Bushfire volunteers join exclusive honour club

Edward ScownGeraldton Guardian
Kevin Forrest, Keith Hughes, Trevor Morrison, Don Sparks and Garry Criddle were all awarded for their lifetime achievement
Camera IconKevin Forrest, Keith Hughes, Trevor Morrison, Don Sparks and Garry Criddle were all awarded for their lifetime achievement Credit: Picture: Edward Scown

The Maslen-McDonald Award is a most exclusive honour among local volunteer firefighters.

Only five men have achieved it in the 15 years since its inception. This week, that list doubled when another five were added to the Mid West honour roll.

The award is only achieved through a lifetime of “outstanding service to the Mid West-Gascoyne region”.

Each of this week’s recipients — Kevin Forrest, Keith Hughes, Trevor Morrison, Don Sparks, and Garry Criddle — have served the Waggrakine and Cape Burney bushfire brigades for more than 20 years each.

They are described as the backbone of bushfire fighting deployments.

“Having these guys as part of a team on deployment always filled us with confidence as we knew we could rely on (them) to get things done, and done properly,” the nomination document stated.

“Nothing was too much trouble, it didn’t matter if we had to camp out on stations ... as long as they got a feed and a beer at night, all was good.”

Mid West area officer Ian Comben was full of praise for the men, who he said were always the first to put their hands up to fight fires, whether they were close to home or in far flung corners of WA — all without a cent in compensation.

“They take time away from their work, away from their families, to go and help out,” he said.

The award was named after Richard Maslen, who brought Geraldton’s first bushfire brigade to life in the early 1950s, serviced with a homemade fire truck he designed himself.

Stephen McDonald won the Maslen award in 2011, and after his death in 2016, his name was added to further honour his service.

“Both were exceptional managers of fire, and exceptional managers of men,” Mr Comben said.

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