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Firefighter by Day and Night
***David Ellams, CFA career firefighter and volunteer is being profiled as part of a special series focusing on volunteers to celebrate National Volunteer Week May 12-18.
David Ellams’ role as a volunteer began when he was just 12 years-old after he signed up as a junior firefighter at CFA’s Baxter Fire Station.
David said hearing the wail of the rural fire siren blaring across the roof tops of Baxter motivated him to become a member.
Too young to jump on the back of the truck, he had to wait until his fourteenth birthday before he could join in with his peers.
“On the day of my birthday we got a call out to a grassfire in Baxter. I went on the fire truck in my overalls and yellow hat and stood at the end of the hose – it felt awesome,” he said.
So keen to help out, David would park his bike outside his house facing the direction of the fire station, so he was always ready to peddle like mad to the truck if there was a call out.
Since then, David hasn’t looked back.
For the past 34 years, he has dedicated his life to keeping the community safe with his full-time and volunteer roles at CFA.
David works at the Pakenham Fire Station as the Senior Station Officer. When he’s at home, he volunteers at the Poowong and Nyora/Loch fire brigades.
“Every day of the week as soon as my pager goes off I just have to go. It’s in my blood - I can’t help it,” David said.
Throughout his career David has been involved in major campaign fires across Victoria, including Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday.
On the 14th February 1983 he was on the first fire truck out the door to the Ash Wednesday bushfires.
He was just 17 years-old.
“I had wagged school that day and was waiting at the station in case there was a fire. So when the FRS phone rang I was the first to the truck,” he said.
“We went to Upper Beaconsfield – there was fire everywhere. It was pretty horrific at the time.
“It was the biggest and worst fire that I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Despite witnessing the devastating loss of life and property during those fires, David said he became even more determined to help others.
“I worked really hard and learnt everything I could so I could slowly work my way up through the ranks to a Senior Station Officer,” he said.
“I wanted to have the skills and knowledge to help people in the community.”
At home, David’s wife Deb calls him the ‘Senior Station Officer of the House’ for his tendency to tell everyone what to do, just like he does at work.
“Debbie’s been with me since 1983 and when we starting going out for meals together my beeper would go off and I’d just have to leave her there at the table,” he said.
More than three decades later, not much has changed.
“When people ask Deb where I am, she always replies, ‘The same as every other day – at the Fire Station’”.
“She knows that for me, the fire brigade is number one and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
David’s son Jack followed in his father’s footsteps and is now a new member of Poowong Fire Brigade.
Recently, Jack was involved in a serious motorcycle accident and it was volunteers, just like David, who turned up to help.
“When my son had his accident everybody came to help him and that’s what CFA’s all about,” he said.
“So many members called and messaged us and we knew they would’ve done anything for us.”
While his son is on the road to recovery, David is as motivated as ever to help others.
“Whenever I get called I think it could be somebody I know and so when your pager beeps I have to go,” he said.
“We’ve just got to do our best to help each other out, that’s what community is all about.”