Story from Shepparton News
One of Mr De Boer's first jobs since joining Arcadia Fire Brigade a year ago has been to secure a decent fridge to keep the drinking water cold. "Not much fun drinking warm water after a fire," fellow member Wayne Church said.
Mr De Boer downs a coldie from the fridge after wheeling himself to Arcadia brigade’s shed from his nearby home. There's no fire, but on a 30°C day it's hot work travelling by hand.
Two years after settling in Arcadia with his wife Renee and nearly four years after falling into a steel mill machine and crushing his spinal chord,
Mr De Boer is determined to contribute to the small township south of Shepparton. "It's good to have that feeling of helping out and doing your bit for the community," he said. 'And it's been a big confidence boost for me."
Mr De Boer was just three weeks into his new job at a Melbourne stainless steel tube factory, and eight weeks away from marrying Renee, when he damaged his spine in May 2009. After six months of surgery and rehabilitation, he was left a paraplegic and unable to walk.
Today, he works as a professional counsellor from his Arcadia home, helping other people overcome their own life challenges.
A year ago, he and Renee joined 20 other active members at the fire brigade. When an emergency call comes through, Mrs De Boer dons firefighting gear and climbs aboard the newly- refurbished Arcadia tanker, while Mr De Boer mans the phones and keeps people updated on the brigade's Facebook site.
After going through CFA basic training, Mr De Boer, who drives a specially adapted car, now hopes to take a CFA communications course to enable him to work in emergency centres such as Murchison during bigger incidents.
"I can help co-ordinate services such as food and equipment," he said. "I can also use a portable communications trailer. I work with computers quite a lot."
He also hopes to be able to assist at road accidents, using his counselling skills with injured people, and co-ordinating traffic.
He said his CFA teammates did not give him any special treatment. "I've been through the functions of the truck and got nice and wet in the process," he said. “A lot of people try to wrap you in cotton wool, but the CFA guys say, 'Get involved.' That's what I've done."