Twin brothers Don and Len Carter served community as volunteer bushfire fighters from the age of 10

Don (left) and Len Carter after their service was acknowledged by Sutherland Shire Council.
Don (left) and Len Carter after their service was acknowledged by Sutherland Shire Council.

Twin brothers Don and Len Carter were just 10 years old when they joined Menai Bushfire Brigade.

The boys, who were also Scouts, served in an unofficial capacity, running messages for their father Roy, who helped found the unit, until they met the minimum brigade age of 16 in 1948.

Their service as volunteers continued through many decades. Between them, they have given more than 150 years to protecting lives and property from bushfires in the Menai area and beyond.

 Len (left) and Don Carter (right) with then Sutherland Shire fire control officer Ray Watchhorn. Picture: supplied

Len (left) and Don Carter (right) with then Sutherland Shire fire control officer Ray Watchhorn. Picture: supplied

Sutherland Shire Council paid tribute at its last meeting to "the dedication and service to the Rural Fire Service and Sutherland Shire community" given by the two men.

The brothers, now 88, were present in the public gallery as Cr Steve Simpson presented a mayoral minute.

Cr Simpson said he intended to use his time as mayor "to recognise more people like Don and Len, who have helped make the shire the place it is today".

Don Carter was actively involved with Menai Rural Fire Service, where he is a life member, up until about five years ago when ill health intervened.

Len Carter was group captain from 1968-2009, a total of 41 years. Picture: supplied

Len Carter was group captain from 1968-2009, a total of 41 years. Picture: supplied

He was captain of the Menai brigade from 1968-2012, a total of 44 years, and deputy group captain from 1987-1992.

Don also served on Sutherland Shire Council from 1983-1995 and was president in 1990/1991.

Len Carter was appointed very early in his career to reform the Woronora Bushfire Brigade and is a life member of the Woronora, Sandy Point and Menai brigades.

He was group captain from 1968-2009, a total of 41 years, and during the 2019-2020 Black Summer fires, was the safety officer at Greenwattle Creek in the Southern Highlands. He now lives at Camden.

The brothers have many medals and commendations for their efforts, including during some of the shire's darkest days when lives and homes were lost.

Don Carter gives a training course. Picture: supplied

Don Carter gives a training course. Picture: supplied

Don was also awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2004 for service to the Rural Fire Service and local government.

The boys were three-years-old when they moved to Menai, where their grandparents and parents ran a large poultry farm between Menai Road and Shackle Road.

Don married Claire in 1957, while Len and Sheila wed the following year.

"It's not just the men who should be acknowledged," Len said. "The work the women have done has been enormous."

He believes the family's contribution to fighting bushfires would be very hard to surpass.

He studied and trained in the US and did not see anything like it.

Don said the early days of fighting bushfires in the area were tough.

His father tried to obtain equipment from the state government through the Chief Secretary's Department, but all they would supply were two knapsack pumps and two heavy rakes.

"We received nothing more until the 1960s when we got our first Blitz truck," he said.

"They were hard days - it was a bushfire brigade in name only.

"But the comradeship of the brigade members was very strong and and made up for the lack of equipment."

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