Australia Weather News

Andrew Slade has been a volunteer firefighter since the 1980s. - ABC

While the Queensland bushfire disaster has blackened one million hectares, widespread damage to homes and human life has largely been avoided.

It is something that could not have been achieved without the volunteers, many who left their jobs, income and daily lives behind to battle blazes, make sandwiches and direct traffic, right alongside the thousands of emergency personnel.

It is a feat even the Queen has acknowledged.

"I pay tribute to the commitment and dedication of the firefighters, other emergency services personnel, and the volunteers who are working tirelessly to contain the fires," the Queen said in a message.

But for those who have moved towards the fire when the compulsion for many is to run, a tribute is unnecessary.

'It is emotionally draining' — Rodney Hindle, Carmila

For two weeks Rodney Hindle has not gone to work.

Instead, the first officer of the Carmila District Fire Brigade has been coordinating volunteers on the front line, 100 kilometres south of Mackay.

"I think it would be nearly two weeks that we haven't done anything on the farm — me, my two boys, my employee," Rod Hindle, locally known as 'Rocket', said.

"We've been flat out from six o'clock in the morning to seven, 10 at night.

"It's been full-on."

For the modest cane farmer and volunteer of 39 years, four hours' sleep has been a "good night".

"I'll be glad when it's over, put it that way," he laughed.

Last Wednesday was the hardest day for Mr Hindle, when the relentless blaze turned its attention to his property.

"It probably wasn't [emotional] at the time, it was just a reaction — 'look darl, put the sprinkler on, because I think it's heading our way,'" he said.

"At the time it wasn't too bad, it's probably now that you sit back and reflect on it you think, 'holy hell'.

"It actually gets emotional right now more than then."

'The weather has really hit us' — Robin Gaytenbeek, South Australia

When South Australia's Robin Gaytenbeek got the call to come and help with the Queensland bushfires, it was an easy decision.

"I've been a volunteer for 26 years, I actually grew up through Ash Wednesday at age three as a child," Mr Gaytenbeek said.

"So emotionally, that's what triggered me to become a volunteer firefighter when I grew up.

"My father was, and my son has actually joined in the last year."

As the strike team leader for a South Australian deployment, Mr Gaytenbeek said conditions have been different to what his crew are used to.

"The weather has really hit us — the humidity and the heat is unusual for us, but the fire behaviour itself is lower than we're used to with these winds and temperatures, so it's been interesting."

Despite the weather and different conditions, Mr Gaytenbeek said there has been no issues working right beside the local crews.

"We've come from across South Australia, but I think we've all gelled straight away because we've got similar mindsets," he said.

"Volunteers are like that."

'One day at home since November 9' — Tammy Schulte, Carmila

While the bushfire has dominated headlines for the last fortnight, plenty of Queenslanders have fighting the blaze for much longer.

Tammy Schulte, who with husband Peter owns two cattle properties at Carmila West, has been dealing with fires for almost a month.

"[The fire] impacted our property on the 9th of November so we did two backburns which were very successful."

"It's been long and exhausting but the support we've had is just amazing," she said.

And while Ms Schulte is not a volunteer as such, her name is renowned in the Queensland community for consistently being around to help.

"I think I've had one day at home [in a month] — home being Sarina," she said.

"But in that sense, I haven't always been out in the fire front — I've been running errands, feeding these wonderful helpers.

"I've had a couple of meltdowns, but you just keep going."

'We don't want the attention' — Jim Shannon, Bloomsbury

Jim Shannon estimates he has been the secretary of the Bloomsbury Rural Fire Brigade for "30-odd years".

"Or it might be longer than that, it might be 40-odd years, it's a fair while, anyway," he said.

Mr Shannon has been working day and night to help control a large blaze in the region north of Mackay that has razed grazing land and killed livestock.

"We've had bad fires before but this is probably the biggest one I've been on," he said.

The mix of volunteers at the Bloomsbury brigade ranges from people in their early 20s to their 70s.

"Some of us older firefighters, we don't want the attention, we just want to go and put the fire out," Mr Shannon said.

'There is a role for everybody' — Andrew Slade, Williamtown

Andrew Slade travelled from Williamtown, NSW, to help in Queensland in a volunteering capacity, in a role he has performed for almost 40 years.

"I started volunteering in the service in the early 80s when the shopkeeper would tell me to come 'round cause we have got a fire in town," the Salt Ash Lower Hunter Zone Rural Fire Service volunteer said.

"There is a role for everybody in the service and what their capabilities may be."

ABC