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Volunteer firefighter admits he would have preferred holiday

[Edition 50] DUBBO, Tuesday: Bill Christie, a volunteer member of the Rural Fire Service, yesterday said he resented having to give up his Christmas holidays fighting fires hundreds of kilometres from his own home. Christie described the Prime Minister’s endorsement of volunteer spirit as “total crap”.

Christie (inset) and friends unenthusiastically battle the blaze

[Edition 50] DUBBO, Tuesday: Bill Christie, a volunteer member of the Rural Fire Service in New South Wales, yesterday said he resented having to give up his Christmas holidays fighting fires hundreds of kilometres from his own home. Christie described the Prime Minister’s endorsement of volunteer spirit as “total crap”.

The fire-fighter admitted that he had mainly joined the RFS to get time off work. “But to be honest, if they’d told me at the start that I had a choice between fighting fires and taking my annual leave to spend Christmas with the kids, I’d never have signed up,” he said.

Christie says he spent most of December hoping not to get a call from his local RFS commander. “We kept the phone off the hook as much as possible, and I didn’t go into town in case I ran into him there. But stupidly one of the kids forgot about the phone, and I had to take the call. You don’t want to do it, but you can’t really say no.”

Christie was forced to spend the next fortnight grudgingly fighting various bushfires across NSW, functioning on limited breaks and hardly any sleep. He was relieved of his duties on 6 January, just in time to get back to his regular job on the 7th.

“My boss told me that he’s really proud of what I did, but he didn’t say, ‘Why don’t you have a few days off to relax?’ or give me my annual leave back. The volunteer spirit just about runs out before it hits the boss’s hip pocket”.

The volunteer says he intends to remain in the RFS to see if he get any Commendations or Awards, but says that if he doesn’t, he will resign in the upcoming winter.

But not everyone shares the volunteer’s embittered perspective. A producer for Channel 9’s A Current Affair said that the bushfires were a “great triumph for the Aussie spirit, not to mention making the Summer Edition a hell of a lot easier.”