Photo: Berriwillock Cpt Corey Wight (L) and firefighter Kurt Wight (R).
It’s a grain growing area of dry land crops out in the Mallee, but for Berriwillock Fire Brigade there’s no shortage of local agricultural members putting their hand up to help their community in need.
While farming residents face many challenges in the north west, Berriwillock continues to stave off the rural CFA member decline, instead embracing the tight knit township of just over 180.
With nearly 50 percent of the brigade under the age of 54, Berriwillock brigade member of over 48 years, Garry Summerhayes said they are lucky to have such a dedicated group of young farming members.
“We’re extremely fortunate, because I’m 64 years old the average age of our members is a generation below me, and they basically make up our brigade,” Garry said.
“It’s not often you get a young bunch of dedicated farmers out in the regions who are proactively getting involved in their local brigade. You can really see that they enjoy it.
“We don’t have to go looking for a crew. They’ll turn up.
“We’ve got a good reputation in Berriwillock, and that’s been reflected in the equipment that we’ve been receiving and our new station in the community building.”
CFA District 18 Assistant Chief Fire Officer Gavin Wright has nothing but praise for Berriwillock, who make up one the nine brigades in the Tyrrell Group.
“Berriwillock is a really strong brigade, and we know when there’s a fire call, they’re going to get out the door, a truck will always turn out,” Gavin said.
“We don’t have any doubts about that at the district headquarters. They’re quite a success story.
“They’re a very tight community here and that’s reflected in the brigade.”
The heart and soul of the region doesn’t just stop at the new fire station, as the modern shared facility that was recently unveiled is home to three other community groups.
“It’s replaced four buildings in the town that were deteriorating, the public hall, the fire station, the infant welfare centre, and the Bowling Club,” Garry said.
“It’s very important to have a facility like this for the community because it gives us access to things that we haven’t had, such as kitchen amenities and air-conditioned rooms. They make such a difference.”
“It’s a symbol, especially across the Mallee but also more broadly across the state, that CFA and the community are so intertwined and so connected, and this is just a tangible product of that.” Gavin said.
With the warmer seasons approaching, Garry said both the brigade and the residents were becoming more fire conscious and find working together collaboratively helps to combat risks.
“We’re getting smarter, and with CFA sending out intel, we can look up the humidity, the temperature and the wind so you know when to stop harvesting in those troublesome conditions,” Garry said.
“We talk to our neighbours, and quite often we call someone up to see what they think.
“We’ve got a lot more machinery in the region now and like everything else, we know they will light fires.
“But now we’ve got chaser bins that follow the headers to empty the grain on the run, and they have firefighting tanks attached to them with more water supply. We’re better prepared.”
With 35 operational members and another 11 supporting the brigade, it’s safe to say the small town is in the safe hands of a committed group who are willing and able to jump off the harvester and up onto the truck at any time.