News & Media

Burnover prompts bucket list vow

By: Leith Hillard

Category: People

  12.03 PM 18 November, 2013

Location: District 14 News

Views: 2279

It’s funny how some events can change the way you think and do things. On Saturday 7 February 2009, Black Saturday, I had such an event flash past in front of me.

Epping Tanker was on the first strike team of trucks to venture into the Kinglake-Humevale area for asset protection in the mountain and I was the driver.

Story by Michael Cawthan

We responded to a home to asset protect, but things went pear shaped in the blink of an eye and we were forced to evacuate three people from their burning home. We rushed them into the Greenvale Tanker which was with us and went into an emergency burnover situation. 

This video was made by Michael at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image during a digital storytelling workshop especially for CFA members.

It was a horrific fire that charged at us on three fronts. We went through hell, and the worst of it was that we didn’t know how the three members on the back of the tanker were.

After about 15 minutes of being pelted by pieces of burning wood and aluminium from a caravan next to us, the truck was starting to break up with plastic bits twisting and melting off it.

We were somehow able to get to the people on the back to see if they were still alive. They were, but they were severely distressed so the decision was made to try to escape the area, get the hell out of there and seek safety and assistance for the crew.

We all huddled together for a group hug back at Whittlesea. We did what we were trained to do in an emergency burnover situation and we survived.

After that day, I decided not to waste time in my life but get out and achieve those bucket-list dreams. I asked the members at Epping Fire Brigade about a trip overseas that I always wanted to do: to go to the Gallipoli dawn service. To my amazement, in no time I had eight others interested so, hey, while we were going to the other side of the world, why don’t we visit a fire station in Istanbul and represent CFA.

This was hard to arrange and it took me about 12 months of emails to Australian and Turkish embassies and local councils. All went well and we gave them a CFA flag which today flies high and proud next to the Turkish flag at their fire station.

The dawn service at Anzac Cove Gallipoli this year was truly a moving event. There were a few times when the eyes welled up with emotion as I am proud to be an Australian. During our nine days in Turkey, we visited war cemeteries and historical areas and heard heroic stories of the Aussie Diggers.

Making of Bucket List Dreaming

I was privileged to spend an amazing weekend in the city with 15 other CFA members to make a video of what CFA means to me. The professional people from ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) were so talented and gave their time to help each of us do the audio and set up picture shows.

CFA is one big family where we all look after each other and it is truly remarkable that so many volunteers give their time to protect their communities 365 days a year. 

I called my video Bucket List Dreaming. I encourage others to get out there, enjoy life and do those things you’ve always dreamed about.

Last Updated: 23 November 2013