Faces of CFA: Captain Joel Borgelt

What are your CFA roles?

I’m the captain at Nhill and the group communications officer. I joined the senior side of the brigade at 16 and two years into that I stepped in as third lieutenant. I moved through the lieutenant ranks and became captain three years ago.

Why did you join?

A friend took me along to Juniors at age 11 for the competition side and I loved it. I continued on with the senior running team but I also really enjoyed the people and brigade training. I took on the role of Juniors coach when I was about 17 and did that until unfortunately our Juniors finished up in 2011. There are too many sports competing for the kids’ attention in a town this size.

What was the first incident you attended?

We’re along a bad stretch for truck accidents and one of the first incidents I remember was an MVA; a fatality. I was the youngest person in the crew so I was given the job of pump operator and kept a bit away from the scene. We had peers and chaplains come along afterwards for a crew debrief just as we do now.

What incident has had the greatest impact on you?

When I was 17, I went to Mt Beauty on my first strike team deployment. We were on night shift in Bogong Village putting out fires around houses and it was eye-opening. We’d see one house burnt to the ground while the next one was still standing even though it was unprepared.

We took a rest on the side of the road early in the morning. It was pitch black and you could see the glow on the mountainside. It was a very eerie feeling. We could hear rocks falling but then some of them, including boulders, began landing on the road only metres away from where we were sitting so we soon got out of there.

The risks for us here are grass and stubble fires and we can generally pull them up fairly quickly unless it’s a really bad day but there the terrain was just so different.

What CFA training have you got the most out of?

Being the first course, it would have to be Minimum Skills, but you’re always learning. It doesn’t matter if it’s a CFA course, brigade training or an incident.

Who have been your CFA mentors?

Ex-captain Warren Beer was the Junior running team coach and he brought me along to the senior brigade. He nominated me as third lieutenant so he really gave me a go.

Operations Manager Dale Russell and our ops officers over the years are always there to help and have a chat with us anytime.

What are the benefits of volunteering in CFA?

The biggest benefit is the people you meet not only in your own brigade and group but across the district and the state.

As with all people in the emergency services, we get people stopping us in the street and telling us that they value what we do. We’re always going to keep doing what we do to protect the community.

What has been the highlight of your time in CFA?

Stepping into the captain’s role. It’s an honour to be voted in by your peers. We’ve had a succession plan in place for 15 years so I already know who’ll be stepping up after me. You want to keep things moving along and bring fresh ideas into the brigade.

Author: Leith Hillard