The Landsborough Rural Fire Brigade (LRFB) building is one you might recognise as you drive up the Range, but how much do we know about it and the people involved?
by Angela Reedman Polinski
The Landsborough Rural Fire Brigade (LRFB) building sits opposite the sports grounds as the cars and buses pass by. But when our community faces flooding, fire or fierce storms, the dedicated team of everyday people suit up and prepare for action. This team has grit, heart and a long-standing drive to keep our community safe.
HT’s Angela Reedman-Polinski met with Craig Young to hear how the brigade was formed, what challenges they have faced and how the collective power of brigades is working across the hinterland.
Craig Young is a founding member of Landsborough Rural Fire Brigade (LRFB) and Caloundra Group Officer. He has served with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) for over 30 years, including 12 years as First Officer at LRFB.
“The beginnings of the current LRFB came to life in 1991 after the Peachester and Mount Mellum fires devastated the area. The fires burned fiercely behind our house, and the roar sounded like a jumbo jet through the night.
“After that, my wife, Linda, and I got together with a few locals to discuss solutions. We called a public meeting, and on October 3, 1991, with a new executive committee and membership in place, the fledgling brigade was born.
“Trevor Jakeman and his wife Helen joined the team, and we shared a range of skills including engineering, electrical, communications and machinery.
“Trev found a burnt-out 1942 Chevy Blitz, and working with Trevor ‘Tom’ Neucom, they completely rebuilt and restored it to create our first usable fire appliance, ‘Blitz’, in 1993.
“Blitz lasted nine years in service, and you can still see him at our open days, but he’s just for display now. Justin Evans donated a 1960’s Land Rover, which became our second vehicle.”
The brigade had two trucks now, but not a station. The local council made the land available for the brigade, and construction began on a station in March 1996.
“This was all-hands on, and everybody got involved over many months of weekends and community donations of cash, materials and labour.
“Since then, we have added the Stan Tutt training room, storage and ATV rooms to the building. We lined the truck bay ceiling and now have plenty of space for Open Days and medal presentations.
“I am proud of our strong and capable team. We ensure members get regular professional training and development, and it feels like a family atmosphere. Volunteers get to know each other as friends, and we enjoy working with other brigades across the range.”
The brigade shares training exercises and hazard reduction burns, planning and financial resources with the brigades in Beerwah, Glass House Mountains, Peachester, Crystal Waters, Conondale and Maleny to develop a whole area response team and support each other.
“We see entire families often work together, and we value the dedicated contributions people make to our brigade.”
Trevor Jakeman became First Officer for the years of 1995 – 2003. His wife, Helen Jakeman, was awarded QFES Champion of Change in 2020 and their son, Mark Jakeman, is the current serving First Officer since 2015.
“You can work in multiple roles across a team and contribute your time, energy and expertise,” continues Craig.
“As a team, we have faced massive fires, like the November 1994 Glass House fires. It was so bad the Bruce Highway was cut both north and southbound with the blaze jumping across four highway lanes.
“We had driven to a small property in the fire’s path. It was a narrow track into the property for our truck and the house was surrounded by tall grass. I radioed to the chopper above that I wanted to backburn to protect the property from burning down, but the concern was that it might connect with the existing fire.
“We went ahead with the backburn and saved the property. But the fire did join, and we had a new problem. I needed to get my team out quickly, and the track behind us had closed in.
“Quick thinking, a brief discussion and a strategic change meant we could use a small track to the left of the property and access a green grassy field while the fire passed over. I’ll always remember that day.
“Later, we found out that that property was an empty weekender that wasn’t maintained. Fire plans prevent unnecessary situations like that, risking firefighters and emergency service lives.”
The Landsborough station is also part of a bigger picture network that supports state-wide and national community service, which means travelling to fight fires in NSW at times.
“In 2000, six crew travelled from Landsborough to Nowra on the NSW South Coast and stayed at HMAS Albatross. It was a six-day deployment and after four days of not much happening, we continued doing assessments.
“On day five, everything changed. By 10.30am, the heat rose at Fisherman’s Paradise and we began door-to-door evacuations. Many people had fire plans in place and had already gone to safer areas.
“When we reached Berrara, the sky had turned black. The Erickson S-64 Air-Crane ‘Elvis’ was dropping huge amounts of water so powerful it broke big limbs off trees.
“It was an intense day, but we didn’t lose one house that day. We fought hard and stayed on the houses, doing our best to protect them.”
The recent storms here had the crew out driving tractors through floodwaters to access resources, chain-sawing trees to remove them from roads and tarping up temporary roofing.
“We always need extra hands that are capable, committed and care about our community,” Craig adds.
“We welcome you to join us for a meeting and see what we do. Our team works side by side and our families become melded through bonds and friendships.”
Are you interested in volunteering in the QFES? You can contact your local area team through qfes.qld.gov.au and discuss attending your next meeting.