Hastings resident Lynton Blythe has just received a 50 year Long Service Award from the NSW Rural Fire Brigade, recognising his remarkable commitment to serving the community he loves. Chrissy Jones chats with Lynton.
50 Years of voluntary active involvement in the NSW Rural Fire Service – what an achievement, Lynton. Where was the award ceremony held, and who attended?
The ceremony was held at the Rural Fire Headquarters in Cameron Street, Wauchope.
Member for Oxley Andrew Stoner, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Services Phil Koperberg, Rural Fire Service NSW Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and all the local rural volunteer bush fire brigades had members in attendance.
It was pretty special to receive the award in front of all of them, and it is something I will remember for the rest of my life.
What were the awards you received?
I picked up a few: 50 Year Long Service Award, National Medal – 15 years service, National Medal 1st Clasp – 25 years service, National Medal 2nd Clasp – 35 years service and the National Medal 3rd Clasp for 45 years service to the NSW Rural Fire Service.
You have lived in the Pappinbarra Valley, 30 minutes or so west of Wauchope your whole life. How and why did you become involved with the Rural Fire Brigade?
Yes, I was born and raised on Pappinbarra and have lived and worked all my life within a 10 km radius of where I was born!
Well, back in 1954 everyone became involved in the Brigade. Volunteers came and went over the years, and you had to be nominated by your peers or members of the community to get awards.
I made Captain of the Hollisdale Brigade in 1975, a position I held until 2003.
Tell us how the fire fighting equipment has changed over the years?
When I started on the brigade back in ‘54, we turned up to a fire with a knapsack full of water. And when we ran out, we used green bushes and the McLeod tool to put the fire out!
Then we used the water trailer, which Reg Tarrant towed behind a 1975 4WD Land Cruiser.
In 1993, we acquired a lump of land donated by the Pappinbarra Progress Association, and a fire shed was built. It still stands today.
Ray Cooper, who was Mayor of the Hastings Shire at the time, officially opened the fire shed, and Ron Cross was the first fire chief of the Hollisdale Rural Fire Brigade.
A few years later we were given an old 4WD, which we used for many years as the main fire fighting truck. In 2000, we acquired a new Mitsubishi Canter fire truck.
In the years when I was Captain, I used to take the vehicles for a drive at least once a week to make sure that they went first go when there was an emergency.
You didn’t want problems with the truck if someone’s house was burning down!
During your 50 years of fire fighting in the Upper Hastings, you must have seen some tragedies and heartaches?
In all that time I have seen some things, yes. Houses burned to the ground, several car accidents on the winding, narrow country roads haven’t been enjoyable to attend, and I have witnessed 2 fatalities – which made some experiences not so good.
Are you still actively involved in the Hollisdale Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade?
Yes, but only as the Fire Permit Officer, as I have had a few health problems in recent years.
If people want to burn off on their property, they need to see me to get a permit. Keeps me involved in the Brigade, and I get to socialise a little too.
What’s so rewarding about being involved in the Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade?
I guess the main one would be the comradeship that you have with other volunteers you fight side by side with. We look after one another’s backs when we are fighting the fires.
When the fires been put out and you’re all finished with the clean up, you sit down and have a cool beer and talk about the day that you had just had.
What would you say to young members of the community to get them involved with the Rural Fire Brigades in their areas?
What I would say to the young members to get them involved … Well, even today it is very rewarding to be able to look after your neighbours, their homes, land and livestock.
Back when I started, fire fighting training was just common sense passed down from fathers, uncles and brothers. It just came natural. If you were born and bred on the land, you joined the Rural Fire Brigade to help your neighbours.
Even with all you have to go through with the training to become a volunteer fire fighter nowadays, it is a vital part of community services, and one that we need young people to join in.
Whether fighting bush fires or assisting during other emergencies such as floods, storms or road accidents, volunteers are needed more and more nowadays.
I would encourage the young in the community, men and women, to join the Rural Fire Brigade today to help not only themselves in more ways than I can say, but to help their family and friends in times of need.
It is important for people to remember that like so many other service organisations in our community, the Rural Fire Service members are volunteers.
Volunteers are often seen as the backbone of an amazingly diverse range of community services in the Hastings. RFS volunteers are the backbone of the Fire Service and deserve all of our sincere gratitude.
Lynton didn’t volunteer for the awards or accolades; he volunteered for his family, friends and neighbours. He has selflessly given up his time to help his community and areas further afield when the call for help has gone out over the years, often in the face of grave danger.
The 50 year Service Medal, along with the National Medals and clasps from the NSW Rural Fire Service he has just received are an expression of appreciation for Lynton’s on-going hard work for the community.
Well done Lynton, and thank you.