Mrs Armitage (Launceston) Mr President,
Our emergency services are a vital and highly respected part of our community and today I wish to speak about the fine work of the Prospect Fire Brigade.
The Prospect Fire Brigade will turn 30 on May the 11 th and will hold a function on May the 9th to celebrate its proud history and honour the many achievements of its firefighters.
The brigade was formed in response to a need for greater firefighting support in Prospect. The local population was growing rapidly. A handful of community minded locals signed on to do volunteer firefighter training at the Launceston Fire Brigade in late 1984 in response to an ad in the local newspaper. They came from various walks of life; one did the milk run, another was a tradesperson and, while they already had busy lives, these individuals were very happy to step up and do this for their community. The station's first building on the corner of Mount Leslie and Westbury Roads opened in May 1985 – it was a big yellow tin shed with a small office. There were two firefighting vehicles; one was a Landcruiser for bushfires and the other was an appliance for house and structural fires. Originally, there were 15 volunteer firefighters. The building was extended in 1991, when a training room and large office were added.
In the early days, the main incidents crews responded to were shed fires and house fires. Prospect Fire Brigade backed up city fire crews that responded to the fire which destroyed Begents store in 1997. That was a big fire which caused two and a half millions to stock and property. Importantly, the brigade has spent much of the past 30 years being regularly asked to back up the Launceston Fire Brigade when it gets extremely busy; examples include the tragic and fatal fire at the former backpacker hostel in Brisbane Street Launceston in December, 2004 and the two-million dollar blaze that destroyed the Launceston City Mission at Youngtown in January 2005.
In 2015, the Prospect Fire Brigade is fully funded by the Tasmania Fire Service. It has 20 volunteer firefighters and brand new state of the art vehicles, reinforcing how it has evolved into a highly sought after and highly skilled brigade which prides itself on its commitment to training and serving its community. The brigade has offered considerable intrastate and interstate taskforce assistance over the years; fighting the Dunnalley bushfires in 2013, the fires on Tasmania's East Coast in 2006, the Victorian bushfires in 2006 and 2009 and the New South Wales bushfires in 2003.
The station's First Officer, Matt Buck says about a dozen volunteers have gone onto become career and aviation firefighters; seven of those have become officers in charge of fire stations. The brigade is made up of occupations including an electrician, a builder, a footy coach and a school careers counsellor. There's also a council parking attendant but First Officer, Matt Buck remarks with a smile “He won't let any of us off on a parking ticket!!!”
The current volunteers are mainly aged in their late 20's to early 30's and some who can tell stories from a bit further back than that! Matt Buck has an interesting background. He's been in the Fire Service as a volunteer for 20 years. Prior to that he was a police officer for 18 years and left that job to become a paramedic with Ambulance Tasmania.
Maintaining volunteer firefighting numbers has been a challenge when the economy has gone through times, with locals moving away from the area to find work. Around 2009, there were about 10 or 11 volunteers but a recruiting drive added another ten people to the station's ranks.
The Prospect firefighters have fought all manner of fires to rescuing cats from trees. In a show of their incredible community spirit, they once paid the vet bill after rescuing a pensioner's dog from a burning house in West Launceston. The owner couldn't afford the vet bill, which was discounted by the vet and so the fire crews chipped in and the dog made a full recovery. They do a lot of charity work, supporting the wonderful work of the children's organisation, Appin Hall, by chopping their firewood every year for the past decade, cooking the Anzac Day breakfast at the Army barracks in Paterson Street, showing school groups through the station, helping residents with vegetation burns, fundraising for local events and attending school fairs. The Prospect Fire Brigade has been famous in past years for its lolly run for kids; 700 kilograms of lollies were handed out to local children in the most recent year it was run, 2013.
An important fundraising project the brigade is working on is raising funds to purchase a defibrillator, which is used in the treatment of cardiac arrest. $600 has been raised so far and a total of two-thousand dollars will be needed all up. I commend these efforts and urge Launceston residents to support this incredibly important fundraising initiative.
Matt Buck says he is very proud of his team's passion to provide a good service to the community. He says of his Prospect firefighters “They love what they do and they enjoy training to a high standard”.
Mr President, I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Prospect Fire Brigade and congratulate them on what can only be regarded as an outstanding 30 years of service to the local community. I wish them all the very best for the future. They exemplify the highest standards of serving your community. Thank you.