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Photos of the succession of Girgarre brigade captains are displayed in the fire station. A photo of Maree will join the display when she officially becomes captain on July 1; the first female captain in District 20. Girgarre members voted for Maree to succeed Paul Blythman and she is presently acting captain in his absence.
"I'm not really about accolades. I'm just there to do a job," said Maree. "Girgarre is stuck in the middle of nowhere and nobody really knows the town. When they find us, they are quite surprised how strong the township and brigade is.
"I'm proud to be leading a group like that and proud to be serving such a strong community."
Maree was born in Hamilton and met her husband Joe in Mildura. The couple passed through Girgarre on their honeymoon about 34 years ago. Joe soon found a job in Girgarre and they have lived there since.
Maree formed Girgarre Ladies Auxiliary in 1992. "A [CFA] member would be called out and have to stay on site for quite a few hours, so we used to take food out to them," she said.
Joe is one of 28 active Girgarre CFA members, with two other women apart from his wife also members.
Maree said her promotion to captain would not change her role from when she was third, second and first lieutenant. "As a crew leader, which I've been for many years, my main priority is the safety of my crew," she said. "To quote an ex-captain, the captain ‘doesn't have to be the smartest firefighter, just a people person'.
"At any given time, I can proudly man the tanker with four ex-captains," Maree said, maintaining the closeness and morale of her crew was her goal as captain. "What we have is a bit hard to fix because it's not broken."
Maree highly regards past captains Reg Ramage, Mark Summers, George Weeks and Paul Blythman. "They freely give their knowledge,” she said. “It's all about 'us', not 'I', which is what I like."
Maree said that, among the devastating and dramatic scenes witnessed as firefighters, the crew still found time to have fun.
"You have to have fun to keep your sanity," she said.
Following story courtesy of Kyabram Free Press
Another Girgarre woman, Teena Harris, will be promoted in July from second to first lieutenant. She recently clocked up twelve years of service to the Girgarre CFA.
Teena said she was drawn to CFA because it "seemed interesting" and she "wanted to go out and help people. It's still interesting and I'm still learning. You're never too old to learn, as they say.”
Teena has lived in Girgarre for almost her entire life and is the third generation in her family to serve the Girgarre CFA.
Teena said the brigade in general was family oriented. Of the 28 active members in the brigade, a number of members are husband and wife or second and third generation.
Girgarre CFA presently has five active female members.