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January 30, 2023

Firefighters receive lifetime membership

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Group Commander Bob Graham, former Main Arm RFS Captain Lance Hopson, Peter Harriden, Former Main Arm RFS Captain ‘Scotty’ Ian Scott, Steve Phelps, Main Arm RFS Captain Mark Stanford, and Mick Pike, President of the Main Arm Brigade. Photo Aslan Shand

During the 2019–20 Black Summer fires, we were reminded what a vital and important role the volunteers of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) play both in fighting fires, and bringing the community together. 

The Main Arm RFS recognised the valuable contribution of its members, Steve Phelps, and Peter Harriden, last weekend, by awarding them a lifetime membership in an emotional ceremony at Kohinur Hall. 

Mick Pike, President of the Main Arm Brigade, highlighted the sheer number of pages that had been filled in, detailing the amount of training and awards both men had achieved during their many years with the RFS. 

‘Steve has been around since the hazy mists of time, when I first started in the ’70s. You’re close to your 40 years,’ said Group Commander Bob Graham. 

‘Longevity’s not a mark of people’s contribution’, he said, ‘It’s character that counts, and input, and Steve has been the glue that has run this brigade for a long time. He has held a lot of positions’. 

‘The position he has held the most, by far the most important he has held, is training officer – for about twenty years. 

‘He continually bought up new ideas for training, always been a staunch brigade member, and is always there for call out and deployments, and on top of that, a bloody good mate.’

Former Main Arm RFS Captain Lance Hopson, Peter Harriden, Former Main Arm RFS Captain ‘Scotty’ Ian Scott, Steve Phelps, and Main Arm RFS Captain Mark Stanford. Photo Aslan Shand

Hippies and hillbillies 

‘In 1976, Frannie Mills restructured the RFS in the Byron Shire Council, and it was after that that we started getting organised with regular meetings and we started appointing officers’, said Mick. 

‘These two guys took on the training role’. 

‘Back then, we had the reputation of the Main Arm hippies and hillbillies, a pretty crude bushfire brigade. 

Former Main Arm RFS Captain Lance Hopson, Peter Harriden, Former Main Arm RFS Captain ‘Scotty’ Ian Scott, Steve Phelps, and Main Arm RFS Captain Mark Stanford. Photo Aslan Shand

Top of the Shire

‘Owing to these guys’ efforts we went on then – and it wasn’t long, and by the end of the ’80s we had one of the most qualified brigades in the Shire, owing to these guys’.

Numerous brigade members spoke to the commitment and encouragement that Steve and Peter had given them to ensure they got through their training and continued to develop their skills. 

‘For the last three to four months, if it wasn’t for Steve, Peter, and the other Steve, and Bob, our new recruits probably wouldn’t have passed their basic firefighter [qualification]’, said Captain of Billinudgel and Ocean Shores fire brigade, Darren Cornale.

‘It is just not the Main Arm Community, it is the wider community that these guys help as well’.


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