Membership is down but more women are stepping up – it’s now been 25 years ago this month since the emergency services centre in Nabiac first opened its doors for the community.
The shed sits on land donated by Bruce’s father Les Weller to the then Taree Council in 1960 for unpaid rates.
“A small unlined tin shed was erected at that time as the local fire station and this shed served, with additions as our station for some twenty years,” Nabiac Rural Fire Service life member Bruce said.
Over years traffic and accidents increased as road routes shifted to the coast, “averaging three a week.”
“In place of the road rescue facilities now in place, the two local tow truck owners and police performed the rescues with the former carrying enough basic equipment to perform the tasks required.
Our local Policeman, Brian Baker suggested the forming of an accident response unit to provide assistance and comfort to those injured. Taree rescue response at this time was some 30 minutes away, a long time when you are waiting on the roadside beside trapped victims.”
“We needed more room. Oscar Bowden, Fire Control Officer of Great Lakes promised $10,000 as a contribution to a replacement building (without any similar contribution from Taree Shire). Without this offer, this project would have stopped there. We should be eternally grateful to Oscar for his vision.”
Anticipated to house the RFS, SES and ambulance service, it was spent on floor and foundations, “with the anticipation and trust of somehow completing the project.”
“Whilst the Ambulance factor did not materialise, the meeting room, storage, kitchen, twin toilets and showers did, with the result we have here today,” Bruce said, admitting at times they thought they had bitten off more than they could chew.
“Constant visits from Council, whilst necessary, were always full of fear; constant fundraising was very draining.”
Grateful to the village, he said they “embraced the project as never before.”
“All building trades in the area assisted and much effort was expended in fund raising including a “buy a brick “campaign.”
“By this time we had a very well trained SES crew of some 20 volunteers plus Fire Brigade members attending the increasing rise of MVA’s with fatal’s now approaching an average of one every 24 days.”
“It brought together and still does, people with many different skills for a common cause and a belief in making a contribution to the village. It is used several times a week for training and call outs, and the necessary storage for equipment and vehicles is well used.”
Longtime SES member Doug Freeman said that since the highway upgrade, the road rescue side of SES is considered no longer necessary.
“As a result, increased emphasis has been directed to the storm and tempest areas and also now include flood boat training (Nabiac has it's own flood boat). We are often directed to out-of-area disasters and it is possible at times to be away several days. It has always been rewarding work but not easy to attract new members, male or female, who are always welcome.”
“It is becoming more difficult to attract new people who have the desire for public good,” he said, citing family commitments and time constraints among many factors.
“There is no magic solution. We are fortunate to have some female front line firefighters who are mentally and physically quite able to perform as well as and in some cases better than some blokes.”