Rural fire brigade volunteer Col Santacaterina received an Australia Day Award for dedicated service beyond the call of duty.
Rural fire brigade volunteer Col Santacaterina received an Australia Day Award for dedicated service beyond the call of duty.

Firefighter recognised for his unbelievable career

WITH 41 years as a firefighter Col 'Curl' Santacaterina has seen and done it all from saving his wife's life to battling 10ft high blazes.

Three members of Childers Rural Fire Brigade were recognised for their dedicated service beyond the call of duty, through Queensland Fire and Emergency Services' Australia Day Awards and Curl said while they didn't do it for the awards, it was nice to be acknowledged.

Along with Curl, Jack Leeson and the Forest View Childers Aged Care Facility (accepted by John Ratcliffe on their behalf) also received awards.

Looking back on his career, Curl said he could never forget the day he decided to sign up to be a firefighter, given the peculiar circumstances.

He said in the 70s you could hear the siren ring out across town and one day he and a mate decided to investigate.

"We were not in the brigade but had seen smoke and there was a shed on fire behind the Grand Hotel," he said.

"It must have been near Christmas so no-one was home, so we broke into the fire station and got a truck out.

"We ended up losing the shed …

"By the time we figured out how to get the water to come out, the shed had caved in so we turned around and took it back."

Afterwards, they both signed up straight away.

Curl said after 35 years as a paid firefighter and over 40 years as a volunteer, he had seen it all.

"I remember being asked if the Childers' backpacker fire was the worst thing I had seen but I said it was only the third," he said.

"The worst one was my wife, she had a cardiac arrest and died on me. I did CPR and brought her back.

"I could never forget that night."

Not only was he there to save his wife's life but also his daughter's.

"Another time I went to a crash and it was my daughter and I didn't know until I got there."

"The car was upside down and I said that's strange my daughter has the same car in the same colour and it was her.

"She survived though, she was okay."

Reflecting on last year's fire season, he said it was the worst he had seen, he was however pretty chuffed that he and the team were able to save the decorated 'Christmas' tree along Childers Rd.

"It was busy, normally the rains come earlier."

"It's so windy too. If it's hot you can deal with it but the wind is what buggers you, the flames go 10ft high.

"We had a few all-nighters, I come home and sleep but the young fellas go back to work, they don't get a break."

Even today Curl said he was still learning at every job he goes to.

"I am always learning, you never go out to a fire and know everything."

"I like training the new rural firefighters, they're a different breed though I tell you.

"We are volunteers so we are there for the right reason, it is just what we do, someone's got to do it."