The first career staff were introduced at Hoppers Crossing, Caroline Springs and Greenvale Fire Station with the first, ‘C’ platoon shift starting at 0800 on Thursday, 6 June.
Senior Station Officer (SSO), Ken Walker, was one of the first firefighters on shift at Caroline Springs, after being promoted from Leading Firefighter at Ballarat City where he had worked for eight years.
“I remember coming down for orientation when Paul Carrigg was Officer in Charge (OIC) and we met the volunteers and MFB firefighters who were working at nearby stations,” SSO Waker said.
“Caroline Springs was a new, integrated brigade so was very progressive – Station Officers were given a lot of responsibility that we didn’t have in the past so everyone was quite keen to do their best and make the new model work.”
SSO Walker said while integration was not without its issues in the beginning, Caroline Springs has worked hard to make the change work.
“I’ve found Caroline Springs to be a really positive environment to work in and one of the reasons I have stayed here so long is because of the success of integration,” he said.
SSO Walker said volunteers had a big hand in the brigade’s fundraising and community education programs.
“The vols are accepting of staff and visa-versa – our OICs have also always been very proactive in bringing us all together.”
SSO Wayne Elliott, who also works at Caroline Springs, agreed integration had been a success at the brigade and generally, across the whole district.
He said another thing he enjoyed about working in the region was the growth.
“I worked in the Geelong area up until 2002 before District 14 opened up and I started in Hoppers Crossing,” SSO Elliott said.
“I transferred to Caro as an SSO in July 2009 and even in that short time have seen significant change and growth.
“There’s been a rapid expansion in population and now we’re about to see another 15,000 houses built towards Rockbank.”
SSO Elliott said he has been fighting fires for 34 years, both as a volunteer and career firefighter, and said the variety in the job is what has kept him going.
“It’s not a monotonous role – there’s always something interesting to do,” he said.
“I enjoy helping the community and the people I have met along the way, particularly in 14 – I’ve been here for 10 years now and have found management very supportive.
“It’s been great to be involved in starting fire stations from the ground up.”
Leading Firefighter (LFF) Peter Robinson, who is currently stationed at Point Cook, also enjoyed the challenge of working at a new fire station. He began his time in the region at Greenvale after working at Springvale Fire Station for 12 years.
“It was starting from scratch and I thought it would be a great opportunity to see it from the ground up,” LFF Robinson said.
“We were right at the beginning of it and they were very interesting times.”
SSO Greg Hill also came from Springvale to Greenvale and described the change from city to country.
“We came to Greenvale when it was a tin shed out in the middle of the paddocks,” he said.
“We’ve seen a lot of change since then, they’ve built a new station here as well as many others across the district as it’s become a heavily built up urban area.
“We’d never been exposed to a rural environment like this so it was a good change, an eye-opener.”
SSO Hill is currently stationed at Point Cook, which is one of the newer integrated brigades in District 14.
You can listen to a full interview with LFF Robinson and SSO Hill here:
In his 15 years of volunteering, firefighter Roy Worner, has seen a lot of change, including the amalgamation of Sydenham Fire Brigade into Caroline Springs where he is currently a member. FF Worner also volunteered with Hillside – now a satellite station of Caroline Springs.
“During the early 2000s there was so much change,” FF Worner said.
“We’d gone through a number of leadership changes and were seeing rapid growth.”
FF Worner said because of this, volunteers in the area were aware of plans for integration.
“The growth was just astronomical so we knew it was going to happen and in a sense, we needed that support,” he said.
“Like anything there is always going to be issues, but we’ve worked hard to make integration work, which has been supported by some strong relationships with our SSOs who have thankfully, been very volunteer-minded and friendly.”
Caroline Springs 3rd Lieutenant, Matthew Peters, was also volunteering in 2002 when the brigade introduced career staff. He had come from a volunteer-led brigade background, also having been involved with Alexandra CFA.
“It was quite a big change – a lot of the decisions went from being made by us to being made by other people,” he said.
“But I think it’s one of the better things we’ve done.
Lt Peters said volunteers and staff had both found their place at Caroline Springs and worked well together.
“We’ve seen the benefits with training in particular and are also very involved with community safety and education,” he said.
Len Trawn – a CFA member of 30 years – agreed improvements in training had been of huge benefit to volunteer members.
“When the career staff came along there were better opportunities for training and learning,” he said.
“I think in terms of training and on the operational side, things have been made significantly easier for volunteers but like everything, it has its pluses and minuses.”
FF Trawn had volunteered at Hoppers Crossing Fire Brigade for almost 20 years before it became integrated. He said the long-time spent in a volunteer brigade meant the introduction of career staff was a big change.
“There were some issues for our brigade but I think we were able to work through these over time,” FF Trawn said.
“It really helped that we had an OIC at the time (Michael Masters) who was able to recognise the responsibilities and needs on both sides – I think that was really important to create a harmonious brigade.”
Today, there are 120 career firefighters in North West Metro Region at eight integrated stations including: Hoppers Crossing; Caroline Springs; Greenvale; Craigieburn; Melton; Sunbury; Eltham and; Point Cook.
As well as Point Cook, Eltham is also new to District 14, having moved into the region through the Boundary Realignment project in 2010.
CFA District 14 Operations Manager, John Deering, said Eltham volunteers and career staff had been vital in servicing the east of the region.
“Eltham Fire Brigade has operated with career staff since the early 80s, so brought into our district plenty of experience both operationally, and in working together under an integrated model,” he said.
“Marking 10 years of integration in District 14 is a fantastic milestone for our region and indeed, CFA on whole and I would like to thank those staff and volunteers who have played instrumental roles in setting this region up and ensuring its success.
“We have seen many changes over the 10 years, in particular urban growth, which will remain a challenge for us all for many more years to come. I look forward to many more milestones and exciting times ahead for District 14.”