WHILE many may assume CFA is all about fighting fires, a big part of the organisation’s success is its hardworking behind-the-scenes volunteers.
With Volunteers Week, it’s a perfect time to highlight not just the firefighters, but those who volunteer in many of the CFA’s non-operational roles.
South Gippsland CFA group officer Walter Aich joined the Dumbalk brigade in the 1990s, working his way through the ranks.
“I had a number of roles in that brigade from general firefighting to brigade captain,” he said.
“South Gippsland Group incorporates 12 firefighting brigades and one coast guard brigade.
“The group starts off in the west from Inverloch, east to Hedley, north we start off at Milford and then right down to Tarwin Lower.
“The role as group officer is to assist brigades in doing what it is they need to do to maintain service delivery.
“The key thing we aim to achieve is the safety of ourselves on the fireground and then to preserve life and property.”
Mr Aich said brigades were always needing new members, and there were many different roles for people to get involved in.
“If you’re what we call operational, you need to have an ongoing commitment because there’s training and turning out,” he said.
“It’s not that style of volunteering where you can work on a project for weeks or months, you’ve got to maintain the skill.
“The mistake people often make is that because we’re volunteers, we’re not skilled or professional.
“We are often in hazardous situations, so we need to be both.”
Mr Aich also encouraged young people to consider volunteering, especially those with strong ties to their community.
“In the last few years, we’ve had people deployed to NSW, and the East Gippsland fires,” he said.
“The other thing that people need to keep in mind is that it’s not just a person on the truck that we need.
“We also need a person that supports them and does logistics and planning.
“We’re always looking for new people and those with skills to work behind the scenes.”