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The science behind becoming a CFA firefighter
Former chemistry lecturer Natalie Debeljuh knew that joining CFA as a recruit firefighter would be a challenge.
But she never expected it to have so much in common with her past profession.
“I came in expecting to learn the standard “how to put the wet stuff on hot stuff,” Natalie said.
“But I’ve since learned there is a lot of science behind the different techniques used to fight fires.”
The 28-year-old is one of eight women who graduated last Wednesday (30 November) from CFA’s latest recruit training course. This is the highest number of female recruits to ever graduate from CFA, and reflects the organisation’s efforts to increase diversity.
The new recruits will now take up placements at CFA’s integrated brigades in outer Melbourne and regional Victoria – including Rosebud, Ballarat City and Mildura, where Natalie will be based.
“I’ve been at university, either studying or teaching, for nearly ten years,” Natalie explained.
“I was ready for a new challenge, something that would get me out of the city and see me helping Victorian communities in a meaningful way.”
CFA’s recruit training was harder than Natalie anticipated, but she has enjoyed the physical challenge and also the camaraderie that comes with working in a close team environment.
“I’ve been a volunteer firefighter with Corio for a few years, so I knew how important team work is at CFA. You really need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team members.”
As an expert in chemistry, Natalie naturally found the fire science, HAZMAT and foam sections of the training to be the most interesting.
“I really enjoyed the theory and learning all the technical aspects of putting out fires,” she said.
“I definitely prefer to understand the theory before I start putting it into practice.”
In a few weeks, Natalie will begin her placement at Mildura Fire Station, one of the busiest and most remote brigades in Victoria’s far north west.
“I’ve visited Mildura Fire Station a couple of times during training, and also for a state demo earlier this year,” she said.
“I just can’t wait to give it a go up there – it’s so hot and dry over summer, but then recently they’ve been hit hard with the storms and floods.
“It will be a challenging environment, but that’s what I’m most looking forward to.”
Two more groups of recruits will graduate before the end of the year, on 12 and 16 December.
Read about Natalie's fellow recruit Emre Altiparmak here.