Crash, fire, false alarm are all in a day’s work
BY DAY, Justin Buhagiar is a maintenance manager and licenced electrician.
But during his downtime, he trades in his toolkit for a truck as one of the region's auxiliary firefighters.
Unlike full-time fireys, auxiliary firefighters are casual, station-based firefighters who respond to emergencies.
They form an essential part of the service and with 16 already on the force, the Airlie Beach Fire and Rescue Station is calling for more residents to lend a helping hand.
Mr Buhagiar signed up to become an auxiliary firefighter in February last year and he has dived right into the deep end.
"It's not like a normal job," he said.
"You could have a car crash, a bushfire, a building fire or even just an alarm for a building … you don't really know what you're going to a lot of the time."
Mr Buhagiar was among the volunteers deployed to Canberra to assist with fighting bushfires that ravaged the country in late 2019 and early 2020.
He described it as a "real eye-opener" and an opportunity to help during someone's darkest days.
The desire to help during a time of need is what drew fellow auxiliary firefighter Luke Addis to the service.
Mr Addis has also been involved in the Whitsunday branch for about a year but would have signed up sooner had he known about the camaraderie of the station.
"I will admit, I did see a sign up probably 12 months before I came down and for whatever reason, I don't have a good one, I didn't make it down here, but I wish I did," he said.
"I've met some really good people and it's one of the main reasons that's kept me hanging around."
Training to become an auxiliary firey involves a week-long course that is then built upon over the following months.
Beyond the practical skills, Mr Addis said it provided him with the ability to give back to the community.
"We don't really know what we're walking into until we see it for ourselves," he said.
"I like the idea of being able to help someone when they're not having a good day."
Expressions of interest or any questions about joining the Airlie Beach auxiliary firefighters can be sent to the station's captain Brodyn Friend at email@example.com