Josh standing next to his work ute

Josh’s candle burns at both ends

Josh Clarke is a Department of Human Services staff member based in Alice Springs who doubles down on his workload by volunteering with the Bushfires Northern Territory (NT) Alice Springs Brigade.

Josh has been volunteering for over 13 years. He began by signing up for the South Australia (SA) Ambulance Services, as well as the SA Emergency Services and the SA Country Fire Service.

For the past nine years Josh has been in Alice Springs, where he’s climbed the ranks to Captain and is currently serving as a Lieutenant with Bushfires NT.

“We’re on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week, so it does get quite demanding and not just during the fire season. At this time of year we’re really busy in Alice Springs with community events”, says Josh.

“Basically if I get called out during work hours for an emergency, I’ll let my team leader know and he understands that I’ll see him when I’m back in town.”

The bushfire season in Alice Springs is similar to the rest of the country, but as part of Bushfires NT Josh is often called on to help elsewhere.

“Our busiest times are between August and the beginning of February, but we can also get called up from other areas like Darwin to give them a hand,” Josh explained.

“I’m actually going to be in Darwin in early July to give them a hand.

“They get massive bushfire seasons up in the top end and because their volunteer numbers are lower than ours we try and send as many people up there as we can”.

Josh has to work in all kinds of environments from the desert to the tropics and he recalls a particular incident in 2011 where Alice Springs was threatened by a large fire.

“In 2011 three sides of town were threatened from bushfire. To try and describe it, it was like driving into hell, all we could see was red glow either side of the truck.”

It’s an experience that has stayed with him.

“That doesn’t happen every year but it always crosses your mind when you get the callout,” Josh said.

“We have to travel sometimes up to 200 kilometres to get to a fire and we don’t always know what the circumstances are going to be like when we get there.

“There’s a lot of unknown factors when fighting fires in this region. To try and describe that to someone without experiencing it is quite difficult.”

It’s a tough job, but Josh says he’s up for the challenge and has a passion for the work.

“It’s a hard slog but my love of volunteering and knowing that I am giving something back to the community is what keeps me going.”