FIRE and council authorities opening the new Tilba Rural Fire Service shed on Saturday have warned of a potentially savage fire season.
Brigade members from the Narooma and Tilba areas packed the shed to witness the official opening and handing out of long-service medals to 16 RFS volunteers.
“There is a lot of material in the paddocks and bush that is drying out and you may very well be called upon early in the season,” Eurobodalla mayor Fergus Thomson told the assembled brigade members.
“Historically we only have to look at what happened here in Tilba in August a few years ago while they have even had a busy time in the US.”
State Member Andrew Constance praised the Tilba brigade members for their patience in the getting the shed built as well as for their volunteerism, saying their firefighting knowledge should never be taken for granted.
“It was only a few years ago in August that the village came under threat and the nature of firefighting in this area means that are brigades are without a doubt among the best in the country,” Mr Constance said.
The shed opening was a proud moment for Tilba captain Bruce Allen.
“It’s taken 20 years to get here and I want to publicly all the brigade members that have made be feel very proud as captain.”
The bushfire warning message was reinforced by NSW RFS Chief Superintendent Ray Hall, who had checked out the local fuel loads on his way down.
The new shed at Tilba as well as another in Mogo, also officially opened on Saturday, had come just in time for what was shaping up to be a busy fire season.
“I recall the fires at Gulaga in 2009 and we could be facing that kind of thing straight away,” he said.
Superintendent Hall did note that the highway upgrade would hopefully cut down the number call outs to horrific accidents.
It was 20 years ago that discussions began to move the Tilba shed out of its cramped location in the township.
Eventually and thanks to the vision of the Madden family the new location at the end of Latimers Lane on the outskirts of town near the Princes Highway was chosen.
Construction was not without its challenges with the cost of power connection still a sore point.
Mayor Thomson spoke of the challenges of making the new shed blend in and meet heritage criteria that made Tilba such a well-known tourism destination.
And council working with the fire service to get the Tilba and Mogo fire sheds built was another reason that people should support the proposed referendum to enshrine local government in the constitution.
Saturday’s official opening was also an opportunity to present long-service medals to volunteers from the district’s brigades.
Far South Coast team manager Superintendent John Cullen presented long service medals, recognising combined service of 357 years, to 16 volunteers from the brigades at Nerrigundah, Dalmeny, Narooma and Tilba, while Narooma brigade Captain Mick Marchini received his National Medal.
Superintendent Cullen said the Central Tilba brigade had a proud history.
“This Brigade began when a group of rural farmers came together to defend their properties and the local community in the 1950s,” he said.
“While Tilba now faces a major fire around every 10 years, each and every year these volunteers fight bush fires, structure fires and attend a number of other incidents in the area.
“This new building will help the Brigade continue its important work in the local area, particularly in the lead up to the Bush Fire Season, and is dedicated to working with the local community to raise fire awareness.
“The new Station has two vehicle bays, training room, store room and kitchen, a major step up from the original shed of the 1970’s.
Superintendent Cullen praised the service of all 16 brigade members who were recognised with long service medals .
In particular, Captain Michael Marchini, who has served 16 years with the NSW RFS and today received the National Medal, has made a huge difference to his district by training and mentoring local members throughout the district.
“His strong leadership has ensured that more than 50 juniors have been trained to senior levels and that his colleagues remain inspired and motivated by his example,” Superintendent Cullen said.
Captain Marchini has led Eurobodalla teams to the Black Saturday Fires in Victoria as Sector Commander at Yarra Valley as well as the Canberra, Coonabarabran, Wyong, Shoalhaven and Sydney Storm emergencies.
“Alongside Mick work more than 20 volunteers who remain on-hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help their local community. We should be extremely proud and grateful for their contribution," Superintendent Cullen said.