TEEN’S BRAVERY: Young firefighter earns prestigious award
The 2019-20 bushfires were the worst in living memory for most in New South Wales - lives were lost, homes were destroyed and some endangered species were believed to be driven to extinction.
When then Lockyer Valley teenager Tia Breed got the call to say she was being deployed to help the fire fight effort, she packed up her things and embarked on a day-long trip to the disaster zone.
The Gatton Ag Science student has now won an award for her efforts from the Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, recognising her outstanding contribution to help combat the flames and aid the community.
With a very nervous mum at home, Tia took everything that was happening in her stride, and arrived in the coastal town of Bermagui where strong and rapidly changing winds provided a grim outlook for the town.
In an interview with the Gatton Star, Tia said she first signed up to volunteer firefighting as a high school student at Noosa District State High, in 2016.
Having moved to Gatton to study at university, the now 20-year-old is a dual member of the Gatton Springdale Rural Fire Brigade and her local brigade at home on the Sunshine Coast.
"I wouldn't have been able to meet half of the community here that I have if it weren't for firefighting," Tia said.
While on holiday from uni and seeing the media coverage of the devastating fires down south, Tia put her hand up for deployment to New South Wales.
"I contacted my brigade secretary and said that if New South Wales was looking for people to deploy I am more than happy to go," Tia said.
A week later, Tia, one of the youngest members of her brigade, got a call asking her to come down.
"I was a little bit nervous but I knew that I was trained to help protect myself and my crew," Tia said.
The first day on the ground was spent driving around monitoring the situation and trying to ease the minds of the residents and answer their questions too.
Then in the afternoons she helped to put out spot fires so they would "not spread any further".
A "good chunk" of the third day was spent door knocking residents in another local town where fire had ripped through the night before.
"It was intense," Tia said adding seeing such devastation was "so disheartening".
Six months after her efforts on the front line, Tia was told she and another three members of the Gatton Springdale brigade would be receiving rewards for their efforts.
"It felt good to know that I was able to help out to some degree," Tia said.
Tia said her "very protective" mum and her other "more relaxed" family members were "super proud" of her achievement.
As part of her award, Tia received a New South Wales Premier's Bushfire Emergency Citation, letter from the premier of New South Wales and a certificate co-signed by the premier and Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Shane Fitzsimmons.
She also received an embroidered commemorative cap and badge for her efforts.