OUR HEROES: Queensland Fire and Emergency Service fireys and volunteers battling the blaze in Deepwater and Baffle Creek.
OUR HEROES: Queensland Fire and Emergency Service fireys and volunteers battling the blaze in Deepwater and Baffle Creek. QFES

VOTE NOW: Should volunteers of 2018 bushfires get medals?

NOVEMBER 2018 saw something Central Queensland never thought it would experience - a mass evacuation of more than 8000 people from Gracemere as a bushfire raged towards the suburb.

Now, one of the bushfire's heroes has requested the Federal Government award all volunteers across Australia for their fighting of more than 140 fires that burned throughout the state during in November and December.

Do you think all who fought the November/December 2018 fires should get the National Emergency Medal?

This poll ended on 03 July 2019.

Current Results

Yes

85%

No

14%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

 

Adrian Reynolds was posted in the Australian Defence Force depot in Rockhampton - the only full-time ADF member in the 11th Engineer Regiment at the time - when he raised his hand to help fight fires in Gladstone.

 

"For the next week or so I was going to work during the day and then manning a truck during a night-time rotation, managing a couple hours' sleep in between each," he told The Morning Bulletin.

 

Adrian Reynolds was posted in the Australian Defence Force depot in Rockhampton - the only full-time ADF member in the 11th Engineer Regiment (11ER) at the time - when he raised his hand to help fight fires in Central Queensland.
FIRE HERO: Adrian Reynolds was posted in the Australian Defence Force depot in Rockhampton when he raised his hand to help fight fires in Central Queensland.

This was after Mr Reynolds attended the New Zealand gully fire, the Mount Archer fire in August where water bombers were brought in and many others in the Central Queensland region.

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"I first joined the Dapto brigade in NSW as a 17-year-old as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and enjoyed it," he said.

"As my army career moved me around the country, I have served in brigades when I could.

"Juggling army life and deployments overseas hasn't always allowed me to be an active member of a brigade.

"I have seen a lot of bushfires in my life, having grown up in the Illawarra area (NSW), and have always seen the volunteer firefighter role as an extremely important one."

Mr Reynolds said between November 25 and December 3, he assisted at the Gladstone fires, the Stanwell/Kabra/Gracemere fire, The Caves fire and other call-outs in the Rockhampton region.

 

The predicted path of the Stanwell fire that forced the evacuation of over 8000 people from Kabra, Gracemere and the surrounding areas. The state government released this image, which was made using predictive technology to show the potential path of the fire.
The predicted path of the Stanwell fire that forced the evacuation of more than 8000 people from Kabra, Gracemere and the surrounding areas. The State Government released this image, which was made using predictive technology to show the potential path of the fire. Queensland Government

"Basically, from one call-out or another, we were on the trucks for several days straight, most times for 10-12 hours," he said.

Mr Reynolds said several Rockhampton trucks went to the Deepwater fires on November 25.

"When we arrived, the fire was burning out of control and threatening many areas," he said.

"We worked to put in containment lines around one of the flanks.

"The fire jumped that line multiple times."

He said the truck he went down with was sent back the next week, with two members, to Rockhampton to partner with the interstate crews and he stayed in Rockhampton, having to return to work.

Just before Gracemere was evacuated, Mr Reynolds got approval from his commanding officer to attend the Stanwell/Kabra fire and deployed with a Belmont truck alongside Chris Thompson and Rick Ryan.

 

STANWELL FIRE: The fire that burned land between Stanwell and Kabra sparked a massive evacuation for Kabra and Gracemere residents on Wednesday.
The fire that burned between Stanwell and Kabra sparked a massive evacuation for Kabra and Gracemere residents. Maddelin McCosker

"That call was originally to attend Stanwell but by the time we were all assembled, the fire was past Stanwell and the order had been given for Gracemere to evacuate," Mr Reynolds said.

"The trucks were set up around Kabra, with the plan to stop the fire reaching Gracemere.

"The fire was moving very fast backed by very strong west-southwesterly winds.

"It impacted Kabra in the late afternoon and burned through on its way to Gracemere. We spent most of the afternoon and night defending houses and trying in vain to slow the fire.

"There were many trucks and multiple fixed-wing water bombers."

Mr Thompson said the 15,000L large air tanker from NSW Rural Fire Service was deployed to the Kabra fire as well.

 

The raging cloud of smoke from the fires around Rockhampton. Fires are burning in Stanwell and Ambrose. The township of Gracemere was evacuated at 4pm on Wednesday.
The raging cloud of smoke from the fires around Rockhampton, burning in Stanwell and Ambrose. Jack Evans

"That was a tough day - we saw wildlife affected by the fire, multiple tractors and other items lost," Mr Reynolds said.

"There was definitely a sense of desperation to the work we did that day.

"Ultimately once the conditions changed the fire didn't make it to Gracemere but that could've been a very bad day if it had gone any differently."

 

STANWELL FIRE: The fire that burned land between Stanwell and Kabra sparked a massive evacuation for Kabra and Gracemere residents on Wednesday.
This dwelling stands incredibly close to land that burned between Stanwell and Kabra . Maddelin McCosker

After the Gracemere fire, Mr Reynolds attended the fire at The Caves and worked there for five days.

"That fire was burning out of control at first and threatened a lot of houses in The Caves area," he said.

"It was burning within containment lines by the end of the fourth day.

"I'd like to say a special thank you to the families of The Caves brigade and its members. There was a team of people at their station for the entire five days cooking food, getting drinks and refreshments to us.

"I've never seen hospitality like that before and I'd definitely volunteer my time to help any of them in the future."

 

Fire at Stanwell Kabra area.
Fire burns in the Stanwell/Kabra area. Allan Reinikka ROK291118afirecav

Mr Reynolds had Christmas/relocation leave scheduled to start on December 6 but he and his partner decided to stay in Rockhampton until Christmas Eve so he could continue helping where he could.

He is now posted at Kapooka, just outside Wagga Wagga in NSW, where he is in the process of joining the local volunteer fire brigade.

"It takes a lot to walk towards something that people run away from and it's always filled me with pride to see men and women willing to fight these fires, especially when the fire wouldn't have affected them otherwise," he said.

Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry said the region's firefighters deserved recognition.

"What we saw last year was truly frightening, a once-in-a- lifetime threat to life and property for many Central Queenslanders," she said.

"Horrendous weather and small grass fires combined to deliver a terrifying fire storm, placing residents of Gracemere and the Pioneer Valley in peril.

"The heroic actions of our firefighting volunteers and professionals alike saved countless properties and lives and our region will forever remember their effort.

"I would be most happy to endorse local firefighters forhonours befitting their service - whether that be deemedto be the NEM or another award is for others to judge."

 

FACTS AND PROCESS FOR MEDAL

The medal relevant for those who fought the Queensland bushfires is the National Emergency Medal, which provides recognition for the unique contribution and significant commitment of those persons who have provided service in response to a nationally significant emergency.

The National Emergency Medal Committee provides advice to the minister responsible for honours policy about an emergency that should be declared a nationally significant emergency for the purposes of the medal. The minister may not act without a recommendation from the committee.

In assessing an emergency, the committee takes into account whether the event:

  • Had a serious impact on the population and region where the emergency happened
  • Caused a large number of casualties
  • Displaced a large number of people
  • Caused significant destruction of, or disruption to, critical infrastructure, including infrastructure used to supply electricity, water, gas and fuel
  • Required interstate or international assistance.

A letter responding to Mr Reynolds' request, written by parliamentary and government branch assistant secretary Peter Rush while the Federal Government was in caretaker mode ahead of the election, stated Mr Rush had referred the Queensland Bushfires 2018 event to the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat at Government House for consideration of whether it should be put forward to the National Emergency Medal Committee for assessment.

The National Emergency Medal is administered by the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat at Government House, who provides secretariat support to the National Emergency Medal Committee. Nominations for sustained or significant service may come from relevant organisations or members of the community.

The Governor-General may approve an award for:

  • Sustained service, on the recommendation of the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat
  • Significant service, on the recommendation of the National Emergency Medal Committee.

Upon receipt, nominations for significant service are researched and prepared by the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat for presentation to the National Emergency Medal Committee. The committee considers whether the nominee's service:

  • Was part of the response efforts to the nationally significant emergency
  • Assisted with the protection of lives and property
  • Was extraordinary.

The National Emergency Medal Regulations 2011 were approved by Her Majesty the Queen in October 2011.

The National Emergency Medal was first issued in 2012. It is awarded to persons who rendered sustained service during specified dates in specified places in response to nationally significant emergencies within Australia; or to other persons who rendered significant service in response to such emergencies.

The bushfires that happened in Victoria in February 2009, the floods that happened in Queensland during December 2010 and January 2011, and Cyclone Yasi have been declared nationally significant for the purposes of the National Emergency Medal.