FOR 32 years Colin Humphries has stood in the face of danger to protect his neighbours, the community and the state.
He is among the thousands of NSW Rural Fire Service [RFS] volunteer firefighters who will stop what they are doing, at the drop of a hat, to help others.
Mr Humphries first joined Perthville/Georges Plains Rural Fire Brigade 32 years ago and the decision was prompted by his work with the then Forestry Commission.
“One of my roles there was firefighting and weed control and I had an interest in it [joining the RFS] as well,” he said.
“Also, as part of my apprenticeship as a plant mechanic I spent time making their firefighting equipment.”
So, the decision was made and he joined the throng of volunteers as this local RFS station.
In his time with the service he has fought fires, undertaken rescue operations, helped his community as floodwaters have approached and been tasked to other incidents across NSW.
It doesn’t matter what your skills are, there’s a role somewhere in the service for you.Former Perthville/Georges Plains Captain Colin Humphries
“The people effected need as much help as they can get,” Mr Humphries said.
Such was his love for his volunteering role that in 1992 he stepped up to be captain of the Perthville/Georges Plains Rural Fire Brigade.
From there, he was able to mentor young firefighters and lead his crews into hundreds of different call outs.
In his time with the RFS he has seen a lot of changes, from the way fires are fought to the equipment that crews use on a job.
“The use of aerial and plant equipment has changed a lot,” he said.
Mr Humphries said the use of this type of equipment allows firefighters to battle blazes they may not otherwise have been able to access.
“A lot of areas are inaccessible, if you’ve got an aircraft that’s nearby you can actually find it [the fire] and get water on it,” he said.
Mr Humphries said significant improvements to firefighting equipment and trucks have changed response times and safety standards.
“In the old days all were ex-Army trucks,” he said of past trucks.
“Now, trucks are purpose-built and built to a standard.
I’ll have to take a back step off the fireground into more of a mentoring role and just do behind the scenes stuff.Colin Humphries
“Technology has got better, we’ve not got thermal imaging cameras to locate hot spots [left after a blaze has come through].”
Another change Mr Humphries has noticed is that farms in the region are smaller and there are less farm hands employed who would once jump into help during an emergency.
“There’s a lot less farm workers so you’re more reliant on the community and members to get stuff done,” he said.
Mr Humphries said while ill health had played a part in his decision to step down as captain, 25 years in the role was “a long enough stint”.
“I’ll have to take a back step off the fireground into more of a mentoring role and just do behind the scenes stuff,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter what your skills are, there’s a role somewhere in the service for you.
“I haven’t pulled out of the service all together, I’ve just changed hats.”
Colin Humphries honoured by NSW Rural Fire Service
AT Mr Humphries’ recent retirement function, he was presented with a NSW Rural Fire Service 30-year long service medal by Chifley/Lithgow Team Superintendent Greg Sim.
In honour of his work with the brigade, he was also given life membership.
While fellow firefighter and artist Shane Thomas presented Mr Humphries with a caricature sketch (see photo above).
The artwork depicts Mr Humphries, with a fire hose in hand, standing outside his beloved station.