From the Newsroom

Chanel and Chris James of Woombah RFS, feel blessed to be able to give back to their community. Image: Lynne Mowbray

Giving back to the community

Lynne Mowbray


Volunteer fire fighter Mr Chris James from the Woombah RFS, said that he became a member of the RFS during the 2019 fires.

“I tried to get involved assisting the fire brigade when the big fires were on, but I was told that you had to be accredited,” Mr James said.

“So, as soon as training became available, my wife Chanel and I got accredited as soon as we could.

“We’ve done as much training as possible so we’re not just BF (bush fire) accredited, we’re VF (village) and advanced fire fighters now, but apart from being involved in these flood disasters and vehicle accidents, we haven’t seen a fire like we did in 2019,” he said.

Mr James said that although he hasn’t seen a lot of action as an accredited fire fighter yet, his experiences with fire date back to 27 February 2006.

“My business ‘Café Boulevarde’ and building and my home above, burnt down in River Street, Maclean,” he said.

“There were several of us living above in the (residential) units above the Café Boulevarde shops (precinct in River Street), that were totally lost along with the building next door.

“It took us 18 months to build, but less than 12 minutes to burn down – which puts a lot of things into perspective.

“I was always very thankful, and I always dreamed of aspiring to some form of rescue service.

“Maclean Fire and Rescue were the first unit to attend our fire and they did what they could but essentially, they couldn’t stop the fire that was in Café Boulevarde and the Blue Wren business in the building next door.

“They did however stop it from spreading – cause as we know, potentially it could have been the whole town of Maclean, that was vulnerable.

“These guys, along with other units from RFS and Fire and Rescue from Grafton and Yamba, attended on the day. I think it was probably one of the biggest incidents in the way of fire, that Maclean has ever seen.

“So, I guess that subconsciously, that’s probably why I wanted to become involved in the Woombah Fire Brigade – the community in which I live.

“Just giving back to the community.

“It’s a proud moment when I go out to jobs and Fire and Rescue are out there and we’re there to assist them on the site.

“Having our own business, my wife and I are lucky that we’re able to manage how involved we are in the fire brigade, and we can understand how that can impact on different people, with different lifestyles.

“It’s definitely a self-fulfilling thing to be able to give back in a voluntary way and to be able to go out and assist,” he said.