FIRST RESPONDERS: Freestone and District Rural Firebrigrade's crew leader Jason Christensen and first officer Alan Payne are on call 24/7, 365 days a year.
FIRST RESPONDERS: Freestone and District Rural Firebrigrade's crew leader Jason Christensen and first officer Alan Payne are on call 24/7, 365 days a year. Molly Glassey

The volunteer firies we couldn't do without

FOR eight hours on Sunday, rural fire crews battled more than 10ha of blazes in 40-degree temperatures east of Warwick.

Two suffered heat exhaustion and others struggled to power through the brutal conditions.

The grass fire on a private property near Leslie Dam continued into the night before firefighters could reel in their hoses and head home.

The fire was so extreme a Southern Downs Regional Council grader was used to put a break around the fire and at 4.30pm and 15 fire units were back burning to the fire break.

Most of those out there extinguishing the flames didn't make a single cent from it, and Warwick Fire and Emergency Services officer-in-charge Brett Farrell said without rural firies, the fire's devastation could have been a lot worse.

"We in the red trucks, well this our jobs and we get paid for it,” Mr Farrell said.

"But most of the firefighters out at the Washpool Rd fire were volunteers.

"They give up their time, to do such a hard job.”

Freestone and District Rural Fire Brigade first officer Alan Payne and crew leader Jason Christensen said they could receive a call about a fire at any hour.

"There will be a 000 call, and if it's in the Freestone area, fire comms will call me,” Mr Payne said.

"When I get the call, I have three or four people I'll call and we'll get a crew together.

"We can be out within five or 10 minutes, but that depends on where we are when we get the call.”

There was no extinguishing the joy from the Alan Payne's face as he described the reward that came with being a rural firefighter.

"I've been doing it for 35 years,” Mr Payne said.

"It's very rewarding, and like anything, it's the time you put in is what you get back out of it.

"And I feel like I've gotten more out of it than I've put into it, and I've put a lot of time into it.”

Mr Payne said most of the rural firefighters on the Southern Downs were farmers, dedicated to ensuring the safety of Warwick.

"I have crops,” he said. "Jason is a dairy farmer.

"We're always looking for more rural firefighters, and nothing gives you more pleasure thank knowing you've saved someone's land, or their life.”

And for the ins and out of the duo's post-fire washing routine...

"We can only wash these clothes five times because they have fire resistant chemicals on them,” Mr Payne said. "Then we just throw them out.”



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