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Top teams head to Australasian Champs
Swan Hill’s team has been training for three months for this weekend’s Australasian Firefighter Championship but – win or lose - they reckon the experience will give them an edge in more ways than one.
The Australasian Firefighting Championships is a biannual competition where some of the best teams from Australia and New Zealand fire brigades get together to compete. This year there will be 30 teams from 10 fire services and, for the first time, a group from Fiji will take part. (Read a local news story about the Fijian team here).
Eight Swan Hill members, including six competitors andtwo officials, are among the firefighters heading to Echuca today. Four of them will be first timers at the Australasian event, but for Harold Jochs it will be the fifth. For his son it will be the fourth.
Harold said the brigade first got involved in the biannual event in 2007 when they went to Lakes Entrance. They loved it so much they have attended every event since, travelling as far afield as New Zealand.
“These champs are a bit more laid back that the Victorian ones,” he said.
“The level of competition is definitely there but the social aspect is also really strong and there’s a lot of camaraderie between competitors.”
Harold said the Australasian format put less emphasis on running and more on technical skills linked to operating equipment and appliances. From his experience attending events in New South Wales and New Zealand he said it was “about being able to learn quickly and adapt on the day.”
“The competition events are comparable to what we do at other champs but a little bit different,” he said, adding that since the appliances used are all Victorian it does give CFA teams an edge.
“Having it in Echuca definitely gives us a home ground advantage to be using our own trucks… but we’ll take it.”
He explained that the collegial spirit of the event meant that teams were always happy to help each other when it came to operating unfamiliar appliances.
“Everyone wants everyone else to do well,” he said.
Firefighting competitions such as the Australasian Championships give firefighters the chance to keep up their skills over quieter periods of the year and to take on board different ideas courtesy of the contact with other fire services.
“People get together and talk, and there will often be a bit of talk about big fires and incidents, and also about how the different agencies and brigades work,” said Harold.
“All these competitions are great for building skills within brigades. When you are able to get involved with this and everything CFA’s about, you know people and you keep your skills up.
“I think a lot of our members are better firefighters for it. It helps us to be a step ahead.”