It is a tiny town with only one house, five residents and a tanker truck but combined, it makes a vital contribution to protecting life and property every day.
While only a pretend town, this is how the contribution of Mernda’s Weedon family is regarded by its fellow CFA volunteers.
“There’s a lot of joking around that in the middle of the night that it’s the ‘Weedon tanker’ turning out because it’s always me and my two sons on the truck,” Mernda CFA member Geoff Weedon said.
And behind the scenes is Geoff’s wife Kae – a long serving CFA volunteer and former Communications Officer of 19 years.
“On TFB days our place is a mad house – we’ve always got people coming over to find out what’s going on, Kae is the lifeline,” Geoff said.
Kae jokes one of her children’s earliest lessons in life was to use the old Fire Reporting System (FRS) where CFA members were alerted by telephone to incidents in their area.
“This was back in the day, before VicFire even existed, when everything had to be done manually,” she said.
“I started in the role of Comms Officer as I was able to do it from home when I still had small children.
“And it didn’t take long for the kids to learn FRS – I think that’s how they first became interested in CFA, our house was like a second fire station sometimes.”
Although Kae has taken a step back from the operational side of volunteering, she said it has been rewarding to pass on her knowledge to younger members.
“It’s been great to take a step back and let some newer members give the Comms Officer role a go,” she said.
“It is not such a manual process these days but being a Comms Officer is still a role for the multi-tasker; it involves a lot of organisation but it is something I really enjoyed.
“Volunteering for CFA has been a great experience all round. I love the community involvement and all of the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made through being a part of the brigade.”
Operationally, Geoff has for many years volunteered alongside his two sons, Brett – Mernda CFA Occupational Health and Safety Officer and firefighter - and David – the brigade’s 3rd Lieutenant.
“At one stage we even had our other son Ryan in the mix – I’m really glad that they got involved because the things you learn beyond firefighting are invaluable,” Geoff said.
“It has also made me very proud to see how far they have come from juniors to holding officer and lieutenant roles within the brigade.
“And I know that because of what they’ve learnt from me and others within the brigade that they’re more than capable to go out to a job and run it by themselves, and do it well.”
Brett agreed that growing up in CFA, and a small, family-orientated brigade at that, had been a great experience.
“I’ve just grown up with a really great bunch of people and enjoy helping out the community,” he said.
“Having that family connection has been great, but at the same time, when we jump on the back of the truck, we’re all firefighters and treat each other like we would anyone else in the brigade.”
David described the culture within CFA, similar to that of a country footy club.
“The social side of it and family friendly atmosphere is just like it is in footy clubs – That’s one of the main reasons I got involved and why I like it so much,” he said.
“There’s more to it all than lights and sirens. It’s really rewarding to be able to help someone through what you’re doing.”
As a CFA volunteer of 27 years, Geoff has lent his hand at nearly every brigade role, including Mernda Captain for about eight years.
“Being a captain was a tough job because there are a lot of people management skills involved and you really have to push yourself beyond what was previously been required of you,” Geoff said.
“But during my entire 27 years, there have been more ups than downs in volunteering for CFA and I just don’t think it will ever be something I’ll get out of my blood now.”
While still jumping on the back of a fire truck – including 49 times this year – Geoff’s role within the brigade these days is in training and mentoring new members.
“We’ve got a great bunch of people at Mernda and the current captain is fantastic so I really enjoy the training and mentoring side of things,” Geoff said.
“It’s just so important to pass down knowledge to newer members so that it’s not all lost.”
In reflecting on what volunteering has brought into his life, Geoff said the benefits were endless.
“The values and respect you are taught within CFA and the mateship is not something I think I could have found anywhere else,” he said.
“I’m really glad that my family has been brought up in that environment and also that volunteering is something we’ve been able to do as a family.
“During the tough times, like the Black Saturday bushfires, having family around that really understands what I you’re going through makes such a difference.
“There have definitely been some tough times but volunteering has been a really rewarding way to give back and CFA has been a good organisation to do that with.”