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Faces of CFA: Peter Watkins
What binds CFA members is the common goal to protect lives and property, but you’re a diverse bunch. Every member has a story and Faces of CFA introduces you to just some of those stories.
Peter Watkins, Sandy Creek & Charleroi Rural Fire Brigade
What is your brigade role?
I’m the health and safety coordinator. My responsibilities include keeping the list of chemicals used and stored at the brigade up to date, general safety, risk assessment and checking things such as PPE. This is introduced via training to help keep members safe and reduce the chance of someone getting hurt whilst attending an incident.
Why did you join CFA?
I grew up on the fire truck with Dad being rostered on-call for a week at a time over the summer when we were kids. We'd have the truck based at our family farm and got to know what each tap and hose did as there was no Minimum Skills training back then.
What do you do for a living outside of CFA?
I’m a contractor with Ferrovial (defence) at an Army vehicle maintenance facility.
How long have you been a member of CFA?
Over 15 years.
What incident has had the greatest positive impact on you and why?
The Tangambalanga New Year's Day fire because of the community spirit and teamwork to ensure no lives, livestock or houses were lost.
What are your hobbies?
Hunting, camping and four-wheel driving.
I mainly go hunting on properties in my local area, but I've just returned from a week-long pig hunting trip in a group of four in outback Queensland. The trip was organised through www.inlandhuntingproperties.com and all participants needed to have a shooters licence and be a member of a shooting club
What is your favourite thing about CFA?
It’s the skills and knowledge gained through training and meeting people from all different walks of life through call-outs, briefings and meetings.
Which CFA training have you got the most out of?
It would have to be the crew leader course at Shelley Forest Camp. The training was really full on but very useful to get all the necessary info and practical skills to supervise the crew on a truck. It was very handy and I've used skills gained through this course to lead harvest crews and, when required, to step up as leading hand at work.
What would you say to someone thinking of joining CFA?
It's definitely not for the faint hearted, although there are roles suited for all members of the community, not just the physical firefighter on the back of the truck.
Do you recall the first incident you attended?
The first I recall was an out-of-control burn-off at Kergunyah which was heading up the gully into national park on Mt Murramarangbong. The tracks into the national park from the property were really narrow and the fire trucks only just made it up. There was no room to pull over so another truck could get past, so multiple trucks were used to feed a couple of hose lines to reach the fire in the basin of the gully.
What is your fondest memory of CFA?
It would have to be back when CFA was a community-run organisation, before members were required to do Minimum Skills before they could go on a truck. We'd do roadside fuel reduction burns all through the community to reduce the risk of a big bushfire and the chance of a fire being started on the roadside. These burn-offs were today's equivalent of Minimum Skills, junior brigade member training and new member introduction to the brigade appliances.
Hopefully my kids will follow their pop's footsteps and join CFA as I have. I remember Dad had to go on the roster and the fire truck was based at our farm at Charleroi for a week during summer. He had to go to the fire when he got a call from the captain and everyone else available would meet him there.
Tell us about Sandy Creek- Charleroi Rural Fire Brigade
The Sandy Creek- Charleroi Rural Fire Brigade is primarily servicing a rural/ farming community and we have 120 members on the books with 86 of those active firefighters. Others are non-active but are responsible for roles behind the scenes that are a necessary part of the day-to-day running of the brigade.
The 2016-17 financial year season has been reasonably quiet with only 16 calls to date, although not as quiet as say 15 years ago when we had only five calls in our brigade area.
Being a rural community, the brigade is one of the few organisations that community members rely on, belong to or participate in which contribute to their community. It’s also where people work together to achieve a good outcome when things go wrong.
There are a number of community members who have private firefighting units that have been used as first attack and for blacking out and mopping up etc. The brigade units have been called to assist other parts of the state in a strike team, so the private units, manned by brigade members, were on-call if needed to respond to local calls
Do you know a CFA member other members would love to read about? Complete this question-and-answer form with them, adding plenty of detail about their time in CFA and the role they play in their community. Please then submit it with a photo so we can feature them as our member of the week.