Pair all fired up to help
North Nannup Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade members Nina Hoad-Pipkin and Mike Vasey are just two of many volunteers across the Lower South West who contribute in a big way to their community.
This week is National Volunteer Week, which this year has the theme ‘making a world of difference’, aimed at celebrating those who give their time to a community group or organisation.
Nina and Mike both helped fight the flames in February’s Lewana Fires which swept through areas close to Nannup.
Nina was one of the first responders, while Mike joined on day three after being asked to come back from his trip to Perth early to help out as the fire spread.
“For me it is about giving back and having something to do as a retired person,” Mike said.
“It is also about looking after your neighbours, helping them out and at some stage you know they will help you in return, especially with fires.”
He said during fire season he would often volunteer for an average of six hours per week, but when there was a fire, such as the ones in February, several 12-hour shifts could really knock this number up.
Nina, who also works part time in Busselton, said she had been asked constantly by friends and family how she had the time to volunteer as well.
“Ever since moving from Perth to the country I have realised what it means to volunteer and be a part of your community,” she said.
“It is a great feeling to be so involved in this way.”
On average, Nina said she managed about one hour per week of volunteer work with the fire station due to her job.
This number also changed in peak fire season and Nina took on a long shift in the Lewana Fires.
“We got called out around 2pm and we were asked to go to a particular part of the fire,” she said.
“As we got closer we could see all the flames right on the top of the trees and it was just too dangerous so we had to pull out of the area.”
Nina said they then headed out to a nearby property, to help defend it.
“We were on this big paddock with eight other crews and a fire break in front of us and we were waiting for the fire to get to us so we could try and control the flames,” she said.
“The scariest thing was just waiting for the fire to get to us, paired with the sound of it and the limited visibility.”
Mike said Nina had called him up on day two of the fires and asked him to come back from Perth to help out.
“She said to me ‘it is going really pear-shaped down here, can you get back early?’ and I said ‘I’ll be back for a 6pm turn-over shift,’ but they ended up putting me on the next morning instead,” Mile said.
“The volunteers tackled the fires for the first four days and then we passed the situation over the Department of Parks and Wildlife.”
Both Mike and Nina were also part of the crew who helped out with the fires near Nannup about two years ago.
“This fire was the first time out on the fire ground so it was a little more confronting than the Lewana Fires for me,” Nina said.
“There was a higher rotation of crews, we were fighting it for about 12 days straight.”
Mike said the first shift they had done had lasted 18 hours.
“We were constantly rotating and the only break you got was topping up fuel and water; it got to the point where our crews were exhausted so we backed off and did one shift a day towards the end of it,” he said.
Although this type of volunteer work can be very challenging and physically demanding, both Mike and Nina said their favourite part was the friendships they had made with other volunteers.
“My family is also largely involved with volunteering and my husband is also a volunteer firefighter as well, he was out on the second day of the Lewana Fires,” Nina said.
“We are also always open to new members and if they do not want to be out on the fire ground there are other things to do to help out.”
Mike is a training officer for the brigade and the Nannup Shire Council and said anyone who wanted to train to become a volunteer or wanted to learn about protecting their property should go through the basic courses.
“Even if you do not want to be a part of the fire brigade you should think about volunteering and finding something you really want to do,” Mike said.
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