Ossie bids a fond farewell

BOMBALA Fire Station legend, Ossie Benson, has retired after 38 years of service to the NSW Fire Brigade.

After almost four decades of service Mr Benson has decided to hang up his fire fighting gear and looks forward to retirement. 

“I’ve been thinking about retirement for the last few years but numbers have been down at the station so I have put it off,” Mr Benson said. 

“This year I’ve felt that I’ve been slowing down a bit so it was time to move on.” 

Mr Benson moved to Bombala when he was 19 years old and in his twenties secured himself a job with the local council operating heavy machinery. 

“I remember it was around 1976 and Les Phillips asked me if I would consider joining the brigade,” he said. 

Bombala Fire Station has retained fire fighters who often have other jobs and are called out to jobs when they community needs it. 

With the nearest fire station almost two hours away the role of Bombala Fire Station has been important in keeping the local community safe.

“If there was fire in Bombala and we had to wait for a fire truck to come from Cooma we could lose two or three houses before it arrived,” he said. 

“We are a small station, we take maybe 55 calls a year compared with bigger stations that take 600 calls a year, but we are important.” 

During his years of service Mr Benson has fought grass fires, house fires and even a lawn mower fire in Bombala. 

“We turned up and the little lawn mower was on fire,” he said.

“We all thought that was pretty funny and they managed to put it out on their own with the hose but it’s good they called us,” he said. 

He has been involved in rescues and has often been the first to the scene for road accidents.

Mr Benson also attended the 1997 Thredbo Landslide which claimed many lives. 

Mr Benson said that the service has changed since he first started and the skills he has acquired have been life changing. 

“When I started we strictly did fires and then we got trained up to do rescues,” he said. 

“I remember when we first started and four of us would go out to a job the driver would sit in the cabin and the other three would be perched up on the back of the truck.

“In the cold we use to cuddle together as the truck travelled along, now we have sit in a cabin with air-conditioning.” 

Mr Benson said the service has been a rewarding job and he has built some lasting friendships during his time with the service. 

“I would say the most enjoyable part has been the camaraderie that I have build with the other members of Bombala,” he said. 

“We have a great team at Bombala and not one person stands out, everyone does a great job.” 

Mr Benson recalls some of the invaluable lessons he has learnt being a fire fighter. 

“I remember we went to a training session up at Cooma and they taught us to always expect the worse case scenario,” he said. 

“Your adrenaline builds up and when you actually get to the job it’s most likely not going to be that scenario and so you can deal with it and get the job done.

“If you don’t expect anything and you get there and it’s worse, it’s very hard to manage your stress levels and get the job done. 

Fire fighter Malcolm Lavender said that Mr Benson would be sadly missed from the Bombala station.  

“There has been a profound sense of sadness amongst the firefighters following news of his departure,” Mr Lavender said. 

“Respect for Ossie Benson as a knowledgeable firefighter and irreplaceable mentor has been unprecedented.”

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