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Renowned fire investigator humbled by medal honour

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CFA fire investigator Nicole Harvey has been honoured with an Australian Fire Services Medal (AFSM) in the 2019 Australia Day Honours for her more than 20-year commitment to emergency management and the safety of Victorians.

Renowned fire investigator humbled by medal honour

Nicole’s work as the state fire investigation coordinator has not only benefited CFA but Victoria’s emergency services as a whole. She is considered to be one of Australia’s leading subject matter experts in fire investigation and she is regularly approached for advice by other jurisdictions and organisations throughout Australia.

Nicole joined CFA’s fire investigation team in 1998. Her experiences within CFA and her qualifications in the applied sciences contributed to her strong belief that communities could be made safer if fire services devoted more time to determining the causes of fires.

In the 20 years since, her technical knowledge and skills, outstanding leadership, and professionalism have established her as an acknowledged expert in fire investigation. Fire investigation has become a core component of CFA’s services under her influence, and her efforts mean that frontline firefighters understand the importance of preserving incident scenes so the causes of fires can be determined.

As an educator, she has trained and established a team of more than 160 capable and respected fire investigators, who, together, respond to up to 800 investigations each year. She continues to lead training across the emergency services, and the quality of her team’s work is valued and respected by all stakeholders, particularly Victoria Police.

Nicole also developed the only online fire investigation reporting system in Australia, significantly improving the quality of investigation data, to the benefit of CFA and the wider community.

Nicole, third from left, with a fire investigation team in Fiji

Nicole said one of the most satisfying parts of her role was the ability to use the outcomes of investigations to identify fire trends that lead to the prevention of fires.

“What drew me to into becoming a fire investigator was the ability to create a significant impact in people’s lives when they are often at their weakest and most vulnerable," she said.  

“Thankfully, CFA has given me a great opportunity to do just that across the entire emergency services and really make a difference.

“Some of my most memorable experiences as an investigator have been working alongside CFA fire investigators as part of multi-agency teams to determine the origin, cause and path of large bushfires and structure fires.

“It’s also very rewarding to support other authorities, particularly internationally, to train in fire investigation techniques and establish their own fire investigation teams.”

Nicole said she felt extremely honoured and humbled to be nominated by her peers for an AFSM.

“I would like to recognise the dedication, support and assistance of the CFA District Fire Investigation Coordinators, Fire Investigation Team Leaders and Fire Investigators who attend fire scenes to determine the origin and cause of the fires across Victoria,” she said.

“I would also like to acknowledge my family for the ongoing assistance they have provided me across my career.”

Nicole’s previous awards include a National Emergency Medal and a 10-Year Service Medal. She also received a Spirit of CFA Award in 2018.   

Nicole received a Spirit of CFA Award in 2018