Faces of CFA: Chris Heywood

What binds CFA members is the common goal to protect lives and property, but you’re a diverse bunch. Every member has a story and Faces of CFA introduces you to just some of those stories.


Chris Heywood, Skipton Fire Brigade, District 16

What is your CFA role?

I joined CFA 22 years ago as a Junior. Over the years I moved up the ranks at Skipton, part of the Westmere Group in District 16, and I am currently captain.

Why did you join?

My father was involved in CFA and I was always interested in what he was up to. I think when children are young a lot of them say they want to be firefighters. When I was 11 years old, I joined as a Junior at the same time as some of my friends to run in the rural competitions. As I got older it was the sense of community and ability to help others in their time of need that made me continue on to be a firefighter.

What incident has had the greatest impact on you?

The Black Saturday fires may have had the greatest impact on me. After that fire season I felt compelled to step up and take on more responsibility in the brigade, which ultimately led to me taking on the captain position.

Who have been your mentors in CFA?

I am lucky to have had many people mentor me in different aspects of CFA. Past captains and lieutenants at Skipton brigade have all been forthcoming with lessons learned and advice. There are also a couple of ex deputy group officers.

Ex Captain Vernon Dawson was a great mentor and spent countless hours helping me transition into the captain’s role. District 16 staff have also been instrumental in helping me get where I am now. While I was working my way up as a lieutenant we had a very patient operations officer who guided me. I may not have always got what I wanted, but Ian Morley gave me plenty of time. That support was backed up by past and present BASOs who’ve helped me navigate the CFA waters.

What has been the highlight of your time in CFA?

It’s hard to single out just one thing as there have been a few highlights throughout my time in CFA. Rural Championship trophies as a Junior and some great saves out on the fire line come to mind. However, I have to say the true highlight is the achievements the brigade has made with securing new vehicles and equipment, and members stepping up again and again to further their skills.

To sit back and appreciate the state of the brigade now knowing I helped to get it there would be the most satisfying highlight so far.

How do you motivate your brigade members?

Keeping members motivated can be tough at times and there are different ways to motivate different members. Some are self-motivating and just need the support to keep going, while others might need training to reflect and build on a recent incident they attended or to continually be learning something new. Some members respond well to being given more responsibility.

I believe that catching up regularly for training, a station clean up or meeting can help a great deal.

What lessons are you most keen to pass onto other members?

Teamwork is essential. The brigade, group, rank or personality don’t matter. Working together as one is the key. Don’t rush into situations. The adrenaline can run high sometimes but in those situations it’s most important to slow down and look at the whole picture. It’s everyone’s responsibility that the crews come home safe. Ask questions, lots of them. If you’re not sure keep asking until you are sure. Once you’re sure pass on what you have learned.

Author: News and Media