Warrimoo Bushfire Brigade is well-known in RFS circles as the little brigade that can.
This is why.
Thirty-six of its volunteers — or about half of the brigade’s total serving members — were awarded long service medals on May 9 for giving up their time to help protect the community for at least one decade.
Some have served for considerably longer, including George Bryan (39 years), Lynette Holmes (40), John Hollis (45) and Geoff McManus (53).
In all, the brigade’s current membership has a combined total of 688 years of service.
Member for Macquarie Louise Markus, Member for Blue Mountains Trish Doyle and NSW RFS deputy commissioner Rob Rogers attended the presentation, the latter taking particular note of brigade life member Mr McManus’ achievements.
“Mr McManus has seen the brigade grow from a small band of members housed in a single brick garage, to the modern professional service it is today,” deputy commissioner Rogers said.
“Everyone living in the region is aware of the hard work and commitment that comes with being a NSW RFS volunteer.
“While these volunteers certainly don’t expect awards or accolades, all of them are most worthy of our sincere gratitude and thanks.”
Mr McManus, 76, joined the brigade in 1962, he served as captain from 1975 to 1982 and an active firefighter until 2009 and remains involved today in fundraising, community liaison and heads the archives committee.
“I joined because I was newly married and building my own house in Warrimoo and just thought, why not help this community,” Mr McManus said.
“I can still clearly remember going to my first fire, aged 23, down the back of Rickard Road in the middle of the night with a big metal knapsack, which was a bugger on your back.”
Tragedy struck the brigade in 1968 when members Peter Hawkins and Greg Eley — and Faulconbridge brigade captain Tom Chalmers — died while fighting an intense bushfire.
“I’ll never forget it, because they were both from my crew,” Mr McManus said.
“We lined both sides of the highway holding donation buckets for their widows and I don’t think anyone drove past us without giving us something.
“We have a plaque and memorial windows dedicated to their memory and the service road here is called Eley Hawkins Drive.”
Mr McManus said there have been plenty of high points too, including helping save the house of the mayor in 1977, running a mobile canteen during the Nyngan floods, assisting firefighters in the Canberra bushfire disaster and being part of developing training guides in the early 80s that set new benchmarks.
But he said what tops everything was being involved in building the brigade’s current fire station in 1972. “It was one of the most enjoyable things in my life. A sense of enthusiasm was everywhere — and it’s still here.”
Warrimoo captain Brett Batten described Mr McManus as “an iconic figure who’s seen the highs and lows at this brigade and has always been there for the community.
“I’m very fortunate as a captain that whenever I need to call on members to come and help at a moment’s notice, there’s always no shortage of willing volunteers,” Mr Batten said.
“And that’s synonymous with all the RFS brigades here in the Mountains.”