With an Air Force career that started with the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force in 1976, Squadron Leader Del Gaudry has worn numerous hats in her time.
Currently a reservist at Headquarters Air Command, Squadron Leader Gaudry balances her role with being a volunteer firefighter.
When her daughter had to evacuate from Yarra Glen in early 2009 during Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires, Squadron Leader Gaudry contacted her local fire brigade and enquired about joining as a volunteer.
Squadron Leader Gaudry, who lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband Tom, a retired ADF member, realised she was ill-equipped to fight fires in her own backyard.
“We were living in one of the most fire-prone areas in the world, but we didn’t know anything about fighting bushfires.” Squadron Leader Gaudry said.
Now, 10 years on, she is still an active member of the Blaxland Rural Fire Brigade and has even recruited fellow Air Force colleagues.
While her focus is on supporting the brigade through first aid training, Squadron Leader Gaudry is also an active firefighter.
One particular shift is firmly etched in her mind.
“My strike team had to drive down to the Megalong Valley, lights and sirens blaring, where a fire was threatening a number of properties,” she said.
“Our crew had to drive down driveways and identify which properties could potentially be saved and which ones hadn’t been prepared and we had to do that quickly and report back.
“To protect one property we had to light up on three sides and back-burn towards the fire front
“It was pretty amazing because it was so dry. Embers were falling down from the trees and we had to make sure we put those out quickly.”
Squadron Leader Gaudry remembers that the house was well protected due to the owners’ preparation.
With a number of NSW communities impacted by the recent bushfires Squadron Leader Gaudry says property owners are very grateful for the work the fire fighters do.
“You don’t have to drive very far into the Blue Mountains to find lots of signs thanking firefighters,” she said.