Government's latest response to catastrophic 2018 fires
HAVING never considered fire a legitimate threat to his business, Gracemere nursery owner Geoff Askins now looks back on last November's bush fire emergency as a real eye-opener.
When The Morning Bulletin spoke to Mr Askins during the 2018 Gracemere evacuation he was frantically packing up his business, Avondale Garden Nursery, on a day where around 8,000 residents fled to Rockhampton.
While cramming belongs in to his car and hosing down the nursery roof, he said he had been keeping a keen eye on the fire but was caught off guard by how fast it became a threat.
The Capricorn Highway and the already stretched-thin fire services were the only thing standing between the fire front and Gracemere homes and businesses.
But some peace of mind has been restored to Mr Askins, and no doubt many other Gracemere business owners and residents following the announcement of a $2.2million fire service complex for the area.
Funding for the purchase and development of the large block at 11 Russell Street was allocated in the 2019 state budget and the hub is expected to be finished by June next year.
Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Assistant Commissioner Steve Barber met at the block today to discuss the project.
"This will be an SF4 station - what that means is that it can house up to 20 people, there will be engine bays, it will have a training facility, and will have kitchen and shower facilities," Mr Barber.
"There will also be officer facilities and outdoor training facilities."
The car park at the Kabra Pub, a few kilometres to the west, turned in to a makeshift head quarters for emergency services during last year's fires and Mr Barber said the new hub would prove more suitable alternative if a fire event of that magnitude were to happen again.
"This will allow us to respond and support to the communities of Gracemere," he said.
The new fires station will provide three full-time positions and will help to retain fire fighters already working in the area, according to Mr Barber.
Mr O'Rourke said the reason behind the funding was due to "outgrowing" the previous facility and a realisation of the need for a greater fire services presence in Gracemere after the fires.
"The fires in the region at the end of last year showed us how important it was to bolster the emergency services here so we allocated funds for the build in this year's State Budget," Mr O'Rourke said.
Mr O'Rourke said the project was under the 'buy local' policy initiative meaning there was a good chance a local business would secure the contract for the build.
As for Mr Askins, he was glad to hear the news of the new fire hub around the corner.
He believed the community would also welcome the hub that may lower response times and have more boots on the ground, ready to go if another fire event were to occur.