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Curl awarded prestigious Fire Service Medal

Colin Curl Santacaterina
Curl Santacaterina has been awarded the prestigious Australian Fire Service Medal for 44 years of dedicated service as a volunteer firefighter. Photo: contributed.

Childers local Colin ‘Curl’ Santacaterina has been awarded the prestigious Australian Fire Service Medal, honouring his 44 year career as a volunteer rural firefighter in the Bundaberg Region.

The medal, announced in the Australia Day 2024 Honours List, is awarded annually by the Governor-General and recognises distinguished service by a member of an Australian fire service.

Curl commenced with the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services in February 1980, undertaking a range of frontline roles in the urban and rural fire services over his long career, and he continues to serve at the Childers Rural Fire Brigade.

Curl said he was motivated to join the volunteer fire service after an experience trying to fight a shed fire with a neighbour.

“I wasn’t going to be a firefighter, but one year at Christmas sirens were going and going, I said to my mate across the road, Merv, we’d better go,” he recalled.

“We didn’t know how to drive the truck or anything, but that was the start of it.”

Curl said it was a surprise and an honour to be nominated by his peers and awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal.

“It’s good to be recognised, I was tickled pink, and so was my wife,” he said.

“It’s just a good feeling being able to help people.

“And being a volunteer, you do it for the right reasons.

“I don’t do it for medals and that, I’ve done it all my life, it’s hard to stop.”

Curl was one of the local firefighters who entered the Childers Backpackers Hostel blaze on 23 June 2000, and alongside fellow firefighter Bob Winkelmann, searched the burning building for survivors.

The pair were showered with molten metal as they were told by outside situation controller Richard Randall to leave the building, with Bob’s helmet worn that night later becoming a station keepsake signed with messages from survivors.

Over his career, Curl has given countless hours to battling fires and attending to brigade activities including training, hazard reduction and upkeep of the Childers station.

He is highly respected for his knowledge, professionalism, experience, and leadership skills, passing on his years of experience to the next generation of volunteer firefighters.

“I train the young firefighters, as soon as they come to the station, I take them under my wing,” he said.

“I train the young ones to be old fellas like me.”

For Curl, his commitment to the fire service and the community doesn’t end with the accolade or age.

“Nothing will change, I’ll still clean the toilets and vacuum at the fire station,” he said.

“I’ve enjoyed my time there, and I’m still enjoying it.

“The boys here look after me and I’m still pretty fit.

“I will keep on going as long as I can, once you’re dead you’re dead, so you have to make the most of it while you can.”