Ben Warneke has been inducted in the Rural Fire Brigade.
Ben Warneke has been inducted in the Rural Fire Brigade. Warren Lynam

Severe Coast fires calls brave residents to action

MORE volunteers than ever are signing up to risk their lives.

Coast man Ben Warneke is one of those volunteers, who will swap his usual grounds-keeping get-up for a fire-fighter's uniform when disaster strikes.

In one of the largest intakes of volunteers to the Rural Fire Service on the coast, 22 people became fully-qualified fire-fighters at the weekend.

It followed months of training and assessment, but for the first time in Queensland Fire and Emergency Services history on the coast, volunteers were inducted, trained and awarded their certificates in a group.

North Maroochy Group Training Officer Mark Smith said the influx of volunteers followed the devastation left by the Coolum and Caloundra fires earlier in the year.

The group training aimed to bring in more volunteers at once and help to build friendships; a vital trait needed on the ground when battling a blaze according to Mr Smith.

"Instead of going in blind an on their own, the volunteers go through the whole process with a group of other people," he said.

"This way, when they get called out to a fire, they know the people they are on the ground with, they build strong friendships.

"It's the first time we have held dedication presentations and will be doing so every three months - the recognition will definitely increase numbers."

Volunteer Mr Warneke said becoming an official fire-fighter was nothing short of "awesome".

He was inspired to become a volunteer after helping crews to battle a blaze

"It was intense," he said.

"It was the same day of the Caloundra fires, and a man had a fire at the back of his property...it travelled to the side of the mountain.

"We went out about 4pm and didn't get home until 2am."

Mr Warneke said the idea to train and induct volunteers in a group would help when it came to a real fire.

"You get to know the people you are working with - you're all trained the same," he said.

"I have already made a few good mates, which makes the whole thing a lot easier."



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