Simone Stephens, 16, was a member of a Taradale tanker team that turned out in 40 degree heat to support firefighting operations at the 44-hectare Benloch fire which started on 15 January.
Simone became a senior member at Taradale in the North Central District late last year after joining the brigade as a Junior four years ago. Her brother is also a Junior at the brigade, and her parents are members at a neighbouring brigade.
“I could see a large smoke plume as we drove towards the fire,” Simone said.
“My team on the truck were really supportive - my crew leader Leanne told me to drink lots of water and wear all my protective clothing.
“When we arrived we were at the edge of the fire ensuring it did not spread and then we did some blacking out.
“It was challenging but I really enjoyed putting the skills that I have been learning into practice.”
Simone said it was exciting to attend her first fire and it would be something she’d remember for a long time.
“It was interesting being on the fireground and seeing all the helicopters, bulldozers and other brigades with their tankers,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to attend different types of incidents and building my skills.”
Simone will start Year 11 soon and is passionate about her studies. She also enjoys playing violin.
“I am aiming to go to university and have a career in science or technology but I plan to remain involved with the CFA throughout my life,” Simone said.
“Being a part of CFA is fun and challenging. I love working with a great team of people and I get to do something that helps the community.”
Taradale Captain Robert Schomacker said he was proud of Simone and thrilled to have her as a member of the team.
“The most encouraging thing for me as captain was that despite the heat and general tough conditions at Benloch, Simone stuck to her training and completed all assigned tasks,” Robert said.
“She also asked more questions about various aspects of what was encountered or what could be encountered on the fireground than any new fire fighter I’ve mentored.
“I was nearly as proud of her as her father and he was pretty chuffed.”
Robert said Simone was one of five new firefighters at the brigade.
“It’s fantastic that the community spirit and the spirit of volunteering is alive and well in today’s demanding and challenging climate,” he said.