There’s no denying the wild beauty of the townships that make up the greater Margaret River Region: national parks abutting residential clusters, and sought-after accommodation tucked deep into the bush.

Proximity to nature is a regional calling card. But with just shy of 50 percent of the region still given over to bushland, it’s important to be fire safe. Our local volunteer bushfire brigades play a key role in not just responding to fires, but also spending (unpaid) hours and hours working with the landscape all year around to mitigate risk.

Meet a few of our dedicated volunteers from the Wallcliffe Fire Service Brigade — one of nine volunteer brigades that help protect the Margaret River Region — and find out why they’re proud to wear their yellows.

John Alferink bushfire volunteer. Wallcliffe Fire Service Brigade.
John Alferink joined the brigade back in 1968 when it was little more than a single truck and a joint cause. Photo: Sean Blocksidge


Few local brigade volunteers could count as many years at the station and as much experience as John Alferink: the 76-year-old who’s spent 70 years living in Margaret River joined the brigade back in 1968 when it was little more than a single truck and a joint cause.

“It was just a farmer brigade,” says John, who then owned 200 acres of land. “We had one tractor and a 500-litre tank and that was our brigade. We met once a year. When the fire came, we all came together to help out.”

Decades on and while the landscape of the volunteer bushfire brigade has been radically formalised since John’s earliest experiences, the sense of being together for a common cause is as strong as ever.

John Alferink bushfire volunteer. Wallcliffe Fire Service Brigade.
John Alferink in action. Photo: Sean Blocksidge

“I’m not the oldest in the group,” laughs John, who’s known around the Wallcliffe station for his encyclopaedic local fire knowledge — and his generosity in sharing his experiences with newer members. “I do just like to be a ‘volly’. I enjoy the company: when you’re with other people who are on the same wavelength you can help each other out when you get in trouble.”

Talk of “trouble” swings the conversation around to the FAQ of volunteer firefighters everywhere — do you feel brave? John laughs a little more.

“I don’t know. I suppose you have to be a bit game sometimes,” he chuckles. “You never get any dull moments. But as first responders you do have to be careful because it can be chaos in the beginning — everything happens so quickly.

“But,” and you can hear the wink in John’s voice, “you also need a bit of excitement to keep the interest.”

Jenny Colquhuon, bushfire volunteer. Wallcliffe Fire Service Brigade.
Thinking she'd end up in coordination and logistics, Jenny Colquhuon quickly realised the fire ground was where she wanted to be. Photo: Sean Blockside


Jen Colquhoun is an example of what can happen when fire quite literally knocks at your door, not once but twice: the now 50-year-old joined the brigade in 2012 following the 2009 and 2011 Prevelly bushfires — both of which burned right up to her home’s front verge. But what Jen thought would become a behind-the-scenes role has evolved into her position as a regional Fire Control Officer — and a reputation for fire ground smarts.

“I thought I’d end up working in coordination and logistics — behind-the-scenes stuff. And then I went to my first fire, and I was like… no, no, no,” laughs Jen, who worked as a sector commander at the 2021 Boranup bush fire. “The fire ground was for me.”

After four years fighting small scale fires around the region following her initial sign up, a voluntary secondment to help fight the devastating Yarloop fires north of the Margaret River Region in 2016 gave Jen critical expertise and a sense of how devastating largescale bushfire can be. It reinforced her commitment to her hometown and reiterated the satisfaction she finds in contributing back to her community.

“I find it interesting, challenging and it’s given me a different kind of confidence,” Jen muses. “It tests me in a way that I’m not tested at work. And I love that camaraderie that you get — the volunteer bushfire brigade network definitely has its own community.”

Mark Boyd bushfire volunteer. Wallcliffe Fire Service Brigade.
Mark Boyd initially joined the volunteer bushfire brigade to ensure he could protect his family. Photo: Sean Blocksidge


The defining image of Mark Boyd as a volunteer firefighter sees him fire mask on, standing before an inferno that was a bushfire in Treeton, in the Margaret River Region, in February 2022. It’s the worst-case scenario (photo below). And it’s also what’s kept Mark as an active volunteer since his sign up in 1993 — an impressive thirty years ago.

Back then Mark joined up to ensure he could protect his own family in the event of a bushfire — “we live in the middle of the bush” — and he’s stayed on for the bonding, the commitment to community, and his need to ensure environmental protection from large-scale fire in the place that he calls home.

“Comradeship is important. I know these people here at our brigade — when you go into a situation that’s life threatening you have a bond with that person you don’t have with anyone else,” says Mark of his fellow volunteer members. “But also, something else we have in common is we all love the environment, we love it with a passion — when we’re on the fire ground, saving animals and habitat is a driving force for all of us.”

something else we have in common is we all love the environment, we love it with a passion

Mark Boyd bushfire volunteer. Wallcliffe Fire Service Brigade.
Mark Boyd at the 2022 Treeton bushfire. Photo: Sean Blocksidge

Just like John and Jen, there have been times of difficulty and worry for loved ones — kids and partners — when the siren sounds and Mark and his crew load up into trucks: “everyone runs away and we run at it,” Mark laughs.

But like Jen and John, Mark insists the adrenalin is calculated and the commitment to giving hours of free time to training is the recipe for volunteer firefighting success.


  • Be aware of restricted burning periods: these normally extend from the end of November until the end of March, but always check before lighting fires outdoors. Yes, that means small campfires to roast marshmallows, too.
  • Get familiar with the fire danger ratings and have a plan for what you’ll do if a bushfire occurs. See the bushfire main page on the DFES website to find out how to make your own bushfire plan, even when travelling.
  • Follow the rules: Stay up to date with fire information and Total Fire Bans via Emergency WA and Vehicle Harvest Movement Bans via Local Government websites, heed regulations that may place a ban on four-wheel driving and barbecues.
  • Have a shortcut to the Emergency WA website as a safeguard and keep informed if bushfire does occur in your area, or any area in which you’re travelling through.

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