Women on the frontline — rise of the female firefighters
(ABC Mid North Coast: Gabrielle Lyons) ABC Mid North Coast
February 14, 2018 11:35:33
Plenty of laughter and cheeky comments get tossed around the kitchen while the catering team prepares lunch packs.
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This tiny team of 12 feeds personnel across the entire RFS team, including rangers, police, and aviation crews. we feed them all,” he said.Transporting 2,000 sandwichesMr Morton explained that during severe circumstances like the Aerodrome Road fire in Nabiac in 2017, his brigade pulls out the heavy artillery.”We basically have a kitchen on wheels,” he said.Their 8.5-tonne single cab catering truck holds a self-contained kitchen with gas, electricity, fold out barbeques, commercial-sized fridges and every utensil a head chef could dream of.In a safe place not far from the fire front lines, firefighters are offered a place to relax and enjoy the wafting scent of whatever is cooking. (Supplied: Stuart Robb)
But it is not only the firefighters who are fed, as Mr Morton explained.”If a huge fire breaks out that might require a larger team, sometimes we are feeding our brigades, National Parks and Wildlife [staff], police, the waterbombers… (ABC Mid North Coast: Gabrielle Lyons)
District officer and fire investigator Stuart Robb explained that the catering team were an essential part of any fire and rescue operation, and said there were a few teams who deserved a little more attention.”People hear and see a bright red truck flash past, but it’s the team in the background that are so integral to all our fire operations,” Mr Robb said.”We have just over 2,500 volunteers in the Mid-Coast district, they aren’t all out on the fire line, but the support roles are equally as important in putting out Aussie fires.”Mr Robb said the RFS across Australia was always looking for new volunteers but locally, he said there were a few conditions in joining the Mid-Coast RFS catering brigade.”To fit in with this team you have to be able to cut an onion, not cry, and have a good sense of humour — that’s the trifecta for them,” he said. Protein, carbohydrates, water and limited sugar are the key components of a firefighter’s diet while on the front line, but who are the folk who feed them?When firefighters are on the ground, captain of Mid-Coast Rural Fire Service (RFS) catering brigade Max Morton said his small team of cooks are working the same hours.”One of our days last year ran from four o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night,” he said.”In a week, we will easily make over 2,000 sandwiches, not to mention the hot meals and lunch packs that are prepared too.”
From sandwiches to stews, cakes and sausage rolls, Mr Morton said the catering van has everything an chef needs. External Link:
Aerodrome road fire video
“We cook meals on sight, serve hot meals out the windows and you just see their faces light up,” he said.”When we make up a heap of sandwiches, you can see them all swapping lunches like school kids.”The guys might only have a half an hour off the fire line and we offer them a safe space to relax, have a yarn and they really do just get their food and flop.”Not enough cooks in the kitchenDespite their best efforts to feed hungry firies and their contribution to local communities, Mr Morton feels his brigade has been forgotten.”People think of the RFS and picture the bright yellow firefighters and the flames, but they need to be fed,” he said.”The fighters are self-sufficient out there on the fire line, but it’s only right they get a decent hot meal at the end of their day.”At this stage, Mr Morton said he had only 12 volunteers on his team.”We are all getting older, a few have fallen ill so for the most part, only around eight sets of hands are prepared to help regularly,” he said.