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Vic Roads helps vol hit the road
To celebrate National Volunteer Week (13-19 May), CFA is saying “thanks a million” to its volunteers, families and employers for everything they do. This week we will feature a series of profile stories to highlight the great work and diversity of our volunteer members.
A large emergency can shut down Victorian roads for hours and sometimes days so it’s vital that CFA and Vic Roads work well together – and they do.
That relationship in miniature is ticking over nicely for Jim Forge, fourth lieutenant of Sedgwick Fire Brigade and team leader at Vic Roads in Bendigo.
In fact, Jim’s volunteer and paid roles are complementary with Jim also taking on an emergency management role at Vic Roads.
“Vic Roads and CFA are both 24-hour-a-day businesses,” says Jim. “I don’t turn out to every incident during work hours. I look at the weather and check whether it’s in our area or we’re supporting a nearby brigade.
“If it’s a total fire ban and in the 40s, a lot of things can go wrong at the same time. Our brigade would do a ring around the night before to find out who’s available to turn out the next day. I might be one of the people at Vic Roads managing road closures in a bad fire so my work has to take priority.
“If I do turn out, Vic Roads has a policy that registered CFA members can be released from work without loss of pay. It counts for incidents and training. It’s been in place since 1997 and there’s acceptance and understanding that has grown along with that policy.
“With strike teams you get a bit of advance notice and I’ve gone away in 2003 and 2006/07, but I’ve also said no to strike teams.”
It was a busy fire season for Sedgwick Fire Brigade with about 12 incidents in their area alone. Jim was also a member of a strike team to the February Epping fire which reached the Hume Highway not long after it ignited. It was a fire that shocked an outer Melbourne community largely unprepared for bushfire.
Jim attended from out of the area. “We were mopping up along the highway which meant I could observe the traffic,” he said. “It’s not really a vantage point you get at Vic Roads but it was very interesting to see how drivers behaved in an emergency at close hand.
“That turnout was dependent on commitments in the office and I was clear enough to get away. There was no expectation that I’d be in on time the next day.”
Jim has been at Vic Roads for more than 35 years, a CFA member for 36 years and a Sedgwick member for 15 years.
“CFA was always in the background,” said Jim. “My father was a captain. Being in the brigade is about being part of the community and that is made much easier for me by Vic Roads.”