For the McDermott family, joining their local NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigade was a given. From the moment Paul and Kim purchased land in Monkerai, south of Gloucester, they been helping their neighbours put out fires.
According to Kim, Paul got involved almost straight away when they decided to buy property in the region around 38 years ago.
"He was helping with fires before we even moved up to the place," Kim said.
They owned the land for about a year before making the full move from Sydney, and whenever they were in the area, if someone needed help with burning off or a spot fire had cropped up, Paul would put up his hand.
"It's just like helping your neighbour," Kim said. "When we were setting things up our neighbours were always offering us a hand."
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It's that culture of helping each other that seems to go hand and hand with joining the RFS.
Paul has been a member of the RFS for 38 years and is currently the captain, and Kim joined about 35 years ago and is the current secretary. It's a culture the McDermotts have passed onto their children, with all three volunteering for the Monkerai brigade as soon as they turned 16 and were eligible.
And they aren't the only family in the region to have all of its members be a part of the brigade, with many residents in the valley doing the same.
"We have 15 members out of the 29 letterboxes in the area, and not all of the owners live here full time," Kim explained.
But as time passes and the children get older and move away, the member numbers at these small regional brigades can vary, so they are always looking for new volunteers as new people move into the area.
In the meantime, when there is a fire, the McDermotts know they can still call on their children to come and lend a hand.
"I can ring them if we need them and they will drop whatever they are doing to get here as fast as they can," Kim said.
And that's exactly what they did during the unprecedented fire season that stemmed across the second half of 2019 through to the start for 2020. There may not have been any major fire issues in the Monkerai region, but the brigade, like many others, was called into areas in need, like Giro.
But being a RFS volunteer isn't just about being a good neighbour, it also provides personal development. Volunteers learn a range of skills like how to use water pumping systems, how to drive in difficult terrain and the tricks of using radio communication. To get involved contact your local Fire Control Centre located via the RFS website www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/about-us/fire-control-centres
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