News & Media

Double duty in Wodonga

  • photo via CFA SSO David Brown

By: Duncan Russell

Category: People

  4.03 PM 16 December, 2014

Location: District 24 News

Views: 1758

When Wodonga Fire Brigade Station Officer David Brown started as a volunteer at Plenty about 20 years ago, “it wasn’t in my wildest dreams that I’d be paid to do the job”. 

By Leith Hillard

David’s straightforward 20-year wish “to do something for the community and meet some people” remains as relevant today as he balances CFA work, family and volunteering at Wodonga West Fire Brigade.

“When I started volunteering here 11 years ago, there was no loo, no running water and 20 to 30 calls a year,” said David. “Now we have more than 200 turnouts a year and our own Type 3 medium pumper. We’re a young, vibrant brigade with a lot of members in their 20s just starting families.”

When a call goes out, David might turn out as an incident controller from Wodonga or a volunteer from Wodonga West.

“Wherever I am, I’m part of the skills mix,” he said. “The skills I bring to a volunteer turnout are complemented by the skills of the farmer and the building surveyor and we all work under the crew leader. They might say, ‘Browny, what do you think?’ but other times I hang on the hose. It’s what hat you’re wearing and the maturity you bring.

“I respect that I work with 16 dedicated people at Wodonga who have this as their career, and I respect that I work with a volunteer workforce.

“Most of the training of the Wodonga volunteers is done by the career firefighters as part of the integrated model. Our work gives us plenty of training and opportunities to use those skills in real life. As custodians of that knowledge, it’s important we empower the next generation of firefighters. We’ll look at our work calendar and see if it intersects with volunteer training and take the truck along so the volunteers can get familiar with it.”

David gives credit to two influential leaders: Captain Max Maclean from his days volunteering at Plenty, and former Wodonga Station Officer Ron Boland.

“Max was a very fair captain but a disciplinarian,” said David. “He did things the right way. The tyres had to be blacked. It stood me in good stead for being a career firefighter.

“Ron taught me everything I know as an officer and he was also a Kergunyah Fire Brigade volunteer. His inclusiveness and his ability to walk that fine line was a model for me.”

David also expresses his gratitude for the support of Wodonga West Captain Ross Coyle and the gratitude comes right back at him.

“David extends our experience,” said Ross who is also a CFA Board member. “We acknowledge his skills but he’s not the kind to stand over others and lecture.

“We have a great relationship with all Wodonga staff. Their station is very integrated with the whole Wodonga Group. There’s not a huge fence up. It’s positive that people who volunteer want to be career fireys and vice versa.”

Meanwhile, David will keep working to get the balance right.

“But most things can be brought back to what’s best for the community,” he said. “That’s the moral compass. I volunteer because of the camaraderie but also I live in that area and we’re a fire prone part of Victoria. If a fire burns into Wodonga, the west will be the first area hit.”

Photo: Ben Wheeler

Last Updated: 16 December 2014