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5 February, 2021

Local Fire fighter recognised

EVERYDAY heroes from our fire and emergency services often risk their lives by entering crocodile-infested far northern waters to perform rescues.

By Tanya Murphy

Cairns Fire and Rescue Service Station Officer Clint L’Estrange with his Australia Day Achievement Award.

A Cairns fire fighter, who designed and developed a crocodile awareness program for those performing swift water rescues, was honoured in this year’s Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Australia Day Achievement Awards.

Cairns Fire and Rescue Service Station Officer Clint L’Estrange won the award for “designing, planning and implementing the Crocodile Awareness Program, enhancing the safety of QFES personnel within Far Northern Region.”

Mr L’Estrange was recognised at an official ceremony in Cairns on Friday, 29 January.

A “complacency” about crocodiles among rescue workers when attending incidents was the inspiration Clint needed for the video and four-hour face-to-face training program which he hopes to roll out state-wide.

“Crocodiles were a hazard in the back of people’s minds but not in the forefront,” he said.

“People were becoming very task focused and that’s the nature of what we do, but crocodiles weren’t one of the additional risks that people were thinking about.

“We put together this short video package with a swift water rescue team and Hartley’s Crocodile Farm and we’ve worked with the Department of Environment and Science on a four-hour information session about crocodile behaviour in the wild.”

Clint said they have since made some basic changes to how they operate, such as inflating rafts further away from riverbanks and using a raft instead of swimming in croc-infested waters during rescues.

“We’ve seen crocodiles within the environment we work, that’s for sure. When people come anywhere between North Queensland and Central Queensland to work we want them to have an awareness of the risk,” he said.

“I’m pretty excited and honoured about this award, I haven’t received anything like this before.

“The bonus of just helping everyone out is probably recognition enough.”

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services staff and volunteers will be among those honoured in a series of official ceremonies around the state.

Awards will be presented to QFES staff and volunteers in recognition of outstanding character, integrity and leadership.

Sponsor QSuper CEO Michael Pennisi said it was fitting that Queensland’s largest super fund had been a proud sponsor of the QFES Australia Day Achievement Awards for the past 13 years.

“Last year, Australia continued to present the usual challenges of living in a harsh, yet beautiful country. There were floods, fires, dangerous animals and COVID-19, which added an additional layer of complexity.

“But the stoicism displayed by volunteer and professional staff and volunteers of the QFES remained unrivalled. We are indeed in excellent hands.”


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