“It’s a way of working for, giving back to your community, volunteering for CFA or SES,” he said.
“I learnt heaps in different ways and met a lot of people, all of them experienced people in the CFA. It’s learning lessons together all the time – every fire is different.”
Flash forward to 2020. Now in his sixties, Jeff is an experienced fighter who has worked with numerous strike teams in Victoria and interstate.
This season he undertook four deployments to NSW – including Kempsey, Bendock and Batemans Bay.
“They were really good local people, they treated us really well,” he said.
“But I felt a bit bad for the Batemans Bay people. We were doing a night-shift, so went to the shopping centre during the day and had a chat to people. Our deployment finished and the next thing is your seeing those same people on the news. I felt a bit rotten to be honest, that I couldn’t just head up there again to help them out, but others were there.”
While Jeff admits to having fought some ‘pretty fierce fires’ in his time as a CFA volunteer, these days he says the biggest challenge facing firefighters can be fatigue.
“You just turn up and get on with it, you don’t really think about the challenges really,” he said.
“You do think about the safety of your crew and the public first and foremost though, that’s always in the back of your mind. I think one of the biggest challenges for crews can be dealing with fatigue. Crews get can spend two hours or so on a bus to a staging point before getting sent out on a shift – it’s long day, driving odd hours, in your yellows and their weight all day.”
Jeff said that he respected his colleagues including senior management and the way they really cared about looking after crews.
“CFA people are good to work with. You have your mates, who become really close mates, when you're spending that amount of time together."
Asked if there was anything he would change, and Jeff said he’d like to see more fire education in schools.
“When we go out to schools, the kids just have a ball. I would like to see fire-readiness as part of the curriculum, and fire-readiness all year round, not just summer. Maybe for half an hour a week. It’s important that we encourage the next generation to be fire safe, but also later on to join organisations like the CFA.”