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Footy fever at Ruby Fire Station
Ruby Fire Brigade used AFL Grand Final day as an excuse to gather at the fire station with their families, cheer and jeer the teams, and enjoy the expert barbecue skills of Nathan Hardacre.
“We do a lot of stressful work and if we can’t make it enjoyable and social then it’s no good,” said Captain Darren Hardacre. “We usually keep the weekends for our families and meet socially in the evenings at the station but we’ve got a one-eyed Hawks supporter. We couldn’t miss the chance to bag him.” (Of course, now that the results are in, we all know there wasn’t much cause for bagging!)
Darren is an enthusiastic leader who was one of the first 20 to complete the Chief Officer’s Leadership Development Program. He has also completed Fireline Leadership and attended a five-day leadership summit in Canberra with other emergency services.
“I’m always reading to get an idea of different ways to do something or ways that other brigades are working that we could try,” he said.
In fact Ruby was involved in the pilot of the mobile training props and Darren joined the reference committee. The brigade hosted the domestic and light industrial props in the large area outside their 10-year-old station for the benefit of the Leongatha-Korumburra group and one other brigade.
“It was grouse,” continued Darren. “We put 180 through and people being trained as prop facilitators. We used 14 liquid withdrawal cylinders and 70,000 litres of water.”
Darren has been the captain for eight years and will stay on for another two. The brigade management team were given plenty of notice that the leadership would be changing hands. They’re strong on forward planning, laying out the details of all brigade roles and responsibilities several years ago.
“We’re big on mentoring people,” said Darren. “It’s all about sharing the knowledge around. We have heaps of crew leaders, two strike team leaders and most of the brigade members can drive the truck – that’s something we’ve pushed hard.
“We always do our after-action reviews. In 2009 we went to Delburn, Bunyip and Wilsons Prom and stepped up to Leongatha so we’ve felt the pressure as you do in CFA but we’re pretty tight knit.”
Certainly there’s a depth of talent in the brigade. With members managing plumbing and engineering businesses, working as concrete pumpers, farmers, agricultural contractors, and in electronics and cabinet making, there isn’t likely to be much going awry at the station that someone couldn’t fix.
The brigade of 50 has about 20 operational members but a big local fire will “bring a lot of people out of the woodwork”. Ruby is also likely to welcome a few young people who turn 16 over the next few years.
The brigade changed from responding to an average of 12 incidents a year to 70 with the move to the CAD. The majority, however, are in support with the primary response remaining the same. There is some steep country in the brigade area, and a few hundred homes on land that is green most of the year with high stocking rates.
“We’ve tried to increase our profile when it comes to informing the community about risk,” said Darren. “I’m always fielding calls from members of the general public about fire restrictions and burn offs. ‘How do I find out if my house is prepared for bushfire’?
“The doors are always open.”