LOCAL HEROES: Firefighting crew Anthony Brennan, Dennis Burton, Brett Farrell and Matthew Groves.
LOCAL HEROES: Firefighting crew Anthony Brennan, Dennis Burton, Brett Farrell and Matthew Groves. Molly Glassey

River rescues, scaling cliffs and fighting fires

FIFTEEN years ago, Warwick's firefighters packed up their trucks and moved 100m east from the Albion St station to the old Warwick Shire Council machinery maintenance sheds and workshops.

With John Hamilton at the helm, the new station was fitted out with top-notch appliances, training facilities and a station the newly-released fire engines could actually fit inside.

A decade and a half later, the Canning St station is one of the region's greatest emergency assets, and officer-in-charge Dennis Burton said whether it was a car hanging over a cliff or a bushfire, the station crew were prepped to respond.

"Since 2002, there have been major improvements to the station's operational capabilities," he said.

"And since then, we've also had a more advanced role in rescues."

Fighting fires is a small percentage of a Warwick firefighter's role today, with assistance more likely to be needed for water, vertical, confined space rescues, road crashes, urban search and rescues, and structural and landscape fires.

Brett Farrell has worked at the Warwick Fire Station for 10 years, and is the only local officer with a Certificate II in Swift Water Rescue.

In layman's terms, as a last resort in extreme emergency, Mr Farrell can kit up in diving gear and assist with a rescue from the water.

"In the 2013 floods, Michael Coombes and I had to head out to a cattle property where a husband and wife were stuck," he said.

"A body of water just came out of nowhere," he said.

"In that instance, we had to use the inflatable water platform (blow up raft) to assist them."

The crews have also had to tether a car, scale a cliff and save a blind woman who spent 11 hours trapped in a car teetering on the edge of a cliff at Killarney.

"Those are some of the things we can do now since the 2002 upgrades and our training," Mr Burton said.

The Warwick Fire Station is manned by 12 full-time staff, with firefighters working from 7am to 6pm each shift.

After that, the volunteer auxiliary fighters go on call, and are alerted to emergencies through a pager system.

"Jenny Hancock handles all the administration," Mr Burton said.

"We really can't praise her enough for all she does," he said.

The station is also fitted out with training rooms and a kitchen fire simulator.

And though the days of on-site dorms are gone, an exception is made for Blazer Bear.



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