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Going the distance for Damien
After an epic 563 kilometres, it was truly fitting that the 20 ‘Mildura to Melbourne’ firefighters crossed the finish line together with family, friends and support people.
This was an event that was all about bringing people together, in memory of a firefighter and friend who had an amazing ability to do just that.
After completing the final leg together with friends and relatives including Damien’s wife Anne, the firefighters arrived at Crown Metropole last Sunday (4 September), to cheers and the tooting horns of fire trucks.
The runners – ten each from CFA and MFB – contributed an average of 28 kilometres to the relay-style event, taking it in turns to run stints of around 5 kilometres at a time.
The Mildura to Melbourne (M2M) run was jointly organised by the two fire services in memory of Damien Burke who tragically passed away while on a secondment to CFA from MFB.
Mildura Senior Station Officer Michael Sporton took on the impressive task of handling logistics in conjunction with MFB’s Steve Axup.
“Damien brought the services so much closer together just through his way of working,” said Mick, who worked closely with Damien on Mildura’s D Shift Platoon.
“It was his approachability and his good nature. It didn’t matter to him who you were or what level you were at, he had a way of making you feel like an equal. He treated you with respect.”
Mick said the spirit of the event had been very much in keeping with Damien’s legacy.
“The mateship, camaraderie and bonding across this event were really fabulous. I think the people involved will remember it for the rest of their lives,” he said.
“The guys were naturally talking about their work as well as about the run. It was a great chance for the city firefighters to speak with the country firefighters about the work they do, and to talk about the different challenges that exist in those different environments.”
Key to the success of M2M were the six support people who travelled all the way and then walked the final leg from Footscray Fire Station to Crown , leaving ahead of the running group so that they could all finish together.
Mick said the support from individuals and brigades all along the journey had been fantastic.
“We had amazing support from Ouyen, Charlton and Sea Lake brigades who helped us out with meals and accommodation,” he said.
“Bendigo provided some runners to give our boys a rest, and Sunbury did the same – they were all pretty sore by that point so it just took some sting out of that part of the run.”
The M2M event, which raised money for the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and more than $10,000 for Lifeline, was held in conjunction with the Melbourne Firefighter Stair climb - meaning participants finished off the last leg, took a 40-minute breather, put on full turn-out gear and breathing apparatus (25 kilos’ worth) then climbed 28 flights of stairs.
“It was a massive team effort to complete the event,” said Mick. “We had some tired, sore boys at the end.”
Both events were initiated by MFB firefighter Steve Axup, who began the Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb in 2014 as an annual event to raise money for charity.
“When Steve contacted me I immediately said yes,” said Mick.
“Even though we only had eight weeks to organise everything I was very enthusiastic to do it, and had the full weight of support behind me from the firefighters on station,” he said.
Mick Sporton acknowledged all of the encouragement and assistance from District 18 and the North West region, thanking ACO Gavin Thompson, OM John Bigham and Mildura Officer-In-Charge Ron Shiner.
He said plans were already in the pipeline for next year's Burkey's M2M which next year may even be extended to take in Swan Hill.
The Damien Burke Memorial Run was organised by the MFB Charity Running Club.