Generations of Mt Barker firey families celebrate 60 years of volunteer service
Mt Barker firefighters past and present celebrated 60 years of service to their community on Saturday with a procession through the heart of town.
Generations of Mt Barker Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service members were met with applause as they pulled the old competition cart and drove the brigade’s fire trucks behind a police escort along Lowood Road.
Celebrations culminated on Saturday night with a medal presentation honouring the service milestones of members.
Among the recipients was the brigade’s oldest member, 84-year-old Vern Drage, who was made a life member of the brigade after 55 years of service.
Vern served as captain of the Forest Hill Bush Fire Brigade for 15 years before joining Mt Barker.
“My brother was the captain and he got me going and from then on I couldn’t stop,” he said.
“I used to have a farm out at Forest Hill and I used to work from there because I was always that busy, if the brigade wanted anything I was first there.
“I’d fill up the vehicles ready for the next attack and from there on I just kept going.”
Vern said his best memories of the brigade were travelling WA and bringing home trophies as part of the brigade’s decorated carting team.
“I have made lots of friends in the brigade — they mean everything,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed what they’ve done over the time and as a brigade we have always looked after one another.”
Vern’s son Jeff was also rewarded, receiving a medal for 30 years with the brigade. Including siblings Carol, Mark and Ray, the family has given more than 140 years of service to their town.
The Drages are not the only family team in the tight-knit brigade, with husband and wife duo Becky and Mike Barnes — who serve alongside their three adult children — receiving 25-year medals.
“I met my husband on a fire call and he joined the fire brigade to meet me,” Ms Barnes said. “Now we are married and have three kids and all our kids are in the brigade now too.”
“At 16, I told them they had to volunteer at something to give back to the community. They grew up at the fire station so why not join?”
Mt Barker VFRS captain Luis Benavides said it was an emotional moment to see generations of the brigade come together for the 60th anniversary.
“It was absolutely great to see past members and the old running team come to the station and share the memories... it was a special moment,” he said.
Prospective members can attend training at Mt Barker VFRS on Lowood Road on the first and third Monday of every month.
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