Dawn officially joined CFA 17 years ago although she’d been volunteering long before that - making phone calls and helping with administration work for the brigade.
“I grew up in Erica and have always lived in the country. I remember sitting in the passageway of our house watching a major bushfire over the hills when I was six or seven. Bushfires are just a part of living if you’re out in rural areas, as well as floods and snakes.”
While Willung South is a fairly quiet brigade, members are quick to help with strike teams and sent firefighters to the Sydney and Canberra fires in 2003.
“If there’s a campaign fire I can almost guarantee that one of our tankers/trucks will be part of it. We’re a two-truck brigade as we amalgamated with Gormandale a few years back, so it’s easy to take one of our trucks out.”
Dawn was very active in the 2009 fires.
“I was working in the incident management team and spent my days off with my brigade on the truck. At one point people were saying, ‘go home your place is going to burn out!’. I called home to check if the answering machine picked up, which it did, which meant that the power lines hadn’t gone.
“My other half was out on the truck up at Calignee. I couldn’t get in touch with him because he’d lost his mobile phone – I finally heard from someone at 2am to let me know that he was still up there.
“It wasn’t fun but it’s much better to be out on the fire ground or in an IMT rather than at home waiting for a phone call. In the IMT you’d be one of the first to know if a firefighter went down – no news is good news.”
Also see Churchill fire: An insider's view by Dawn's husband Craig Wood
In her role as Fourth Lieutenant Dawn focuses on mentoring the younger members of Willung South.
“Our Lieutenants don’t have specified roles as such but I focus on providing mentoring for a lot of new people – especially for the females. If we have an incident I’ll be the one to say,‘OK you guys grab the hose’ and I’ll be right beside them helping. Hey, we’re getting old!
“My advice is always - don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. If you can’t do something let us know. Not everyone has the same strength and I don’t just mean lifting things, just give what you can because every little bit helps.
“We’ve got quite a few youngsters now which is good. We’re getting more and more. We’ve also got older members – it’s the ones in between that are a problem as they find they have to go outside for work. Willung South used to mainly be a farming area – but farming just isn’t paying so people are selling their farms and the pine plantations are coming in.
“We do a fair bit of training, especially once it hits daylight saving. We train every Monday night until Christmas and every second after. We’re all country people – we’ve all worked on farms and all our guys know a lot about machinery – to work a pump is just second nature to them.
“CFA is a second family with people there you could call on – it doesn’t have to be fire, it can be other things. I’ve gotten to know a great bunch of people and it makes you feel like you belong to your community – people just look after each other.”
In her time at CFA Dawn has seen things become a lot safer.
“We have it a lot better nowadays compared to what it used to be, especially with regulations and equipment, and there’s a lot more protection on the trucks in particular. It’s improving all the time, as it should.
“It’s more about defensive firefighting now such as blacking out and using dozers - you get pulled out of the fire now if it’s too dangerous. We’re certainly not out there with a bit of wood slapping the fire out or trying to get up close.”
Operations Officer Peter Lockwood speaks well of Dawn.
“Dawn is a good Lieutenant and has been a Group Secretary in the past. She’s active, helpful and very approachable,” said Peter.