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Beulah women fast responders
Beulah Brigade has a lot of busy farmers on its books, but they still manage to ‘hit it hard, hit it fast’, thanks in no small part to its female firefighters who tend to stay closer to home and can dash to the station.
Debbie Riggall – one of the amazing CFA women being profiled in the lead up to International Women’s Day – is among them.
It’s not unusual for women to outnumber men (who are often taken into distant paddocks by their cropping and harvesting duties) at call outs. The brigade, located in Victoria’s North West, attends incidents from haystack, stubble and header fires to burnoffs and lightning strike fires.
To support their brigade and community, six Beulah women have taken the opportunity to get their truck licenses, then complete an operational driving course, says Debbie.
“Lessons included reversing down a ramp at the creek and around the bunkers, driving around town and along the back roads.
“We were stoked to achieve 90 per cent and above in the test and then completed the Drive Vehicles under Operational Conditions course. It’s given us the confidence to do the job knowing we’re doing it to the best of our ability.”
Debbie mentions ex-Captain Alan Smith and current Captain Ian Marshman (“who says ‘just jump in and do it’”) as great supporters of women in operational roles.
“We’re given every opportunity to attend courses and advance our knowledge. We’re never put in the background at an incident and being treated as an equal - that’s the real buzz. It’s men and women across the board,” she says.
"The Juniors are half boys and half girls, which means we’ve got trained-up young women moving up to seniors.
“A lot of wives who aren’t strictly brigade members will put private water carts on the back of a trailer for all hands on deck. One woman lives opposite the station and she’ll run over and open the door if we’re paged,” says Debbie.
The opening of the new fire station now makes it more comfortable for the brigade to be close-knit. The barbecue is fired up following incident debriefs and for special occasions.
“We’re a very family-oriented brigade,” says Debbie. “We might have whole families turn out to an incident and we spend time camping and going on holidays together.”
In the lead-up to International Women’s Day 8 March, CFA is profiling women who represent the many and varied roles that CFA members play in their communities.
All the stories featured this week will be published in a special booklet titled Celebrating CFA Women to be launched on Friday.
More stories from this series:
4. A Peer Apart