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Elmore group officer for Whipstick
New group officer of Whipstick Group Doug Strawhorn is also the group and Elmore brigade communications officer. He’s a busy dairy farmer but he’s continuing the family tradition of commitment to volunteering.
“Dad joined with his dad in 1946,” says Doug. “Dad was the comms officer and Mum took over when he went out on a call. The remote was hooked through from our phone to the base radio so it was just part of the furniture growing up. My older brother is in the brigade. My younger brother was in the brigade until he moved away.”
Doug joined in 1979 and remembers when the designated fire brigade bell ringers rang various chimes to indicate whether a going incident was urban, rural or a rescue. Now the brigade uses its siren and tests it like clockwork every Sunday. On Total Fire Bay days, the community takes the siren as its cue to stop watering and save the town water pressure for the brigade.
Clearly the brigade has generated a lot of local goodwill. “We’ve got a very active Ladies Auxiliary,” says Doug, “and they’ve funded the kitchen at the station and a lot of brigade equipment. A quilting group comes in and uses our facilities and they’ve bought us a microwave and a camera for use on the fireground.”
Doug is keen to be an active group officer and maintain good communication across the group – not hard for someone who’s been communications officer since 1993. “We contact neighbouring brigades on a bad day to find out where everyone is,” he says.
“I like the idea of small training sessions – it keeps everyone hands-on. Of course we have to do the bread and butter stuff but you also need variety to keep people interested. We like to train with all the brigades we turn out with. ”
With the fire season now in full swing, Doug reports on the excellent feedback from brigade members about working with the helitankers. “They’re getting on the scene with the first trucks and it’s great to have the eyes in the sky. We’re all very happy with how it’s working.”
Elmore brigade has a three-year-old light pumper and a 3000 litre Hino 2WD. They also have a Pajero Field Command Vehicle. The 25 active members attend about 50 incidents a year although last year was much busier when the Campaspe River through Elmore was higher than at any time since the 1950s.
Doug recalls an enterprising farmer at that earlier flood charging “a pound a pull” to anyone stranded in the big wet.