HELPING HAND: Volunteer firefighter Pieter Withoos of the Mount Maurice Rural Fire Brigade.
HELPING HAND: Volunteer firefighter Pieter Withoos of the Mount Maurice Rural Fire Brigade. Sarah Steger

QAL worker joins rural fire brigade on a whim, commits 12 years

"I'M GOING to be out in the bush anyway so I might as well join."

That was the attitude of Mount Maurice Rural Fire Brigade fourth officer Pieter Withoos when he decided to join the volunteer service.

Since that day 12 years ago, Pieter has developed a growing appreciation of the power and destruction a wildfire can unleash.

"You've got to treat them with the respect they deserve," he said.

"Some people aren't aware of the damage that can be done in their areas and that's why they don't volunteer," the 58-year-old said when asked why his brigade was struggling to get even six members at times.

With a full-time job, a wife and three children, Pieter's day-to-day grind is busier than most.

"It gets a bit hard on them sometimes ... with dad not there to do stuff with them," he said.

Volunteer firefighters of the Turkey Beach and Mount Maurice Rural Fire Brigade.
HELPING HAND: Volunteer firefighter Pieter Withoos of the Mount Maurice Rural Fire Brigade. Sarah Steger

"But if I'm not doing something I just end up sitting on the couch and watching the box."

The keen volunteer said he embraced his busy days, though, and revelled in the "excitement of it all."

"Ninety-nine percent of it's going out and fighting a fire, but then there's those scary times."

Pieter said his closest call was at Haddock Dr at Burua.

"We could hear the fire coming, it sounded like a freight train. It was just smoke. We couldn't see."

Despite the close calls that "aren't fun," Pieter is committed to the job.

"It's not just about now, but about the future. We're instilling a culture of volunteering from a young age. That's how we'll get more members," he said.