Meet the female volunteers challenging fire fighting stereotypes in the bush

Meet the female volunteers challenging fire fighting stereotypes in the bush

11 May 2017

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Australia – 

When 000 is dialled near Scrubby Creek on Queensland’s Darling Downs, Helen Dwyer is the one who answers the phone.

“Our gear is in a cupboard right at the door,” she said.

“If we get a call in the middle of the night, we just get up and go.”

Ms Dwyer has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years.

“So I’m willing to give my time to make my area safe.”

It is a sentiment fellow volunteer Heather Patzwald echoes.

“When I first moved here I knew nobody, and being a part of this group was a way to meet people. We meet a lot of people in this job,” she said.

“We get calls any time of the day or night, and just get our uniforms on, and off we go.”

Equality in the fire truck

Half of Scrubby Creek’s firefighters are women.

“We’re starting the pumps, pulling hoses through the bush, and everything else the blokes do,” Ms Dwyer said.

“Country people don’t mind it at all, we’re out here having a go.”

“I suppose women bring a bit of a different attitude.

“I think the blokes settle down a little bit with the women around.”

This week is Volunteer Week, and the women say it can sometimes be hard to find people willing to put their hands up.

“It is hard,” Ms Patzwald said.

“But we have some young ones who are keen to have a go, so we’re about to organise a few activities for the kids so they can see what Mum and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa are doing.

“Get them while they’re young and keen.”

Landholders heeding the warnings

As the cooler months descend, the women are happy to report the last fire season was relatively quiet.

“I think people are a bit smarter,” Ms Patzwald said.

“It was extremely dry, but we went around the blocks while doing fuel checks, and the amount of people who cleaned their blocks was really good.”

“But yes, we were waiting for calls all summer, while at the same time hoping for the best.”

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