When bushfires swept through towns and properties in the state’s south west, Bunbury residents Leanne Toy and Rebecca Stokes did everything they could to help out.
Working day jobs serving customers at the Department of Human Services, the two ladies are no strangers to offering a helping hand, but it was their role as volunteer firefighters that landed them in the thick of the action during the fires.
Leanne said the volunteers are on call around the clock.
“Once you get the call, you drop everything you’re doing and go,” Leanne said.
“We fought fires in a bunch of different places around Yarloop and Waroona. You just follow orders and go where you need to.
“We were out there three days in a row, and worked about 45 – 50 hours in that period.”
Rebecca admits it is tiring work, but says all the volunteers are well-prepared.
“The adrenaline’s definitely there, but your training just kicks in,” Rebecca said.
Both Rebecca and Leanne said volunteering as fire fighters appealed to them as a way to give back to the community.
“I needed something extra in life,” said Rebecca, who has been volunteering for more than four years.
“I wanted to contribute, and felt this was worthy. It’s something I could do and should do, so if I was capable – why not?”
It was the same spirit that attracted Rebecca to her day job with the Department, where her colleagues have been at one-stop shop recovery centres in Harvey, Waroona, Cookernup and Australind, assisting bushfire-affected residents with claims for the Disaster Recovery Payment (DRP) and Disaster Recovery Allowance (DRA).
“When I started working for the Department, it was definitely about helping the community,” Rebecca said.
Leanne has also been serving customers affected by the bushfires at the Department’s Bunbury Service Centre and said she couldn’t compare her experience with the fires to what affected residents are going through.
“You can see the emotion as people come in to the service centre. I make sure they are getting the help they need, and try to make it as seamless as possible,” Leanne said.
Photo: Rebecca Stokes and Leanne Toy working at the Department of Human Services (left), and with their fellow volunteer firefighters in the Bunbury Brigade (right).