VOLUNTEER: Stuart Larkin RFS Volunteer. Pic: Supplied
VOLUNTEER: Stuart Larkin RFS Volunteer. Pic: Supplied

Chinchilla RFS volunteer takes next step

AFTER witnessing the Black Saturday fires tear through Victoria in 2009, Chinchilla father Stuart Larkin, 33, knew it was time to step-up and join his local fire brigade, so he could do his part in making sure the community is safe and supported.

The Kogan Rural and District Fire Brigade member said he now has more than a decade of experience working with the RFS and was excited to become a volunteer community educator (VCE) this year so that he can give more back to the community he loves.

"I was given the opportunity to become a VCE a few months ago and I'm look forward to assisting the community through bush fires natural and other disasters along with being on the fire ground fighting fire," Mr Larkin said.

Mr Larkin said joining the RFS and being able to support the community in times of need is highly fulfilling and hoped his six-year-old boy will follow in his footsteps.

"It's a great idea for people to join their local brigade, it builds great teamwork skills and you make a lot of lifelong friends," he said.

"My brigade has become like my second family, we always help each other out whenever we can.

"If you're home alone with nothing to do, it's a great way to get out of the house and learn new skills while assisting the community, because at the end of the day no one else is looking after us so we may as well look after our community first.

"Being part of the RFS is very fulfilling and rewarding. I started my career back in 2008 at Wamuran and I joined up with Kogan RFB in late 2019."

After attending a fire in Millmerran in December, the volunteer firefighter said it was an eye-opening experience to witness the true devastation that a blaze can have on a community.

"It was the first real wild fire I attended while working with the brigade, it was a very eye opening scenario," he said

"You have all the training under your belt but it never truly prepares you for the real thing."

How you can help

Coming into winter, Mr Larkin said the community can do their bit to make sure their home and property is safe from potential fires.

"The biggest issue in winter is backyard fires, people seems to freak out when they see a lot of smoke, so make sure it's well contained and local council gives the okay and that you have safety gear on hand - near a hose or have an extinguisher nearby," he said.

Fireplaces will be well in truly in use as temperatures drop, but Mr Larkin said it's best to make sure there's nothing flammable near your fireplace.

"If it's not enclosed get yourself a fire shield, it prevents pets and young kids from getting into trouble," he said.

"Before you start your fire make sure your chimney is clean and that it's in order - if there's glass broken, or if it's still sealed property.

"If you're not quite sure get in contact with Home Safe which is a government scheme which does home checks for free.

"If you take appropriate actions you won't have any issues."

Extra fire safety tips:

•Make sure you have a working smoke alarms

•Get a bush fire plan together and a safe home visit (available off www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au )

•Fireplace and heaters; clean the chimney before use, keep a clear space at least 1m from the heater and fireplaces.

•Electric blankets; check before use as breaks can be caused from storing

•Preparations for fire season; clear leaves, twigs, bark and other debris from the roof and gutters, point LPG cylinder relief valves away from the house, and conduct maintenance checks on pumps, generators and water systems.

•Access; display a prominent house or lot numbers, and ensure adequate access to your property for emergency vehicles.

•Even if you live in built up areas you are not safe from ember attacks, so you should also prepare your property for fire season.

You can find more information on your local brigade at www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au or at any QFES station.

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