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Hopeful volunteer path to career firefighter
Prompted by a desire to give back to the community, Phillip Island 2nd Lieutenant Josh Smith, 23, is making a second attempt to become a CFA career firefighter.
He has a rock solid emergency services base, starting with Nippers at Woolamai Beach Surf Life Saving Club, one of the most hazardous beaches in Victoria. He is now a patrol captain as well as a member of the Phillip Island Marine Rescue Service.
Straight out of school he completed a Certificate 3 in Public Safety which sets students up for emergency response in mining or gas plants. That was followed by a Diploma in Paramedical Science aimed at non-emergency patient transport.
One year after Minimum Skills he was a brigade lieutenant and is now a crew leader and training officer with breathing apparatus and hazmat qualifications along with recognition of prior learning of his Cert 3.
Running parallel on the volunteer track has been his pursuit of surf life saving qualifications and expertise.
“In 2013, I was selected to do a life saving development camp,” said Josh, “which gives you five qualifications including spinal management. On the way back from that course we got called to a car versus tourist bus accident. My initial task was to provide fire suppression to the crew cutting the two out of the car. One of them had suspected spinal injuries, so I helped paramedics to spinally package him using a vacuum mattress using my new first aid skills. I heard afterwards he was okay.”
There was a similar coincidence in the face of an emergency in mid-2015 when two arborists doing cliff weed removal suffered an equipment malfunction that dumped them on Cape Woolamai rocks as the tide was coming in.
“Only 30 minutes earlier, emergency services were responded to a nearby cliff fatality,” said Josh, “so they were at strength in the area.
“I had the keys to the surf life saving club and, at the request of Vic Pol, I got our all-terrain vehicle and an inflatable rescue boat. Police had the skills to take the boat but they didn’t know the area. I’d been there heaps of times before so I piloted them into the crevice. It was a case of life over limb: we had to get them off the rocks before we could think about spinal injuries.”
The complex incident took four and a half hours from fall to helicopter evacuation, and led to Josh, a nearby crayboat pilot and three unaffected arborists being awarded an Ambulance Victoria community hero award.
Cert 3, CFA and life saving qualifications and volunteer experience helped land Josh his current job as a firefighter at the RAAF base at East Sale.
His sights are now firmly set on a CFA career.
“I love the community aspect of being a firefighter and helping people in need,” he said. “Now I just have to get my fitness up for the next career firefighter physical aptitude test.”