31 July 2023

Local firies earn some new fans and hose down fears with visit to Greenacres

| Keeli Royle
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Greenacres workers shaking hands with Wollongong FRNSW Station Officer Fletcher Gibson

Greenacres workers were visited by local Fire and Rescue crews. Photos: Keeli Royle.

The big red trucks had their lights and sirens blaring but there was no blaze in sight, just smiles and appreciation as Wollongong firefighters met some of their biggest fans at Greenacres.

The Fire and Rescue crews arrived at the disability service provider’s headquarters to cheers and applause, with participants excited to learn more from the local heroes.

Greenacres Leisure and Skills Coordinator Shaun Ferguson said the visit was part of a program in which Greenacres engages with emergency service providers each month.

“It’s just about connecting with the community,” Shaun said. “It’s also a way for us to say thank you for the great work they do.”

Greenacres worker with FRNSW crew with fire hose.

Participants got a front seat spot in the truck and even used the fire hose.

Some people got to examine the cabin of a fire truck and even try out some of the equipment.

“The guys really appreciate it, they get to see what equipment they have, and they get some photos and ask some questions about fire safety and how they can do that at home and what do they do in an emergency,” Shaun said.

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Station officer Fletcher Gibson said many participants were clearly passionate about the work Fire and Rescue did, and wanted to get further details first-hand.

“They asked surprisingly technical questions, a lot of them know a lot more about what we do and what we have than what we would assume, just because they’re so interested.

“They ask us how much water we have and how high our ladder truck goes and what do we do and what do the tools that they see do.”

Painting of firetruck and burning tree with Greenacre artist.

The event was aimed at thanking local emergency services for their hard work.

The firies were presented with a hand-painted artwork created onsite and some baked goods to be shared back at the station.

“It’s pretty heartwarming that someone’s gone to that effort for us,” Fletcher said.

“It’s always special, it’s nice that they think so highly of us and we’re so well received.”

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And while the visit was mainly about community engagement, creating trusting relationships between emergency service workers and people with disabilities can be vital in the case of an incident.

“It may take some of the stigma away when we do come,” Fletcher said, “Because it’s big trucks, it’s noisy and the situation’s usually pretty bad but if they can see underneath that we’re just like their brothers, friends and dads and are just there to help them and we care.

“It helps to break down barriers.”

Greenacres and FRNSW crews in front of fire trucks.

Greenacres are running a program where they get monthly visits from different emergency workers.

Greenacres have also been visited by police and the SES in recent months as part of the program and there’s more to come with events planned with paramedics, army reservists and lifesavers.

But according to Greenacres participant Brock Mandaric, the firies are favourites.

“It’s been very good, I got to use the fire hose and get in the truck,” he said.

“I like how they rescue people, they’re really cool.”

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