On fire

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firefighter
Photography: Dave Tangey

As a volunteer with the Country Fire Authority, Jo Roche VN of Heathmont Animal Hospital in Victoria, has attended over 600 incidents. 

“It all happens quickly. When the pager goes off, we have four minutes to get to the station, get changed into turnout gear and get on the fire truck. Ideally, we should be on scene at the incident within a total of eight minutes from the initial page. 

“Volunteering with the Country Fire Authority (CFA) runs in my family. My father, brother, sister and fiancée are also volunteers. 

“I became a firefighter in July 2016 after completing a six-month recruits course. Calls I have attended vary from fires to car accidents to alarms and even the occasional animal rescue. I remember the first time I approached a fire, I thought to myself ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ But then my training kicked in and I knew exactly what to do in order to put out the fire. Since joining, I’ve attended over 600 calls—I normally turn out at night-time, on weekends or on my days off. 

“I’m a member of the Bayswater CFA. Safety is our number-one priority and there’s always an officer in charge of every call watching out for you. The CFA also has excellent wellbeing support services, available for all members and family. If you’re exposed to any kind of stressful or traumatic experience, it’s really important to talk with them. They’re very focused on maintaining our mental health. 

“New South Wales experienced some terrible bushfires recently and CFA sent approximately 55 trucks to help out. I spent five days assisting with firefighting operations. It’s heartbreaking to see the impact of fire on the people, the land and the wildlife. But despite the devastation, the generosity of the community was incredible. 

“I also spend time helping to present Fire Safe Kids programs to schools and kindergartens. We educate the kids on the importance of fire safety, teaching them how to call triple zero and to get down low and go, go, go! We also teach stop, drop and roll, and how to safely exit the house in case of fire. 

“I joined the CFA to give back to the community and make a difference. I’m constantly learning new skills as part of a team with many new friends. If you’re considering volunteering with CFA, go along to one of the information sessions. You don’t have to be on a fire truck to be in the fire brigade. There’s many different avenues you can explore.”

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