LOCAL LEGENDS: Dargal Road First Officer Ian Peters and Second Officer/ Fire Warden Rowan Whip have both volunteered for the Rural Fire Service for over 25 years.
LOCAL LEGENDS: Dargal Road First Officer Ian Peters and Second Officer/ Fire Warden Rowan Whip have both volunteered for the Rural Fire Service for over 25 years. Ellen Ransley

Volunteer keeps pumping life into town 25 years on

ON NEW Year's Eve, 1994, Rowan Whip's backyard shed, temporarily housing his parents' car, burst into flames.

Before the days of GPS, he argued frantically with the 000 dispatcher about how to get to his property that was 7km west of Roma.

By the time the town brigade arrived, it was too late, the shed was burned and damaged.

"It just took so long - it really fired me up a bit, and I got to thinking that we needed a rural fire brigade out here at Dargal Rd,” Mr Whip said.

"My wife and I took flyers around our district, and eventually held a meeting and we formed the Dargal Rd fire brigade.

"She applied for a grant, and we were successful with that to get our first truck.

"So that's 25 years next year since we got it all started.

"I am the fire warden, so if people want permits to burn off their land they come to me, and I'm also the second officer. So if there's a fire, I'll be out there fighting it.

"But I've just turned 60, and we really need some younger blood in our command. We need some new volunteers.”

Goetz Graf, director for the Roma and District Rural Fire Service, said in the 300,000sqkm area his command covered there was a real reliance on volunteer fire fighters.

"Ninety per cent of Queensland is served by volunteers, they are the backbone in supporting our community in combating these fires and also being present to help be resilient,” Mr Graf said.

"There are over 2600 volunteers in the Roma command, which goes from Dulacca in the east, to Carnarvon Gorge in the north, to the Northern Territory border in the west, to the New South Wales border in the south.

"Outside some of the bigger towns, everything else is serviced by volunteers.

"They all have an amazing community spirit, and are all integral in their own communities, but often they are not recognised.

"But they all do an incredible amount of work for our communities.”

Mr Whip said he wouldn't don his uniform and jump into the truck if he didn't enjoy what he was going.

"I've been to a lot of fires, and sometimes you just don't know how you'll do it, but the training kicks in,” he said.

"It can be dangerous, but there is great training. I think it maybe turns people off, but after a few weekends you can be out there helping your community.

"If it was a negative thing I wouldn't do it... I want to go out and do it and people want you out there, they welcome us with open arms.

"That's a good feeling, it's good to go out there and help people. It's enjoyable and rewarding, but it would be good to have some more young people.”

If you are interested in joining the Rural Fire Service, phone 45788129.


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