Cobbitty RFS captain rings in 50 years of service

When new Australian resident Peter Rabbidge arrived in Cobbitty in 1967, he had his heart set on helping the community.

The former England and New Zealand resident looked into joining a few service clubs, but nothing took his fancy.

That all changed when he found the Cobbitty Volunteer Bushfire Brigade – now called the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

He joined the crew in 1968 and last weekend notched up 50 years with the firies.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs in 50 years,” the 76-year-old said.

“More up than downs.

“I’ve seen Cobbitty grow and change a lot.”

Mr Rabbidge has served as an officer with the brigade for all 50 years, and has been captain – on and off – “for a good long time now”.

He is planning to retire as captain next year, and pass the reins to one of the “enthusiastic young ones” in the squad.

The Cobbitty resident is excited for the RFS to move into its next phase.

“We did some fundraising to extend our RFS shed so that we can build a meeting room and install air-conditioning,” he said.

“We’ve had great support from Narellan Rotary, and we also held a massive fundraising night at Denbigh House here in Cobbitty.

“It was called ‘Opera in the Barn’ and Jodie McGuren – an opera singer from Cobbitty – helped out with the music.”

Mr Rabbidge said his time with the RFS had seen him travel across Australia to fight fires and protect homes.

He remembered a particularly nasty fire in the Blue Mountains in 1994, and another in Bundeena the same year.

“We were preparing for a full evacuation in Bundeena,” he said.

“There were ferries and boats coming across to evacuate the residents, who were all on the beach.

“But at the last minute there was a change in the wind and Bundeena was saved.

“It was really terrible leaving the area though and seeing all the wildlife that had been trapped and killed.

“That was not very pleasant.

“But you try not to dwell on those things.”

Mr Rabbidge said he owed a great deal to the Cobbitty community, who had been very generous in their support of the RFS over the years.

“I’ve lived here since 1967 and I haven’t regretted a day of it,” he said.

“I love Cobbitty, I love the trees.

“Some of the big gum trees make a mess, but I wouldn’t have them any other way.”

Mr Rabbidge met his wife – who is Cobbitty born and bred – while she was enjoying a working holiday in New Zealand.

They had two children, who now live overseas – one in England and one in New Zealand.

Cobbitty RFS is on the look out for more members. If you are interested in joining the crew, visit cobbittyrfs.org.au or search for Cobbitty RFS on Facebook and Instagram.