Karuah Rural Fire Brigade station build 'on schedule for completion' by the end of June

RESILIENT: Karuah RFS volunteers (front to back): Elizabeth Delbridge, Jenny Semple, Fred McInerney and Jim Semple at the construction site of the brigade's new station in Engel Avenue.
RESILIENT: Karuah RFS volunteers (front to back): Elizabeth Delbridge, Jenny Semple, Fred McInerney and Jim Semple at the construction site of the brigade's new station in Engel Avenue.

The Karuah Rural Fire Brigade may be one of the smaller units in Port Stephens, but there is no questioning the resilience and bravery of the volunteer members epitomised by 82-year-old member Elizabeth Delbridge.

As a 20-plus year member and the brigade's president, Ms Delbridge takes her job as a firefighter quite seriously and was seen regularly out on the Karuah truck during the recent bushfires which devastated many parts of NSW.

"We are only a small team of about 20 but we provided support during the recent fires in towns such as Tenterfield, Kempsey, Taree, Bobbin, Wollombi, Owen Mountain and Laguna, which was where I was involved in a minor accident," Ms Delbridge said.

"I suffered an injury to my spine... spent a couple of days in hospital but I am fine now."

The veteran firefighter admitted that working out of the old, dilapidated building in Wattle Street has had its challenges and members are anxiously anticipating the opening of its replacement - a new $1.1 million state-of-the-art station in nearby Engel Avenue.

While Karuah's old station was listed for "priority replacement", there was no plans to upgrade the crumbling structure. But prior to the 2019 state election, Port Stephens duty MLC Catherine Cusack announced that the Liberal government would fund the build of an all new station.

Ms Cusack said this week that construction work had commenced on the new station, which was being managed by the Port Stephens Council.

"The new location is closer to the Karuah township than the previous station... construction remains on schedule for completion by the end of June 2020," she said.

The current Karuah RFS building.

The current Karuah RFS building.

Colleagues of Ms Delbridge, Jenny and Jim Semple, have a combined 80 years of service to the RFS across a range of different units.

"We have a very committed team of volunteers and we are always looking for new members," said Jim Semple, Karuah's senior deputy captain.

"Following the devastation of the recent bushfires we have fielded many inquiries from people looking to join and we are hoping they follow through. The support from this community and people in general has also been overwhelming with donations and offers of help."

The volunteers said they hoped the development of a new building would attract new members - and the possibility of a new truck.

"We are the only RFS brigade in the Lower Hunter with just one truck so we are hoping for a second."

They are also thankful that - with the completion of the new building - the women will finally have their own toilets "instead of having to use a portaloo".

The Karuah station will become the newest in Port Stephens following the $700,000 upgrade to the Fingal Bay Rural Fire Brigade station last year, which was officially opened by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian during the state election campaign.

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