CFA volunteer Ross Coyle has been awarded the highest honour for a member of an Australian fire service as part of the 2021 Australia Day honours.
The long-serving Wodonga West Fire Brigade volunteer and former CFA Board member said he is truly humbled to receive the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM), which recognises distinguished service from paid or volunteer members.
“To be considered worthy of being recognised alongside so many incredible CFA people is a real honour,” he said.
“The importance of the award is certainly not lost on me as I previously served on CFA’s Honours and Awards committee and have a great knowledge of its significance.”
The award come as Ross marks 35 years since becoming an operational member as a 14- year-old, with a short period as a junior member before that.
“CFA is a real family affair for me.
“My grandfather was a charter member of CFA when it was formed in 1945 and was a member of the same brigade that I am, as was my father who was captain for many years.”
Ross has played key leadership operational roles at home in North East Victoria and on interstate strike teams, but said the 2009 Black Saturday fires will always stay with him due to the damage and the tragedies that occurred.
“I also experienced some of the fiercest fires in the summer that’s just gone, and with that level of fire intensity that I’ve never seen before, we were just incredibly fortunate that we didn’t encounter the same levels of damage and tragedy as 2009.”
Ross has also contributed to CFA as a Board member for six-and-a-half years, and said it was a period of significant change for the organisation.
“I came onto the Board in 2010 which was just before the Black Saturday Royal Commission report was handed down.
“There were numerous other reports that followed for the Board to oversee, as well as managing challenges including the Fiskville situation, and the beginnings of the renewal of Victoria’s fire services.”
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said the honour bestowed on AFSM recipients reflects their remarkable service to the Victorian community.
“Ross and the other CFA members to receive this award exemplify the organisation’s values of safety, teamwork, adaptability, integrity, and respect.
“They have been integral to saving lives and properties in their own communities and beyond.
“CFA is honoured to have such distinguished members of the community amongst our ranks.”
Ross has now stepped back from his official leadership positions and said that has given him a great opportunity to refresh and renew, and simply get back to just fighting fires again.
“My 3 children are continuing the family tradition now as members of West Wodonga brigade, including my twin 17-year-old daughters who are undertaking General Firefighter training.
“CFA is known for red trucks and fire sheds, but it’s more about the people involved, and I have been surrounded by wonderful people both locally and around the state who have made this experience so rewarding for me."