BITTERSWEET: Firefighter Sal Coco has just returned to Bundaberg after fighting fires in his home town, Stanthorpe.
BITTERSWEET: Firefighter Sal Coco has just returned to Bundaberg after fighting fires in his home town, Stanthorpe. Mike Knott

Stanthorpe-born Sal aids home town in hour of need

MANY heroes wear capes, but others wear hi-vis jackets and red suspenders.

Sal Coco became a rural firefighter at just 16-years-old, joined the auxiliaries at 18 and was accepted as a permanent firefighter at the age of 21, on his third attempt.

Twelve months later and at just 22-years-old, Mr Coco has witnessed horrifying and unimaginable scenes.

But what he never could have prepared himself for, was seeing Stanthorpe, the place called home for most of his life, turn to ashes.

When he heard the devastating news about the Applethorpe fires, the Bundy firefighter said he couldn't bear the thought of being unable to assist, so he travelled the six hours to Stanthorpe, to lend a helping hand.

Fortunately, Mr Coco's family's farm had a bush fire plan in place, so the damage was not substantial.

"My family farm was a little effected by the fires, so I went down to Stanthorpe for a few days to support my family and the community,” Mr Coco said.

"I jumped on the truck for a couple of days and just helped out wherever and whoever I could.”

The young firefighter was devastated by the sight of the damage caused to his hometown.

"I grew up on that farm and spent a lot of my time there as a kid and to see a little bit of your pride damaged and for that to happen to my family and my hometown ... that didn't sit will with me,” Mr Coco said.

"Some of the jobs in Bundy are not easy to comprehend and that's when the crew really help each other out, but I'm usually able to look at it from a professional point of view.

"But in Stanthorpe, I know most people or grew up with them and for it to happen on such a personal level ... it was just so sad and the scenes were really horrific.”

Mr Coco said the community spirit will always be high in Stanthorpe.

"Stanthorpe is a small country town and the community has gone through a lot, but everyone always chips in and helps each other out - that's just always been the way with Stanthorpe.”

Mr Coco said he loves being a firefighter because he knows he is helping others but it is a case of bittersweet.

"If I didn't have to go to another bad crash or fire then I wouldn't be too worried because that means someone is having a pretty bad day,” he said.

"But hopefully when those emergencies do arise I can do what I can and help people.”