10 May 2023

Cooktown brigade keen to bolster firefighter numbers

| Sarah Martin
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Cooktown teacher Katie Hooker has been a firefighter for two years and is encouraging others to join.

JASON Carroll’s dream of being a firefighter came true, but he says it’s helping people in their darkest moments that has kept him doing the part-time job for 18 years.

Mr Carroll is the captain of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Cooktown Auxiliary Brigade and said the reward for him was seeing people and knowing they were still alive because of his team’s efforts.

“That’s what has made me stay with it,” he said.

“That’s the kick, the reward I get, seeing someone and knowing they’re here because we helped in their time of need.

“The training is also amazing and the keener you are and more you want to learn, there are so many opportunities.”

Mr Carroll, like most members of the Cooktown brigade, has a full-time job and family, and said more firefighters would mean not everyone had to turn out for every callout.

“We’ve got amazing training, incredible state of the art equipment and everything we need –
except enough firefighters,” he told Cape York Weekly.

“We have about seven regulars, but we’re aiming to double that number.

“Once we have our full complement of crew it takes the pressure off and it can be more enjoyable.”

Cooktown’s auxiliary brigade, unlike volunteer rural firefighters, are paid casuals, but Mr Carroll said it was the sense of camaraderie and giving back to the community that was more rewarding than the paycheck.

“When you turn up for training or a callout you get paid, but none of us do it for the money,” he said.

“We’re all here to serve the community, and there’s an amazing sense of camaraderie, we’re bonding in quite extreme situations.”

The station’s only female firefighter, high school teacher Katie Hooker, said she enjoyed the empowerment and teamwork.

“You couldn’t get a nicer bunch of people to work with, and I know they will have my back in any situation,” Ms Hooker said.

“After a job, you feel so pumped, you did something that really matters.

“Saving that person or their house really counts and you can’t get that anywhere else.”

The Cooktown brigade’s most common callout is to grass and bushfires, with the occasional structural fire and a small number of road accidents.

They also assist other emergency services, such as driving the ambulance or assisting to move patients.

The firefighters also occasionally attend hazardous chemical incidents, such as gas leaks and petrol spills, and run community education and engagement activities.

Auxiliary firefighters are encouraged to attend 75 per cent of training, which is held for two hours on Mondays, and callouts, but Mr Carroll said the group understood there was flexibility.

“If you can attend three quarters of the time we’d be really happy, but family and health things, we understand and can deal with that,” he said.

For more information, drop in to the Cooktown Fire Station on Hope Street at 5pm on Mondays, or contact Mr Carroll on 0458 074 069.

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