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‘I missed my 21st birthday party’
Wallan volunteer firefighter Michael Hoyne was on-call the week before Black Saturday when on the morning of 29 January 2009, he received a call to head with a strike team to Gippsland.
***Michael Hoyne is a CFA volunteer who is being profiled as part of a special series celebrating National Volunteer Week***
The day also happened to be his 21st birthday and around 60 guests were set to arrive at his home that evening to help him celebrate.
The Wallan CFA crew set off in the morning and by the time they reached the staging area at Mirboo North, it was being evacuated due to the spread of the bushfire.
Michael spent the entire day fighting the intense blaze.
“It was probably the most full-on strike team he’s been a part of.”
While his family and guests continued on with his planned party back home in Wallan, Michael celebrated his 21st over a local pub meal with the rest of his crew.
“They were still all technically family, so it was OK,” he said.
That night he slept in a school hall with around 70 other firefighters, before heading off to another day of firefighting.
Michael said he has no regrets in missing his milestone birthday and wouldn’t change a thing.
“It’s something that will definitely stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Michael still got to enjoy his birthday cake, which his family presented to him on his return home.
The 27-year-old is still an active member of the Wallan brigade, and has been with the CFA since joining as a junior at the age of 11.