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Queensland bushfire emergency sees inspirational 'Dad's Army' of volunteer firefighters step up

By Nicole Hegarty and Brad Marsellos, Friday November 15, 2019 - 15:52 EDT
ABC licensed image
John Foster (left) took a photo of the crew when they realised they were all over 70, and posted it to Facebook. - ABC licensed

A group of volunteer rural firefighters all aged over 70 are challenging the retiree stereotype, donning firefighting gear and helping put out blazes near Woodgate during the bushfire emergency in southern Queensland.

The "Dad's Army" of 20 retirees had two crews out fighting a large bushfire burning near Woodgate Road and Woppis Road towards Walkers Point Road in Woodgate this week.

John Foster was one of the crew who volunteered putting his retirement on hold to help protect the community of 1,000.

He said the firefighting effort over the last two days has been intense but everyone was chipping in, regardless of their age.

"Woodgate, being what it is, there's a lot of older people here — retirees — quite a lot of them are over 70 and I'm one of them," Mr Foster said.

"When I first came to Woodgate one of my friends said the best thing to do is to join the rural fire brigade, so I did — it's a good way to meet people".

Selfie gains social media attention

Mr Foster said the crew were out on the fire-front yesterday when they realised they were all aged over 70, took a photo and posted it to Facebook.

To the crew's surprise, that photo has since gathered a lot of attention on social media.

"I took a photo just to remember it and yes, that's the result." he said.

Sylvia Bulman posted on social media to thank "Dad's Army".

"It's people like you who have such big hearts that really bring tears to my eyes. You guys are the BEST and none of you look a day over 50," Ms Bulman wrote on Facebook.

Diannne Ryan also shared her sentiments.

"Take care — you're an inspiration to everyone," Ms Ryan wrote.

Jenny Hurley holidays at Woodgate and said she was thankful for the crew's efforts.

"Well done guys! Thank you so much for looking after our favourite holiday destination," Ms Hurley wrote.

The efforts of the 20 retirees have challenged the .

It is a response to what is perceived to be some older people's sense of entitlement, outdated ways of thinking, or condescending attitudes towards younger generations.

Mr Foster said he considered adding it to the viral post.

"I thought I'd put an 'OK Boomer' on the end of it, but I thought that might be just a bit too provocative," Mr Foster said.

Fire takes toll but crews remain positive

The bushfire, which has been burning since Wednesday, resulted in the closure of the only road in and out of the township.

Mr Foster said the fire had destroyed much of the Wallum forest in the area.

"That'll take a number of years to come back again," Mr Foster said.

"Further out of town the fire's been faster-moving … and it's really destroyed it.

"In other areas, it's gone a little bit slower and really destroyed it. On the other hand, banksias need fire to rejuvenate".


© ABC 2020

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