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Faces of CFA - Brendan O'Neill
Warrnambool brigade member Brendan O'Neill is featured in the autumn 2013 edition of Brigade magazine's Faces of CFA.
How long have you been with this brigade?
About 13 years. I started with CFA in 1981 when I joined Sheans Creek brigade. Our family farm was down the road from CFA and I rode my bike to the shed for the radio check on Sunday mornings before I got my car licence. I then moved to Berwick, Pakenham and Echuca brigades before joining Warrnambool.
Why did you join CFA?
I grew up on a farm and, like most farmers in the district, my father was in CFA. If the farmers and their families weren’t in the brigade, there was no firefighting capacity in the area.
When I was younger, the excitement of fire calls drew me to the brigade, but what’s kept me involved are the different people I’ve met and knowing I’m helping people in need. I’ve met a wide variety of people with a common goal and interest. It doesn’t matter if you work on a farm or in an office.
What was the first incident you attended?
Officially, it was a haystack fire caused by welding on an adjoining property. Unofficially, I attended many fires with my father who was a deputy group officer with Euroa Group. At one fire I remember, we confirmed the smoke sighting. We drove straight to the fire, my father dropped me off at the gate and I directed the trucks to the fire as they arrived.
Which incident has had the greatest impact on you?
One Easter eve there was a house fire in Warrnambool. The house was all but destroyed as were the kids’ Easter eggs. I told my children about this when they woke up the next morning and they decided to give their Easter eggs to the children who lost theirs in the fire.
What have you done around your home to prevent fires?
I clean spouting, store fire wood away from the house, and have installed a fire blanket and extinguisher. I ensure the screen is over the open fire in the winter and I don't use frayed electrical leads.
What do you do when you’re not firefighting?
I’m a technical manager with Fonterra, which involves some international travel to interesting destinations in Asia.
At home I enjoy building things from wood – mainly furniture. I recently retired from playing hockey but will still have an association with the club. Our youngest son is involved in sport so we travel around to watch the games he plays in.
After a long stint of firefighting, what meal do you crave?
Lasagne made by my lovely wife or corned beef with mash and vegetables.
What do you like to listen to on the drive home from a job?
Pink Floyd is my favorite band and I’ve seen the Roger Waters Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall concerts in Melbourne. Several of us in the brigade sometimes get together to listen to music.
Interview by Julie Owens