True grit

On Thursday, she’d slept all of five hours in the previous 62.

But Bowning Rural Fire Service captain Margie Sullivan still finds it hard to put down her CB radio long enough to string a sentence together.

It’s 9pm Thursday and she has dragged herself into Bowning Pub for a quick recoup. She has supposedly knocked off but can’t help picking up the CB any time a voice crackles from it.

The 10-year veteran said she’s never seen anything like that which she fought on Tuesday.

“On Tuesday when it jumped Childowla Road, we were property protecting and it came so fast and wiped out everything.

“How so many houses were saved is beyond me.”

Despite her experience, she still finds it difficult to go against her natural instincts and race towards an out-of-control fire, rather than away from it.

“You put yourself where you don’t want to be… but the feeling when it passes and you’ve done your job… Well, I just went round and hugged everybody,” she said.

Apparently not all captains do that though, she’s told.

She said community spirit was wonderful in these tense times but that people should not offer to come and fight fires if they haven’t been properly trained. It was just too dangerous.

“It’s not stuff you can learn as you go,” she said.

The operations required cohesive preparation and instruction.

“To protect a house, to be inside a fire as it comes through – it’s very scary. You are with people you love and know well… [the fire] builds up and [your mind] just goes into all the training you’ve done.

“You don’t have time to be scared, you just do your job.

“I don’t feel brave myself, but when I see them [her team] doing it [I think they are brave]. That feeling when it all happens and then the house is left standing – it’s just so beautiful.”

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