LONG-TIME Weipa firefighter Tony Lankester says he’s excited about the prospect of a new station for the local fire brigade after years of lobbying for better facilities in the region.
In an early Christmas present, it was announced last week that more than half a million dollars would be spent on building the new headquarters for the Western Cape Rural Fire Brigade.
“It’s very exciting,” said Mr Lankester, the first officer of the WCRFB.
“It’s been a long battle to get that funding.”
Weipa boasts the best-equipped firefighting capability in the Cape, Mr Lankester said, but the brigade had some of the worst facilities.
“The shed we operate out of now is just not suitable, even though we make it work,” he said.
“It’s a bit different in Weipa to other parts of the region because we have Rio Tinto Emergency Services, which are there to cater for both the town and the mine.
“Having full-time firefighters in a place like Weipa is a big advantage and we’re lucky that a lot of the Rio guys also volunteer for the Western Cape Rural Fire Brigade.”
Mr Lankester is one of the many who “double up” and he said the role of the WCRFB was crucial.
“In the dry season you’ll see us out all the time attending to grass fires and also helping out at some of the cattle stations,” he said.
“We often work closely with the Rio Tinto team to provide support on back-burning.”
Tony Johnstone, the director of regional coordination for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, said $530,000 had been allocated for the new Weipa fire station, but believed that amount would grow once the facility is fitted out.
“It is about giving the brigade a place to call their own,” he said on Friday.
“The Western Cape Rural Fire Brigade doesn’t just cover Weipa and often travels to fight fires. They have about 29 active members and work closely with the community.
“We’ve seen when we’ve given other communities a new station they’ve attracted additional members.”
The Weipa fire station will be built next to the new SES facility and Mr Johnstone said it was likely the two volunteer groups would share some resources.
QFES deputy commissioner Mike Wassing said RFS volunteers across the state each played a vital role in supporting their communities through emergencies and disasters.
“It’s so important we continue to support RFS brigades by funding new and upgraded facilities, which provide important foundations for our volunteers to continue providing a high level of service to their communities,” he said.
“These volunteers work in some of the most challenging conditions, not only during bushfire season but also year-round, providing emergency response to incidents and disasters.”