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Colin Booth - AFSM
A man who joined his local fire brigade after putting out a fire in his own backyard over 30 years ago is now the proud recipient of an Australian Fire Services Medal.
Colin Booth joined Narre Warren Fire Brigade in 1980 and is a member to this very day. The start of his journey with CFA began with a street party when a small grass fire started in his backyard and he quickly extinguished it using a cement bag. His neighbour, who was already a brigade member, suggested he join the brigade. So he did, and he’s never looked back.
“I thought I should give it a go, and I’ve been there ever since. The brigade is a massive part of my life – I love it,” Colin said.
Colin climbed the ranks within the brigade from 4th Lieutenant through to Captain which he held from 1990 to 1996.
A few years after Colin joined the brigade, he was faced with the devastating Ash Wednesday fires. Sadly, Narre Warren Fire Brigade lost six of its brigade members which were not only fellow crew members to Colin, they were his friends. The tragedy of that event changed the way the brigade operated from then on.
“The brigade pulled together after Ash Wednesday and we did everything in our powers to not let that ever happen again,” he said.
“The Captain who took over after Ash Wednesday made changes and was a big push for the future of the brigade.
“The way we train and the management team we have now is better – everything is done better and we’ve got the support to do it.”
Colin has undertaken several roles during his 35 years at the brigade, including 17 years as a Fire Investigator where he’s travelled the state and even helped investigate the Marysville fire during the February 2009 bushfires.
“Fire investigation was the best role I’ve done. I found it really interesting and I really miss doing it,” he said.
Colin has also been on several Strike Teams across the state, including interstate to NSW. But one of his main focuses over the past 17 years was bringing in a new generation of firefighters to the brigade.
“Back in the 80s we talked about the concept of bringing in juniors but no one wanted to take on the role. Then after my term as Captain in 1996, it was suggested to me again and I thought it sounded like a good idea,” Colin explained.
“We’re getting more and more juniors now who are becoming seniors, which is great. In fact eight of our juniors recently became seniors.”
“If we get them in early and get them interested and used to what’s involved, hopefully we can help fill the generation gap and help secure the future of the brigade.”
Colin couldn’t believe it when he found out he was a recipient of an AFSM. He said he had to read the piece of paper a few times.
“It’s an honour and a privilege. I’m with such a fantastic brigade and I can’t thank them enough for nominating me,” Colin said.
“The brigade will continue to be a huge part of my life and I plan to be there forever.”
Colin’s wife has also been a member of the brigade for over 30 years and she’s very proud of him and his achievements. She was also a big part of the brigade’s re-build after Ash Wednesday.
Colin hadn’t told his children the news as he wanted to surprise them on Australia Day – no doubt they are also extremely proud of this incredibly inspiring man.