Bushfires are a harsh reality for Riverina residents, especially those living in rural areas.
And it’s the selfless volunteers of the Rural Fire Service that put their lives on the line to help others out in times of crisis.
The Forest Hill Rural Fire Brigade (RFB) has been providing vital fire and emergency services since the 1940s. The brigade is called out around 50 to 80 times a year.
Forest Hill RFB is always looking for new volunteers to ensure it has the numbers needed to provide its vital services. Funding is also important to keep the service up and running.
In addition to its accident and firefighting services, Forest Hill RFB has been holding an annual community Christmas event for more than 20 years.
If you are in the Forest Hill area on Christmas Eve, you might see Santa on the back of a fire truck as the brigade undertakes its Santa run giving out lollies to local children.
Owen Elliott has been a member of the Forest Hill RFB for 26 years. His wife, Joy, has also volunteered for more than 20 years.
“Every member of the brigade is a volunteer,” Mr Elliott said.
“We train weekly and are on call at all times.”
For many, this means leaving their work, family or other commitments at short notice to help when needed.
“We have 20 active members, and including our cadets, our youngest member is just 12 years of age,” Mr Elliott said.
“From the age of 16 our volunteers might be going out and fighting fires.”
Forest Hill RFB has been part of Beyond Bank’s Community Reward Program since 2003.
“The Community Reward Program has been very beneficial to Forest Hill Brigade’s finances and in that time we have not needed to sell a raffle ticket,” Mr Elliott said.
“It is a great way of fundraising and has been very successful.
Beyond Bank regional manager Andrew Toole commended the rural fire services across the region.
“In the Riverina there is a large number of rural fire services helping keep people and property safe,” Mr Toole said.
“These committed men and women are there selflessly helping at what is probably the worst time of our lives.
The bank is running a campaign to provide an additional $25,000 in funds for community groups.
During the campaign, anyone who signs up for a home loan, car loan or credit card, will be able to ask Beyond Bank to make a donation to their preferred community organisation.
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