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Perfect conditions for seasonal volunteering
With a population of about 100 in summer but up to 8000 on a perfect winter day, Mt Hotham-Dinner Plain Fire Brigade needs an innovative volunteering model.
The key is attracting both seasonal and year-round volunteers and keeping them interested according to Officer in Charge Lyndon Bradley who’s enjoying his second winter living and working at the fire station.
“There are 4500 beds in Hotham and another 2500 in Dinner Plain 12 kilometres away,” said Lyndon, “with an over-snow pumper and tanker at the former and a pumper tanker at the latter.
“We have six year-round members and a total of 23 operational members this winter including ski and snowboard instructors who then head to Japan, Canada and the US for their winters. A lot of them have a real passion for the mountains and the lifestyle and a good energy comes with that.
“Our members range in age from mid-20s to their 60s including four operational women. We have the village bus driver, retired people managing lodges, business owners and staff in guest services. We also have two current MFB firefighters up here managing lodges and enjoying volunteering.
“Brett Boatman was the long-standing operations officer before me and he helped build a good culture. Members can come and enjoy training on a Monday night which isn’t just skills maintenance but skills acquisition. We held a crew leaders’ course just before winter and we’re in the process of running hazmat awareness and drive operational vehicles under emergency conditions.
“It’s a whole big family at the resort and our members also enjoy the social side.”
As far as he’s concerned, it’s all downhill (skiing, that is).
Captain Larry Doyle is a ski patroller who responds to accidents on the slopes and provides first aid. He’s been in the leadership role for 20 years and remains as enthusiastic as ever about the brigade.
“Lyndon does the training and mentoring and is backed up by some of our members to deliver a revised Minimum Skills package,” he said. “A new seasonal volunteer could be qualified within the first season and ready to turn out by their second season.
“The MFB members are having a good time and they share their expertise with us. Of course the risk up here is more structural than bushfire so their background is an added benefit and they provide us with a few training laughs.
“We have six drivers for the over-snow which requires a different form of driving and can also be used during summer. We also have a few up-and-comers in the brigade support team and we’re fundraising for a new FCV.
“We’re keeping things on the boil and standing on our own two feet.”
For year-round recruitment, the brigade is targeting Ramada which owns 25 houses in Dinner Plain, although some summer workers aren’t residents but travel up daily from Harrietville. They can be kept busy through the quieter seasons servicing bushwalkers to Mt Feathertop and sporting teams doing high-altitude training.
Victoria Police has two officers full time on the mountain while Ambulance Victoria has one.
An average winter sees about 15 turnouts with chimney fires the main drama although Larry also cautions against the perennial threat that is burnt toast.
Thanks to Lyndon Bradley for photos.
This story is included in the Spring edition of Brigade magzine which will be posted to members in late August.