Forty years in flames

Forty years in flames

Russell Barker is a charter member of the Hellyer Brigade, and over his 40 years has seen fire fighting methods change dramatically.

“When I first started all we had was beaters to bash the flames out and knapsacks,” he said.

The equipment was less than ideal, with the beaters being made up of sticks with leather scraps on the end, with firefighters flapping the sticks at the flames in the hopes of smothering it out.

“Wasn’t real good in a house fire,” he laughed.

Since then, the Brigade has evolved slowly with time, with Russell remembering the club receiving a water cart.

“That was a big upgrade at the time,” he said.

“We used to park it at the Fire Chief’s house and pick it up from there.

“Over the 40 years we’ve changed a bit with the equipment we have available, we are pretty well set up now.”

Now, the brigade has its very own fire truck and has been blossoming of late, with as many as 15 active volunteers at the moment.

“Hellyer brigade is pretty active at the moment, other fire stations in other areas are shutting down so we are fortunate to still have the numbers to have our own brigade,” he said.

The Hellyer brigade plays a vital role in protecting the community. Positioned halfway between Smithton and Wynyard, the Brigade are called to road accidents from Stanley through to Boat Harbour, depending on the availability of other brigades.

Russell says that in his 40 years in the brigade, which was notched up more than a year ago but presented late due to health concerns, he has felt a great deal of pride in serving his community.

“I feel like [I’ve been] sort of serving the community but you never know when you’re going to need it yourself,” he said.

“It’s been a good bunch, they’ve been good to get along with.”

Russell has no plans of retiring from the brigade, and is keen to pass on his knowledge to the next generation.

“Now we need to let the young fellas do more while we’re still there to help.”

Russell Barker was recognised for his 40 years of continuous active service to the Hellyer Fire Brigade over a year late, due to health concerns.