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Faces of CFA: Michael Henningsen
Michael Henningsen, Caroline Springs Fire Brigade, District 14
What is your CFA role?
I’m a Level 3 Firefighter on B shift. I’ve been at Caroline Springs ever since I got out of Recruits in 2014.
Why did you apply to become a career firefighter?
I was always interested in the role of firefighter as someone who actively maintains fitness as part of their work. I was a physical education teacher in secondary schools so I’ve always had that emphasis.
It also appealed to me to help out in the community rather than take. I wasn’t 100 per cent sure how I’d handle night shifts but shift work appealed to me.
What was the first incident that made an impact on you?
Within my first week we were responded to an MVA with possible person trapped. Josh Martin and I were new recruits on the same shift and unfortunately it was a concrete truck versus car with a fatality.
I thought, “Wow, this is it. We’re not in the training environment anymore. AV [Ambulance Victoria] and VicPol were there as is standard but it was all new to us.
What I remember most was my superiors conducting the debrief afterwards on scene. The support was immediate. We all introduced ourselves and said what we’d done and if there were any problems.
It put my mind at ease that we’d never be left on our own.
What incident has had the greatest impact on you?
Unfortunately it’s always the nasty ones that stick in your mind and that’s where the professionalism of your colleagues stands out.
Last Christmas morning we were called to assist AV with CPR but the patient didn’t make it. I related the patient to my father who was the same age and who I was lucky to be spending Christmas Day with when, unfortunately, Christmas Day would never be the same for that particular family.
What CFA support has made the most difference to you?
I wouldn’t hesitate to access CFA support if I felt the need. If there’s an issue, we’re hugely encouraged to get it out and talk about it.
I have professional colleagues who support me and I also rely on them for advice. You know each other so well that I think you’re able to pick up if something’s up.
You’re trained for the difficult times and we discuss issues in advance so when you turn up at a scene you know your role. The very defined rank structure also helps with that; you trust in your superiors.
Who have been your mentors in CFA?
I’ve relied heavily on my Leading Firefighters Andy Barry and Adam Leslie. Part of their role is to assist our professional development and we rely on them to guide us through the process of qualifying for the next level.
Station Officer Peter Higgins has given me great guidance with his extensive experience and calm demeanour on the fireground.
Qualified Firefighter Garry Green has been at Caroline Springs for a long time and he’s always my first port of call for questions about how the station or the trucks operate. He’s very mechanically minded.
What has been the highlight of your time in CFA?
I’m most proud to implement my training and work within a tight-knit crew in a professional manner to complete a job efficiently.
I really enjoy the camaraderie and I look forward to work every week. Everyone gets along.
PHOTO BY BRIAN MORRIS
Are you thinking about becoming a CFA career firefighter? Applications are opening on 26 April. Visit www.cfa.vic.gov.au/firejobs for more information.