In 2019, Laidley NAB Branch Manager Sharon Hooper’s husband ‘Hoops’ was on the frontline fighting fires as they spread through regional Queensland.
“For 14 hours, I had no contact with my husband,” said Sharon. “The crew had very limited contact with the Incident Control centre because the radio and phone service was not good.”
Hoops made it home, but it was a devastating fire season and at one point, the fires also just missed Sharon’s own property.
“That one got so close, too close for comfort. We definitely hadn’t prepared and we realised how much more we had to do on the property.”
The experience prompted Sharon to become a Rural Fire Service volunteer, as Treasurer of the Mulgowie Rural Fire Brigade.
“I joined for a reason – to be their Treasurer and sit in that incident control group to assist and learn.”
Volunteering for the Rural Fire Service runs in the family. Her husband Hoops is Chairman and Third Officer at the Mulgowie Rural Fire Brigade. Their two children volunteer at their local brigades in Toowoomba and St George, and both are still members of Mulgowie Rural Fire Brigade.
Since 2019, the Mulgowie Rural Fire Brigade has worked hard to educate the local community and train people up in preparing for bushfire season.
“We were a brigade of twelve in 2019, now we have twenty-eight! All those members came off the back of those fires. They knew everyone had to bust their guts to save their land,” Ms Hooper said.
The Rural Fire Service doesn’t just respond to fire threat, they also play a key role in responding to other natural disasters.
Recently, Sharon and her husband have been volunteering with the flood clean up in Grantham.
“I hugged that many people because I was devastated by what I saw. I couldn’t have gone through what they went through. They got flooded twice in a matter of four weeks.”
Unfortunately, these conditions have also hampered efforts to prepare for the bushfire season ahead.
“Fire season usually starts at the end of July in Queensland. Around this time, we start doing controlled burns on a weekend and help people prepare their land, but because it’s been so wet and windy we haven’t been able to as much. That’s why we think it’s going to be a challenging fire season.”
This week Sharon and other volunteers’ efforts were celebrated at a morning tea at the NAB Laidley Branch as part of Rural Fire Service Week. Now in its 10th year, RFS Week is an important opportunity to recognise and celebrate the amazing work of RFS volunteers across Queensland.
NAB Executive Retail Queensland Tom Crowley said NAB, is a proud Supporting Partner of the RFS, and was pleased to recognise the hard work of RFS volunteers.
“Through our natural disaster resilience program, NAB Ready Together, we are proud to partner with the Queensland RFS and back the work that their volunteers do before, during and after natural disasters to create and sustain a safe and resilient Queensland,” Mr Crowley said.
“We’re all incredibly grateful for the vitally important role that emergency services volunteers play in supporting their neighbours and communities. Their dedication and commitment to training, connecting with the community and responding to incidents makes our local communities safer and stronger.”
For Sharon, her goal is now getting out on the ground to experience what volunteers face while she supports them from incident control.
“I love it! It’s so cool. If I want to be in that incident control area I need to know what they do.”
Volunteering with the RFS is something Sharon sees herself always doing.
“It really is addictive. When you get a call out the adrenaline you get gives you such purpose – you know you’re going out there to save someone’s house or land.”
NAB is proud to partner with the Queensland RFS and back the work that their volunteers do before, during and after natural disasters to create and sustain a safe and resilient Queensland.
To learn more about how NAB supports Australians before, during and after natural disasters visit the NAB Ready Together website.