What binds CFA members is the common goal to protect lives and property. But they are a diverse bunch – every member has a story and Faces of CFA introduces you to just some of those stories.
Lee Condon, Casterton Fire Brigade, District 4
What is your CFA role?
I am the captain of the brigade as well as the representative for the district planning committee. I also conduct most of the training including General Firefighter, structure and road accident rescue.
Why did you join?
My father was a member of the brigade for almost 15 years so I always had an interest in CFA. I have three uncles in the brigade and thought I’d give it a go. Before I knew it I was the captain of one of the largest brigades in District 4.
What incident has had the greatest impact on you?
I was called out to a road accident rescue at 3am one day. I remember arriving on scene and thinking how are we going to get this person out? I remember standing on steps cutting the roof out to gain access as the vehicle was on its side, and we got the driver out in about 25 minutes. We were notified by the family that the person had made a full recovery and was very thankful for the work we did. It makes all the hard work and training worth it.
Who have been your mentors in CFA?
I have had lots of mentors in my time in our brigade – we have some members with over 50 years of service. In 2019 I was enrolled in the Captains Peer Mentor Program. Garry Mallen, my mentor, helped me learn the basics of being a captain. We had many discussions about how to handle issues I was experiencing in the brigade. As part of that program I also attended the Linton Staff Ride where I walked in the shoes of those involved in the Linton fire in 1998. It was a real eye-opener.
Brian Wombwell, the brigade’s 1st lieutenant and group officer, has taught me a lot about bushfire behaviour, structure fires and road accident rescue. He is someone I always bounce ideas off in the brigade and on the fireground.
What have been the highlights of your time in CFA?
In my time in the CFA I have been lucky enough to become captain of the brigade and in that time we have received a new heavy tanker and we have a brand new station. Recently we received more than $100,000-worth of new rescue gear which will help keep our small community safe.
I will remember the campaign fires of 2019-20 for a long time. I was deployed on strike teams and also worked in Heywood ICC where I helped deploy personnel and heavy equipment to our crews on the ground.
During the floods in 2016 we did multiple rescues in the morning, walking in water up to our armpits to rescue people trapped in their houses. Then we returned to Casterton and did a boat rescue with the SES to help a truck driver who had run off the road into flood water.
How do you motivate your brigade members?
I’m very lucky that the members of my brigade are extremely motivated. If anything they keep me motivated and they are a great group of people to be around.
What lessons are you most keen to pass onto other members?
It doesn’t matter what position you hold in the brigade, if we don’t all work as one then we won’t be able to protect our community to the best of our ability. Also, it’s never too early to think about succession planning. The BMT and I have been training two of our younger lieutenants in all areas of managing the brigade. I believe they will make great captains some day.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time I like to go fishing, shooting and spending time with family and friends.
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