The Roy Rose Fire Shed was named after its founder from Thora Valley’s well-known pioneering ‘Rose’ family. This fire shed has served the Thora community for 50-60 years, and has many local stories of fighting fire fronts across this dense bushland valley. In recent times it has become better known as the Thora Fire Station, or Thora RFS and is currently captained by Todd Travers. We caught up with Todd to hear about his recent recruitment drive success and his new team, their award-winning trip and how this RFS Captain relaxes.
What is your connection with the Bellingen Shire?
I first visited Bellingen 23 years ago and was instantly drawn to the Shire. I continued to visit annually – usually to tie in with the community markets – for eight years until I bit the bullet and moved from the northern beaches in Sydney. That was 15 years ago and I haven’t looked back.
Apart from driving that big red truck (every boy’s dream), what got you interested in joining the RFS?
I joined in about 2014 because I like helping people, and I also saw it as a great way contribute to, and participate in this amazing local community. The RFS is the biggest volunteer organisation in the world and being a part of the RFS gives me the opportunity to help the community, not just on the fire front, but also at MVA’s (motor vehicle accidents), burn pile assists and, importantly community fire education.
What are you doing when you’re not in Rural Fire Service mode?
I work at the local Bellingen Hardware shop. I love spending time with my three beautiful children and my amazing wife Nerida. I also really enjoy playing the guitar.
So this means you get discounts on hoses and buckets for the truck…?
Only the red ones.
And why haven’t we seen you busking around the Shire or strumming a tune in one of our venues?
All I can say is Open Mic night at No.5 Church Street – watch out, I’m coming! (When I’ve practiced a bit more.)
How did you go about starting a recruitment drive to build the troops?
Starting about mid 2017 I put together Open Days at the Station, as well as taking the kids out on Sundays and doing fire information letterbox drops and a recruitment letter. We got 2 members on the first drive, then 4, and then another 2.
So we now are nine:
John Imrie (The Bear), Phil O’Brien, Stuart Scott, Shaun Robinson, Peter van Brussells, Jacob Cooper, Sydney Eyre, Sue Travers and me.
It was, and still is a big commitment but well worth it. Rachel Eggins from Coffs Harbour Fire Control Centre worked effortlessly with me for guidance & materials to make it all happen.
How should people interested in joining their local RFS go about it?
They should call Coffs Harbour fire control centre on 6659 7800 and they will walk you through the process.
Tell us about the submission and ultimately your win at the recent ‘RFS Region North’ for Best Crew Leader (Todd), Best Performing Crew and Best Presented Truck?
Admittedly being a new crew leader and having all new crew members, I thought it would be a good learning opportunity to attend the northern region exercises. I consulted with the crew and mentioned that there were awards to be won. However with more experienced crews up there I wasn’t getting my hopes up too much. So we decided rather than focus too much on the awards, we’d go to enjoy the experience and learn a thing or two. I had to fight back the tears when they started handing out the awards. It was an extremely proud moment, not just for myself but for John, Phil & Shaun. As the underdogs, we rose to the occasion! It’s also a credit to all the staff at the CCHC (Coffs Harbour Fire Control Centre) and all the volunteers who work selflessly to guide and train us.
Your most rewarding RFS experience?
It’s a hard question. There are rewarding moments in most of the experiences, but in different ways. It’s mainly about being able to help – wherever we can.
Do you have ‘Open Days’ where people can come along and kids can experience what a fire truck looks like up-close-and-personal?
Yep and we pride ourselves on that. The next one will be 22nd September 10am – 4pm which will also be a community information day (Thora Open Day). There’ll be information on fire prevention, and updates on new rules for local property owners.
What would you like to be remembered for?
For being me (since I can’t be Bruce Willis).
What really annoys you?
Fruit loops being in the cereal aisle.
So if they were in the sweets aisle instead?
I’d be very excited! It’s where they belong.
How do you relax?
What level of fitness does one need to participate in the RFS?
There’s a job for everyone! You don’t have to join just to fight fires. There’s a host of jobs including administrative ones, so don’t be shy.
In the movie Todd-gate, who plays you?
Bruce Willis – uncanny resemblance I’m told. What do you think?