Pam and Allan Brown get together with old colleagues at the annual retired firefighters reunion, held at the Goonellabah fire station.
Pam and Allan Brown get together with old colleagues at the annual retired firefighters reunion, held at the Goonellabah fire station. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Firefighters rekindle the flame

ALLAN Brown retired from firefighting 10 years ago, but he still "gets a jump" every time he hears an engine go past.

"Firefighting gets in your blood," he said yesterday as he and his wife Pam joined a group of 75 retired firefighters and their wives at the annual retired firefighters reunion, which this year was held at Goonellabah station.

The reunion lunch was a chance for firefighters to reconnect with the "family" of their fellow firies, said Lismore captain Brett Lowden.

"It does become like a big family," Capt Lowden said.

"You're relying on your mates in the brigade and they can understand what you've experienced.

"The reunion lunch is a chance to reconnect and talk."

The bonds that connect firefighters are crucial to keeping each other safe, in and out of fires, Mr Brown said.

"When you are at a fire you have to rely on each other, you have to have each other's backs," he said.

"And when you get back from a job there would be days when you'd have to pick your mates up when they were down."

The reunion lunch was also attended by many wives of retired firefighters who were the psychological support back in the day when no official counselling or debriefing was offered to firies after traumatic jobs.

"Sometimes I still have flashbacks," Mr Brown said.

"My wife would be my counsellor. I'd get home at 3am and she'd be there for me."

"I'd worry about him every time he went out ... we wouldn't know where they were going," Mrs Brown said.

"And when he got home I'd let him talk about it."

Despite the tough aspects of the job, the retired firies agreed it had been the best job they'd done.

John Drew, 83, of Lismore, had been a firey for 42 years, including 12 years as Lismore captain.

"I joined when I was 16, even though it was illegal to at that age, and I'd get paid two shillings an hour," Mr Drew said.

While the equipment and methods had changed dramatically over the years, some things remained the same, Mr Drew said: "All your mates were good fellas."



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