Edinglassie NSW Rural Fire Service rookie Hugh Collins displays commitment in frantic fire season

LOCAL HERO: Hugh Collins has been part of the firefighting efforts this summer, despite being just 17-years-old.
LOCAL HERO: Hugh Collins has been part of the firefighting efforts this summer, despite being just 17-years-old.

This is part of Australian Community Media's Heroes of the HomeFront series, which is looking to highlight the brave efforts of firefighters all across the country.

DESPITE having only joined the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) eight months ago, Hugh Collins has had to face more flames than others might in an entire career.

At just 17, he has forfeited much of his summer to help with firefighting efforts at the likes of Rainbow Flat, Johns River and Putty Road with the Edinglassie Brigade.

Work and social life have had to take a back seat at times, which shows incredible commitment for such a young member of the community.

He said it was extremely rewarding and he enjoys doing his part to help people, although revealed that it hasn't come without intimidating moments.

"I had one 'oh sugar' moment when I'd just passed my basic training course and went to the big fires up at Forster at Rainbow Flat," he stated.

"I got caught on top of hill with fire coming up from both sides, and seeing fire all around you just makes things tick over in your mind.

"But, then you get that adrenaline rush which brings you through it and you don't really think about it until afterwards."

Fortunately for the apprentice boilermaker, his work has been accommodating over the past few months.

And, despite being hesitant to give a political comment given he's not even old enough to vote, Collins said it would be nice to get some form of government remuneration at the end of the saga.

"My work has been pretty supportive, not so much in pay, but they have given me the time off," he explained.

"Compensation for pay can be very beneficial as long as it's easier access than what it has been."

He indicated a register which logs volunteers and the amount of time they've spent off work could be useful, so those who work for private companies could receive help similar to that of government workers.

The experience has also made him physically exhausted at times, remarking that night shifts on the fire front have been difficult given his work schedule usually requires him to wake up at 4am.

Missing rugby league training sessions and weighing up whether to take a work or volunteer call have been some of the more challenging parts of the fire season thus far.

However, Collins made his future intentions regarding the NSW RFS very clear.

"I'm definitely going to be around for a while, the fire season looks like it is cooling down a bit but if it rears up again then I'm more than happy to keep helping," he said.

It has been Australia's lost summer. Drought, hail, floods and, worst of all, bushfires have ravaged communities all over the nation. But the selfless actions of friends, family, neighbours, strangers, local groups and volunteer organisations have inspired us and strengthened the bonds of community. Please join us in saying thanks to the heroes of the home front by sharing your stories of gratitude. To salute a person or a group, please use the form below.