Preston Beach’s Noel Dew retires from Volunteer Fire Brigade feeling proud to have watch it grow over 28 years

Craig DuncanHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Firefighter Noel Dew was presented with a 25 service medal and a detailed model of a firetruck from his colleagues at his retirement party.
Camera IconFirefighter Noel Dew was presented with a 25 service medal and a detailed model of a firetruck from his colleagues at his retirement party. Credit: Craig Duncan

As the Preston Beach Volunteer Fire Brigade grew from a small community shed to a major regional fire station, Noel Dew has been suited up for the journey.

But now, after 28 years, Mr Dew has decided it is time to make way for the next generation of firefighters and step away from the station, feeling proud to have watched it grow over the years.

Joining the station in March 1996, Mr Dew said he was quickly pulled into the ranks.

He said after coming home from his second meeting he spoke to his wife Irene in disbelief after being elected as station president, a role he would hold for the next 10 years.

Mr Dew painted a story of the early days, where an introduction to firefighting was no more than a three hour session.

“Back in the day we would meet on a Saturday morning and by the end of the day we were firefighters,” he said.

But he felt the brigade was not as highly regarded as they are today.

“Even though we had a good vehicle, did the training and were prepared to put our lives on the line if necessary, we were more considered, rather sadly, as a mop up brigade back then,” he said.

“Fortunately, all of that has changed, and Preston Beach is a well-equipped, well trained and well respected brigade.

“This year alone I think they have been called out to around 37 fires, which says something.”

There have been several highlights in his career, but also some of the most difficult times he has ever had to endure.

Throughout his career, few events have shaken Mr Dew as much as the Yarloop Bushfires in 2016, which he said were the last major fires with which he was involved.

When the Yarloop Bushfires took hold, Mr Dew was involved with the fire brigade, volunteer rangers and was also the Waroona shire president.

When learning the encroaching fire had jumped the road and was heading towards Preston Beach, Mr Dew took to the streets and started knocking on doors to ensure the community evacuated safely.

He said watching the fire approach the town, being trapped on the beach with a “horrible red sky” glowing over the dunes, was the worst moment of his life.

“I always thought this will be the last we see of Preston Beach,” he said.

Upon reflection, Mr Dew never thought he would be with the group for so long — only joining at the time because felt he could not rely on others to look after him in the isolated town.

In the same vein he said he never thought he would have been on council for 22 years, or the shire president for eight.

“But these things have happened,” Mr Dew said.

“It has just come naturally, with a huge respect and love for the community.”

Being with the station from its toughest days to now, Mr Dew said he was proud to have been there.

“I have always been very passionate about seeing the best for Preston Beach,” he said.

“And today, the brigade is a well respected bunch of guys.

“I have a lot of admiration for them and I’m thrilled to have been a part of it.”

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