heat generated by these road side spot firings was to my inexperienced body quite astonishing and it was easy to get a little over heated. Unfortunately it wasn’t too long before a gusting southerly wind started up and within an hour there was general mild panic over the radios as spot fires started outside the fire zone.
We and other Trucks were despatched down bush trails to help put them out. This of course is an adventure in itself with the fire engine trying to keep itself upright as it grinds up and down steep twisting sandy and rocky fire trails through smoke, flames burning cinders, low visibility and many other fire engines pushing and shoving in a confined area all trying to do the same thing. Many had to struggle back out to get more water. We inside the cabin hung on like rodeo riders.

Life as a Rural Firefighter in AustraliaIncreasing wind speed brought helicopters over our heads. They roared about through the purple smoke clouds dropping sea water collected from the Hawkesbury River Basin. Eventually things calmed down and at about six pm we were allowed to return to the Staging Area for a meal and ice cold water to drink. I was rather tired, very smelly, sweaty and dirty and thankfully sat down, not taking much notice of a very neatly dressed man in white shirt and city trousers and polished shoes who joined us.

“Show him your boots Malcolm” said my Captain in his jovial way. So I did, waving my feet in the general direction of the neat, clean and sweat free man.  He looked down as I said “These are my flammable boots” and added for good measure ‘These are my flammable trousers”  (a particular batch issued to many was under suspicion of not being up to standard, though this has not been confirmed.)

“ Why don’t you have proper safety boots on?” he asked as he stared at them. “The stores didn’t have any. They didn’t have any in stock and have to buy them in the next budget allocation.” “How long have you been waiting?” “Five months.”

After we all got up and wandered back to our Fire Engine to return home I said to the Captain, “Who was that?” “The Fire Commissioner” he drolly replied. “You mean the one who reports to the Minister?” “Yes”
“Oh I hope I haven’t got you into trouble.”

The next day at the Station the Captain spoke to me. “The Fire Commissioner has personally phoned our Stores about your boots. You are no longer allowed to attend fires until you have proper boots. You can wait until they arrive or you can buy your own in the mean time and we will reimburse your cost. You can attend training in your hiking boots."

Malcolm AngusI thought that was fair enough as I understood the ramifications for the Commissioner if I had been injured with non-issue boots on. But I was not going to miss out on Fire Calls so that day I went out and paid $159 for some Welder’sboots. Steel toe caps, fire resistant soles and leather uppers. I showed them to the boss who asked for the receipt and gave me permission to go on call outs. “I’ll arrange your reimbursement” he said.

Unexpectedly he phoned me at home the next day. “Malcolm it's Chris” he said and I thought “Oh Dear” trouble was brewing. “Yes Sir." “I have a present for you at the Fire Station. A pair of boots sent by Special Courier from the Fire Commissioner.”

I returned my purchased boots and was refunded. My new, specially couriered boots fitted perfectly. What a Fire Commissioner! What a great organisation.

I wear my specially couriered boots with pride."

CALLING ALL GORDONSTOUN FIRE FIGHTERS YOUNG AND OLD!!

This year sees the 70th Anniversary of the Gordonstoun Fire Service.  To mark this milestone we would like to invite all former members of the Fire Service to attend a reunion at the School on GA Day, Saturday 5 May 2012.  Celebrations will, amongst other things, include a display of archive Gordonstoun material and fire fighting equipment courtesy of the Fire Service Heritage Society and a display of current working techniques by the Gordonstoun students in conjunction with a whole time crew from Grampian Fire and Rescue Services.  Our guest of honour for the day will be the GFRS Chief Officer, David Dalziel.  It is hoped that numerous former Gordonstoun and Grampian fire staff will also be in attendance and so it will be a real chance to meet up with those you spent time on call with.  If you are interested in learning more about this reunion, please contact Niki Pargeter in the GA office on 01343 837922


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