Deb Sullivan celebrates 40 years with CFA

Regional Operations Coordinator Deb Sullivan has been with CFA for more than 40 years.


BC Deployment Puntzi Lake Base Camp Staging Area RECCE

Deb joined CFA on 9 June 1980 after successfully being appointed as a typist/clerk in the First Zone Regional HQ Complex, Central Zone/Region 14 based at Melton.

“After leaving school I worked in the city for two years travelling each day on public transport. I set my sights on finding a job that brought me closer to home which was in Bacchus Marsh," Deb said.

“I was very lucky that the role was advertised in the local newspaper, so I applied,” Deb added.  “I knew nothing about CFA back then; other than the siren sounding in Bacchus Marsh which alerted the community there was a fire in the area.

“I was the first permanent full-time appointment into the role of typist/clerk in this centre.

“Starting off in Region 14, as it was known in those days, CFA was a purely volunteer organisation.

“We had a team of six who shared the load and did everything,” Deb added. “I often spent days on my own in the office whilst the officers were out visiting brigades."  

Deb has an extensive history with CFA and has completed a number of roles and secondments over the years including, Administration Support Officer, Administration Coordinator, IECC (SCC) Coordinator, Finance and Administration Manager and Brigade Administration Support Officer. These have taken her all over the state.

“I’d recommend that anyone takes on an opportunity for secondment, in particular PTA staff,” Deb said. “I found the secondments I undertook assisted me to understand the business of CFA and provided me with a holistic understanding and appreciation of the organisation. I have learnt so much from my secondments over the years.”

Deb Sullivan IECC Coordinator

Deb has also attended state, national and international deployments.

“I have been deployed many times over the years and supported many campaign fires in Gippsland and Hume Region.

“In 2009 I worked in the IECC, now known as the State Control Centre for ten months as the IECC Coordinator, I was only in the job two weeks when Black Saturday occurred. 

 “I remained on a rotating roster for over three months during that very challenging year."

Deb has also had the opportunity to support and attend a number of deployments interstate in New South Wales and Tasmania. 

In 2015 Deb travelled to Canada as a member of the 106-strong Australian contingent based in British Columbia and Alberta.

“I was deployed as a Logistics Chief and was a member of the incident management team (IMT) based at the Puntzi Lake Base Camp.  

“At the time of my deployment the Base Camp accommodated approx. 220 personnel, 30 IMT members, ten support staff and 170 fireground personnel along with an airbase attached. 

“My accommodation for this deployment was a one-man tent,” Deb added. “Days were long with early starts and late finishes, so by the time I got back to my tent sleep came easy.  

“I was then deployed to the Cariboo Fire Centre in Williams Lakes where I filled the role of Resource Officer. This deployment tied in well with the work I had been undertaking on my initial deployment as Logistics works very closely with Operations & Resources in Canada.

“I was able to learn and close the loop on some of the processes undertaken whilst performing the role of Logistics Chief at the Base Camp.   

“The average deployment to the US and Canada is 40 days, including travel, away from home. Working days are usually 12 to 14 hours each day, for 14 days in a row, with two days rest and relaxation, before the second rotation of two to-14 days of work starts.

“I was away for a total of five weeks and enjoyed the experience immensely.”

Puntzi Lake Base Camp IMT

Deb’s family has been a valuable support over her 40-year career with her parents always available for babysitting duties, whilst being first in the door to celebrate milestones. 

“My three boys were born during these years and have grown up being an extension of the CFA family.

Deb has worked with many officers, some of whom have gone on to be Chiefs or Deputies, and she still maintains contact with those who have moved on either in retirement or to other fields of employment.

“I was honoured to receive contact from some of them for my 40-year milestone.

“I am always keen to coach and mentor any members in incident management and regional control roles and have been focused on this over the past couple of years.”

For Deb a big part of staying with CFA is the people and friendships she’s made.

“I really enjoy representing CFA and working in the multi-agency environment. This has provided me with an opportunity to form many professional friendships over the years which continue to this day.

“The building of relationships brought about by working together, competing in the Emergency Services Games or building teams to represent CFA in the wider community such as the Port to Port Cycling Tour and the Cancer Council Relay for Life events over many years has provided many wonderful memories.

“The most challenging thing for me during the COVID-19 restrictions is missing the camaraderie that comes from being together in an office and part of a team. I miss the corridor chats, the sharing of personal special events and the chatter over lunch.

“Whilst I embrace change, I feel it is very important to learn from the past to be able to move forward successfully in the future. A lot of what I am finding these days is a return to the way we used to do things.

“CFA is a great place to work and provides those interested with many opportunities, whether it’s training or career progression. CFA has provided me with so much and I’m proud to have worked alongside our amazing members.

Author: Holly Penketh