Have you ever considered joining the Rural Fire Service (RFS)? Well now is the perfect time to get hooked into training with the Yass Valley Support Brigade.

Head down to the Yass Fire Centre at 1410 Yass Valley Way this evening to have a chat to the squad on their maintenance night as they check and prepare equipment.

Learn useful skills, engage with your community, and build your leadership skills.

The brigade trains every fortnight on the second and third Wednesday of the month except between November and February as these are generally high fire seasons. The fourth Wednesday of the month (today) is maintenance night.

Captain James Alley encourages anyone who is interested in becoming an active member of the RFS to come down this evening to talk to the team and see what they do.

“If you’re a community-minded person, or looking to give back to the community, joining the RFS is definitely a good way to do it,” he said.

The RFS responds to a variety of emergencies in addition to bushfires including ambulance assists, aiding Fire and Rescue, truck and vehicle accidents and/or fires, and as- sisting SES with storm recovery. Members can also volunteer to travel to areas in need such as during the 2019 bushfires or the 2022 Lismore floods.

Although you begin your service by joining a crew, there are opportunities to develop your leadership skills and work your way up the ranks to become a leader within the brigade.

James has been a member of the RFS for just over 20 years after joining a junior’s program when he was just 11 years old.

The experience can provide volunteers with practical hand skills that will not only assist you at the RFS but also in day-to-day life and even the workplace. Gain knowledge about fires and the bush and meet other local people you might not normally meet.

“The last 2019/2020 season, everyone was watching [the bushfires] on the TV,” James said. “By joining your local brigade, it’s a good way to get involved and be part of the solution.”

To be able to actively respond to a call-out with the brigade, volunteers need to be 16 and over.

Currently, the Yass Valley Support Brigade has about 30 members on the books including life members, reserve members, and active members.

However, of those, there is only a core group of about 10 to 12 people who can actively attend training and callouts.

“We’re actually looking to try and double that active group so that during the day, we’ve always got plenty of members to man the truck,” he said.

But James said he would ideally like as many new volunteers as possible, because being an entirely volunteer organisation, members have no obligation to respond to their pager for a callout.

“There’s no on-call period as such. It’s basically when the pager goes off, whoever’s available, if you’re available, you would respond to the station and hopefully get a seat on the truck and away you go.”

This means when the core group of active members is low, stations may only have half their members respond leaving the squad with only a handful of members to respond to an incident.

“Sometimes there might only be two or three members available, especially during the day to actually respond to those incidents,” James said. “By boosting our active member base hopefully that percentage will rise as well as an increase in people being available when the pager goes off.”

While volunteering with the NSW RFS members are considered employees and are covered by the organisation’s insurance.

“Anything to do with RFS activities, whether it’s a callout, training and maintenance, all of it is covered by the Rural Fire Service and their blanket insurance for the state.”

If you’re interested in joining the local brigade, then message the Yass Valley Support Brigade – NSW RFS Facebook Page or drop by this evening to meet the team (or any other fourth Wednesday of the month).

“We need members to be more active within the brigade and come down and participate.”

Brianna O’Rourke