LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
I AM writing as a concerned resident of Longford and a member of the Longford CFA.
Our volunteer numbers have dwindled recently to the point where we are struggling to provide a crew, especially during the day.
Recruiting new members is a time consuming and not particularly successful task for our brigade.
I know the CFA was somewhat of a mystery for me before being introduced to it through a fire on our own property, so I’d like to attempt to de-mystify the CFA for others in the hope that they will join our brigade.
Not long after moving to Longford we had a peat fire which burned for a year.
The first three months were terrifying as sections of scrub flared up unexpectedly.
Throughout this the local brigade patrolled our fire twice a day, communicated with us regularly and were always there promptly when hot, windy days created flare-ups.
These people were not just CFA, they were neighbours and fellow community members.
Having to stand back and let these volunteers fight a fire on our property did not feel right at all.
I wanted to join to assist this wonderful group of people and be able to help others that may find themselves in the same situation in future.
The benefits of being a member are many, and not immediately apparent when you first join.
You learn to operate fire fighting equipment, methods of fire suppression and control and how fires behave given differing fuel loads and weather conditions.
I have a much better appreciation of the fire hazards on my own property, the ways to reduce these hazards and the knowledge that I don’t have the resources to control a fire on my property.
You also become part of an extended family.
To quote another member “I know they have got my back, on and off the fire ground.”
Such a sense of community and support is a rare thing.
People who may be interested in supporting the CFA but are unsure if they have what it takes to be a firefighter should consider where the training and mentoring by the brigade members may take them.
The training provided is thorough and practical.
Trainees learn to operate all equipment.
Safety comes first in the CFA so members are not put in situations where they are at risk.
Trainees are assessed by members of the brigade on brigade equipment, so they are able to ensure trainees are competent.
Potential members may also be concerned about the time they have available to volunteer: many hands make light work, the more members we have the lighter the load for everybody.
The brigade welcomes anyone who is ablebodied and willing.
Our current members do have full lives and manage to juggle work, family, hobbies and other community work.
I have found them to be inspirational and bighearted people.
Being a member of the CFA has been a rewarding and enlightening experience. Community involvement and voluntering was an unfamiliar concept for me but I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be involved with such an important community service.
I only hope that we are able to provide the same service that was given to us with the peat fire to other people in the Longford community in future.