In good times and bad, fire and flood, thick and thin...

Tracey Clarke of Unearthed Streetwear in Mary St and Stacey Lowe of The Royal Hotel were among grateful retail operators who will soon be back in business, thanks to all the volunteers.
Tracey Clarke of Unearthed Streetwear in Mary St and Stacey Lowe of The Royal Hotel were among grateful retail operators who will soon be back in business, thanks to all the volunteers. Renee Pilcher

IT was the last job of a sticky airless day and an awful stinking week.

For Gympie and the never-daunted rural fire brigade volunteers who helped the region clean up after yet another flood disaster, there were no good days this week.

"They do an awesome job mate," said a man in the front yard of his Iron St home on Thursday, as he welcomed the volunteers and fire fighting equipment, there to hose the mud out of a flood-affected downstairs room.

Fire hoses became cleaning equipment all over town as volunteers toiled through days of weary but determined effort, to avoid the serious public health threat which would otherwise have quickly followed the floodwaters' fall.

Veteran brigade first officer Ted Uebergang won the hearts and minds of flood victims as his crews hosed foul and dangerously slippery debris, silt and sludge from footpaths, business premises and homes, helping just about anyone who needed it.

But if you ask Ted, it was everybody else who saved the day - especially the volunteers with pumps and hoses and the three invisible heroes, all women, who kept it the whole opertion organised at the Divisional Command nerve centre, set up for the job at Veteran Brigade headquarters in Sandy Creek Rd.

Kay Gibson, Glenne Lenske and Bernadette Wright, performed the communications and management tasks so vital to any serious emergency response, whether fire or flood.

That meant extreme hours and extreme operational pressure.

The job was officially ordered by Queensland Fire and Rescue Service area director for rural operations, Warren Edwards.

"Our divisional command centre worked through the QFRS incident control centre, which was relocated to Gympie from Caloundra," Mr Uebergang explained.

"Incident control for the Gympie clean-up was bestowed on us because of all the other crises in our area," he said.

Queensland Fire and Rescue Service crews, urban, auxiliary and rural, were involved in the clean-up, with most of the numbers being made up from rural brigade volunteers.

"At one point there were 17 rural fire appliances in the Gympie area.

"They worked Tuesday, Wednesday and completed the job on Thursday.

"Rural fire crews are very experienced in this sort of work," Mr Edwards said, "due to the number of clean-ups in the past 20 years.

"They don't just put fires out, they also do wash-downs after floods."

And that was just part of the larger regional effort.

"There are two crews from Gympie helping in Maryborough and two have gone to Gayndah to wash down up there. Some from the Sunshine Coast have gone to Bundaberg today," he said.

"Every day's been horrible," Mr Uebergang said. "We've done about 130 clean-up jobs (some major)."

Gympie Times


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