CFA is celebrating all its incredible mums on Mother’s Day today and Horsham Fire Brigade member Kate Ryan-Wills knows all too well how to juggle mum life, work life and volunteering with CFA.
The mum of three has been a dedicated CFA volunteer for over 30 years, starting her CFA journey as a junior member at Hoppers Crossing Brigade.
When she was 16 years old, she moved with her family to Portland where she joined the local CFA. Kate said she was devasted to leave the city but didn’t realise it would end up being the best decision her family made.
“The opportunities at Portland were incredible. I learnt so much and gained many new skills,” Kate said.
Kate later moved to Brim, north of Horsham, where again she became part of the local brigade before settling in Horsham where she has now been a brigade member for the past 13 years.
Kate’s responded to multiple major incidents throughout her time with CFA – in particular she was deployed three times to NSW and on the Victorian border during the 2019/20 bushfires. She said she’ll never forget the impact of her deployment to Walwa.
“That deployment took its toll on me. The look on the local residents faces when we arrived will stay in my mind forever. No one could get in or out of the town for a couple weeks so the community was so relieved to see us,” Kate said.
Being a CFA volunteer has become a family affair for Kate and her three children. Kate’s 17 year old daughter Claire joined as a junior when she was 11 years old and has now become a senior member. Claire is undertaking her General Firefighter course and is about to receive her five year service award at their next annual brigade dinner.
Kate’s 21 year old son Shaun is also a member of Horsham Fire Brigade in a support role. He’s regularly involved in their running and marching team – particularly for the torchlight parade and State Firefighter Championships.
And little 9 year-old Piper is eagerly waiting two more years to join CFA’s juniors program.
“Piper is chomping at the bit to turn 11! She’s my dare devil and can’t wait to be a senior operational member one day,” Kate said.
"She is already very involved with the brigade, she comes down on a Sunday for maintenance at the station and helps wash the trucks and cleans up the mess.”
Kate said she’s proud of her kids all being involved with CFA and the opportunities it presents.
“I told my kids we need to give something back to the community. It doesn’t cost us anything and in return we receive endless leadership and training opportunities, it’s so good for them.”
Kate said CFA is the one thing that’s been constant in her life and it’s like family to her.
“I love the camaraderie at CFA. When the ships going down, we’ve got each other’s backs. There’s a sense of togetherness and family atmosphere.”
A registered nurse by trade who often works weekend shifts, Kate said she’s got the day off on Mother’s Day and hopes the kids have got something planned for her.
“They’re keeping it secret squirrel but I’m sure we’ll have a great day together.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums in CFA and the community.