An extreme way to lend a hand

Remote Area Firefighter Team volunteers Jed Abra from Rosebank and Greg Watt from Ellangowan lead the pack during their arduous pack test at Nielson Park in East Lismore.

If your idea of fun is extreme sports or hanging out of helicopters mere inches from blazing, out of control bush fires, put your hand up to volunteer for the Remote Area Firefighter Team (RAFT).

As the title might suggest, this team of intrepid, fearless firefighters goes where no other firefighter has been before, or at least not in a fire truck, and it is of course exciting and/or dangerous work, depending on your personality.

The team recently endured an arduous pack test at Nielson Park in East Lismore as part of their annual training. A test which involves covering 4.9km in under 45 minutes with a 20 kilo pack on your back.

You pretty much have to pass the arduous pack test before you can even think of become a remote firefighter, said Northern Rivers RAFT leader Sam Leary.

Sam said you also have to reach the level of advanced firefighter which could take anywhere up to three years, so there is a high level of commitment involved.

The reward is the satisfaction of contributing to the community and the thrill of experiencing dangerous bush fire situations, if thats your bag.

Speaking of bags, the Northern Rivers RAFT members have recently returned from fighting fires down at Wolemi National Park in the Hawkesbury, being t-bagged in and out of hot-spots armed with nothing more than chain saws, brush hooks and other hand tools.

T-bagging is exactly what it sounds like being winched down from a helicopter and dangling dangerously above bush fires before being dropped into the hot spots.

Our team was commended by the National Parks for the work we did down at Wolemi and we were asked to stay longer as a result, said Sam. Its really great to be thanked because these guys volunteer to do this work. They often sacrifice their regular pay cheques to go and fight these fires, so it really is a big commitment.

RAFT is always looking for new volunteers but if you dont think of yourself as an action man or woman there are other ways of helping out within the fire service.

For more information about volunteering contact the Northern Rivers Fire Service on 6622 6088.

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