News & Media

Volunteers looking after their own

By: CFA News

Category: Incidents - Bushfire, People

  2.31 PM 14 December, 2015

Location: District 12 News

Views: 2511

Sal remembers the first stages of the Kilmore-Mickleham fire well. Told to plan for about 50 to 100 meals, instinct and experience told her to expect more. That night they fed 800 people.

Broadford fire brigade’s catering unit – the Snack Attack – is well known across the northeast, as is Sally Wearmouth, the driving force for over a decade.  

Over the last 13 years the Snack Attack crew has mastered the art of putting on quality meals for large numbers at the drop of a hat (or the drop of a fundraising tin, as was the case at the Kilmore-Mickleham blaze in 2014).

Watch Sal and Margie tell the story of Snack Attack pulled off catering for over a thousand people over two nights at the Broadford-Mickleham fire.

Across the state, catering units such as this make up a critical piece of the logistical puzzle that sits behind any major incidents. And Snack Attack is up there with the best.

Sal recently took a well-deserved step back, transferring the coordinator role over to the capable hands of Margie Smith.

"It’s been such a big part of my life," says the 25-year member and former brigade secretary. "I’ve travelled up as far as the border and people say ‘you’re Sal from Snack Attack’. It seems like everyone knows about us and what we do."

She explains that the Snack Attack is not just about food.

"We feed them (the firefighters) but we’re also here for them to chat to," she says.

"If it’s been a tough day, we’re the ones they talk to. There are peers and the other support services that come in after a fire but it helps them to talk about what they’ve seen immediately after they’ve seen it."

Sal points out that while commercial caterers or organisations like the Red Cross will often support emergency services personnel during large-scale ‘campaign fires’, these arrangements take time to become operational.  

"When you get large-scale incidents, it is in the first 24 hours that CFA units like ours need to step in," she says.

"Our volunteers have dropped everything to come to the fire and often work overnight in a situation that's physically demanding and exhausting. It's essential they are fed and looked after.”

Sal, who works full time for Ford and travels a lot in her job, will stay involved with Snack Attack but says it’s time to hand over the coordinator reins.

She’s a little sad, but proud of what’s been achieved. And when asked what has motivated her to put in all those hard yards she is very clear:

"This is about CFA volunteers looking after their own."

Last Updated: 14 December 2015