28 January 2024

Riverina Fire and Rescue stations find new use for helmet in burns unit fundraiser

| Oliver Jacques
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firefighter holding helmet

Yenda Fire and Rescue captain Gavin Raccanello with the helmet turned donation tin. Photos: Oliver Jacques.

Riverina Fire and Rescue stations have urged residents to support an innovative fundraiser for the Westmead Hospital Burns Unit in Sydney.

“We have structural helmets allocated to each firefighter,” Yenda station captain Gavin Raccanello said.

“When people retire or resign, the helmets don’t get used again. So Narellan senior firefighter Peter Fairlie decided to start converting them into donation tins for the burns unit rather than sending them to landfill.

”The aim is for every station to have one. I was fortunate to get the last one left for our region.”

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Mr Raccanello said he couldn’t think of a better cause.

“The burns unit are referred to the 002 station,” he said. “The fundraising we are doing is for the kids, the paediatric arm of the burns unit.

“A few days ago there was a motor vehicle accident in Katoomba. A child and her mother were rescued from the vehicle. The child has significant burns to her body and was airlifted to the burns unit in Westmead.

”The fundraising we do supports girls like her. What we raise also goes to the research behind it.”

This helmet/donation tin secured by Mr Raccanello is for Region West Three. This includes the stations in Griffith, Yenda, Leeton, Narrandera, Broken Hill, Condobolin, Coolamon, Hay, Hillston, Junee, Lake Cargelligo, Temora, West Wyalong and Wentworth.

“We will place the helmet at Yenda Post Office initially,” Mr Raccanello said.

”We are going to pass them around our stations in the hope that people will be generous and donate. Those who prefer to do electronic donations can do so through the Beat the Burns website.

“We are aiming to raise $200,000 statewide by the middle of March. That’s when firefighters will put down their hoses and undertake an endurance challenge at Mt Kosciuszko.”

Burns unit helmet

The burns unit helmet is used to collect donations.

The 30-year firefighter veteran has fortunately never been burnt on the job, but did have a terrifying experience in his youth.

“When I was 11, I seriously burnt my hand lighting an incinerator. I ended up at Griffith Base Hospital for three weeks. I didn’t get to go to a burns unit, I don’t think they existed in those days, but it’s good children have that specialised care these days.

”During the Bali bombing, people were transported to burns units across the country, that’s how the important they are.”

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As the summer heat intensifies across the Riverina, Mr Raccanello has also reiterated his call for more volunteers to join local fire stations.

“It’s a great job and very fulfilling,” he said. ”You get looked after well. You can find an application pack through our website, apply through ‘I work for NSW’, then you do an interview; if successful, a fully reimbursed medical, then a physical aptitude test and then, subject to clearance, you’ll become a recruit firefighter.

“We also get paid – we get reimbursed for callouts, training and travel. Everything is provided in terms of uniform, etc. Nothing comes out of your pocket. The Fire Brigade Employees Union has ensured we are supported well.”

More information on the Beat the Burns fundraiser can be found on its Facebook page.

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