RFS volunteer Gary Hooker.

Gary has taken many of the bushfire images shared via the Emergency Services Agency this summer.

12 February 2020

Gary Hooker has been a volunteer firefighter in the ACT for 18 years, with the pressures of this season right up there with those of his first, which included the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

A veteran of more than 200 fires, Gary Hooker reckons the 2019-20 fire season has been his busiest in 18 years.

‘My first season in 2003 was like this one,’ Gary says.

‘It was constant, day after day of effort.’

The Crew Leader for the Guises Creek RFS Brigade has been a part of the massive undertaking to fight the Orroral Valley Fire, which has threated Canberra this summer.

Gary has also taken many of the bushfire images shared via the Emergency Services Agency this summer. His images have allowed the community to see what the fire zone is like without travelling there themselves, which has helped to prevent disaster tourism.

Gary has also been deployed interstate this season, and in previous years.

He has been on interstate ACT RFS Strike Team deployments to places like Coffs Harbour, Braidwood, Nerriga and Adaminaby.

‘I also went to the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009,’ Gary says.

Fortunately for Gary and his crew, there have been quieter seasons, but even then, there is work to be done.

There is a lot more to it than just putting out fires,’ Gary says of his role as an RFS volunteer.

‘We also attend community events and other engagements, including educating people to ensure bushfire preparedness and encouraging the next generation to be part of a very worthwhile organisation.’

Crews of between two and five volunteers train fortnightly all year round, with extra training available for competencies and skills they wish to acquire.

The smaller the truck the more experienced crew you need,’ Gary says.

‘Crews on a heavy tanker can be five people, smaller vehicles may have only two people.’

The time commitment has of course impacted on his work and family life, but Gary tries to strike a balance.

‘It can be a juggle at times, but I enjoy giving back to the community,’ he says.

‘I deliberately wanted to do something different.’

Gary says his family provide their full support. He has a ‘very loving and understanding’ wife, two adult sons and two grandchildren.

‘However, when we are in emergency situations, RFS does tend to become the number one priority,’ he says.

As for advice for Canberrans who may be considering joining the RFS, Gary recommends that they consider the level of commitment they would be able to make.

‘It is very rewarding as an individual,’ he says.

‘There is a lot more to it than just firefighting, and it is a great way to give back to the broader community.’

For information about volunteering with the ACT ESA, visit esa.act.gov.au/join-us/volunteering

Remain prepared as the bushfire season continues by staying up to date and downloading your bushfire survival plan at esa.act.gov.au

All Canberra

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