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A lifetime of fighting fires

HUGE EFFORT: Col Harch AFSM has been recognised for 55 years of service with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
HUGE EFFORT: Col Harch AFSM has been recognised for 55 years of service with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Amy Lyne

WHEN Col Harch heard a siren 55 years ago it signalled the start of a career that has spanned more than five decades.

Col decided to became a firefighter in Laidley in 1959 and has since held every position that exists in the rural fire brigade. He is currently the fire warden for the Hatton Vale Summerholm region.

Col was awarded an Australian Fire Service Medal in 2010, the medal is the highest honour a fire fighter can receive.

"We were living very close to the fire station and every time the siren went I felt as though, being a country bloke and born on the land, I would like to join the fire brigade," he said.

"So I did, and stayed there until 1968. In 1968 we came out here to Summerholm, where we now live, and of course at that stage I naturally became a part of the Summerholm Fire Brigade."

Col said in those days the only equipment the brigade had was a tractor, a plough, a knap sack, a bag and a wet bag.

"In 1975 we had a meeting at the Hatton Vale School and we formed the Hatton Vale Summerholm Rural Fire Brigade, it was the Hatton Vale Summerholm bush fire brigade at that stage," he said.

Col said one of the biggest projects he was involved in was the building of the shed that the Hatton Vale Summerholm Rural Fire Brigade now calls home.

"With cooperation from the local Laidley council we built this shed and when we opened it, it was debt free and I think that is a pretty good achievement," he said.

Col has witnessed his fair share of devastation.

"I have been through some horrific fire scenes when I was in Laidley and those memories, they stuck with me and it just sort of gave me strength to keep going," he said.

"To be able to do something for the community, that is what keeps me going."

Col said the support from his family, his wife Enid and two children was also crucial.

"We have had big fires and we have gone out, everything just went like clockwork and we were able to prevent a disaster more or less and those are things that make you really pleased to be in the brigade," he said.

"At the end of the day, you can see what you have done, it makes you happy."

Col also noted one of his achievements as setting up the program Fire Wise in 1997 when he was group officer and along with his deputy's, running a colouring competition and travelling to local schools promoting fire safety.

Members of the Hatton Vale Summerholm Rural Fire Brigade, family, community and friends joined together on Sunday to surprise and honour the man who they have respected for so long for 55 years of continuous service in the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.

At 75, Col will continue as fire warden and is keen to continue as a firefighter.

Topics:  hatton vale, queensland fire and emergency services, rural fire brigade


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