About 40 years.
Why did you join CFA?
When I left the army I missed the teamwork and camaraderie. CFA was different, but it came as close I could get in ‘civvy street’. I missed that part of army life. A mate asked me if I’d like to join CFA, so I signed up.
I wouldn’t have been able to volunteer without my wife Jennifer doing everything at home that I should have been, instead of being out chasing fires. We couldn’t do it without the partners. There is never any mention of them in the newspapers when we get given all the glory.
What was the first incident you attended?
It would have been a bushfire. I’ve been to so many. I was with Yackandandah brigade then. We had petrol engine Austin trucks. The fuel used to vaporise in the heat. Yack is in a hollow with hills all around − any road out of town is up. We would put a piece of ‘two by one’ under the bonnet to let more air in to stop the fuel vaporising. If you switched the engine off at a fire, there was no way it would restart. And the old crash gear box is another story!
What is the most memorable incident you’ve attended?
Campaign fires have been very memorable − 1992 Mulwala, then 1994, 2000-2001, 2003, 2006, and Black Saturday in 2009. In 2009 I was closer to Melbourne for a time, and what sticks in my mind is Marysville. A whole town wiped out. There was a fire station there, but no buildings to provide a service to. The first weekend after the fires, the town was a crime scene, with no one allowed in or out, and we had to sleep there. It was like living and sleeping in a cemetery. All we could see was chimneys, standing in rows looking like gravestone.
Normally firefighters never go back to an incident scene. We check that everything and everyone is OK, put the truck back in the shed and wait for the next. This was the first time I actually went back. People were rummaging through the remains of their properties and wanted to talk about their experiences. It was difficult but a good experience.
After a hard day firefighting, what’s your favourite meal?
Plain Aussie food. A nice steak, a couple of eggs. No fancy food.
What do you listen to in the car on the way home from an incident?
I put on ABC classic FM. I’m a Beatles fan and like upbeat music, but after an incident I’m on a high and want to get down. Unwinding with some good classical music calms me down.
What have you done to protect your property?
Keep the gutters clean. Keep the lawn green (I have a rainwater tank for that purpose). And I help the neighbours with their fire preparations.
What positions have you held within CFA?
Lieutenant, captain, crew leader, strike team leader, trainer/assessor.
What do you like about being a training officer/assessor?
I have learned more about the subjects by teaching it than being talked to about it. CFA has given me the opportunity to pick up so much experience and knowledge, and it would be selfish to not pass it on to others.
Interview and photo by Sarah Black.