THE Meeniyan-Stony Creek Fire Brigade covers a massive area, from Foster North, to Dumbalk, Buffalo and towards Koonwarra and Nerrena, but the work is left to a small few.
The brigade has 26 members on the books including 12 active firefighters.
The numbers have dwindled in recent times, despite Meeniyan’s growing population and renowned community spirit.
“We are struggling, to be honest,” Captain Matt Hardidge said.
“It’s not just us. It’s the CFA in general.
“At the last Census, there were just over 1000 people living in Meeniyan, but we have less volunteering for us.”
Volunteering for the CFA is not onerous.
Once you’ve been through a recruitment course, held over four nights and then one Saturday, you’re in.
Then it’s basic ongoing training one night a month, and a meeting once a month, or a minimum of six meetings a year and four training sessions if you’re pushed for time.
“As long as everyone knows what they’re doing on the truck, you’re fine.
“We don’t let anyone on the truck unless they’ve done the courses, but if you’re new, you are buddied up with experienced members.”
Paddy Eldred is one of the more senior members at Meeniyan-Stony Creek.
He’s been part of the brigade for 37 years including 26 as captain.
“It’s the sense of community and giving something back, which I think is very important.
“It’s changed in recent times. There are more women involved now in all different roles and they are fantastic assets. The camaraderie is still the same. It’s very inclusive.”
Members also learn new skills, for free, whether it’s learning to drive a truck, operate a chainsaw or administering first aid.
“We’re also always learning every time we’re called out. Fire behaviour changes all the time in certain conditions, and you always ask yourself whether next time you’d do something differently.”
You’re never too young to start learning though. The brigade is training young firefighters too.
It has a strong junior unit and its members are coming up through the ranks to boost the numbers.
The Meeniyan-Stony Creek Fire Brigade responds to 30 calls a year on average and will support other local brigades in incidents elsewhere.
These can be car crashes, bush and grass fires and at this time of year, house fires often starting in chimneys.
“Summer is traditionally the busiest time but we’re becoming increasingly busy in winter.”
The brigade gets out in the community running programs in the local kinder and primary school.
It has great facilities – the new station was opened four years ago and its meeting room is often hired by local community groups.
Ideally, the brigade needs volunteers who live in town and can get to the station quickly for call-outs.
To find out more, it’s hosting a free information session on Wednesday, August 1 at the station from 7.30pm.
Call Matt on 0490 168 348 for more details.
‘We’re struggling, to be honest’