Faces of CFA: Kasey Schoenmaekers

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What binds CFA members is the common goal to protect lives and property, but you’re a diverse bunch. Every member has a story and Faces of CFA introduces you to just some of those stories.



What is your CFA role?

First lieutenant, communications officer, community safety officer and group representative on the district training committee. I’m also a trainer and assessor, currently assisting with General Firefighter and looking to expand into other courses. 

Why did you join?

My husband and mum were part of the brigade and so I was always at the station. The brigade captain at the time convinced me to sign up as a non-operational member. But when my welcome pack came, I saw I’d been signed up as an operational member. My husband and mum convinced me to get on board and give firefighting a go because being a small community we don’t have a lot of active members.

What incident has had the greatest impact on you?

My first major bushfire was the Aberfeldy Complex fire in January 2013, which headed fast for our community. Riding on the back of the tanker, I could feel the radiant heat even though we were nowhere near it. As the sky rained fire, we went from property to property helping people who stayed behind.

I remember waiting for the wind change and watching the fire dance and then just disappear. Then I heard my crew mates yelling “it’s coming, duck now”, with the hose drizzling above our heads. My husband was in the front as the crew leader and he was sure I wouldn’t get on the tanker again, but the experience made me realise I was meant to be doing this to help my community as best as I can.

Who have been your mentors in CFA?

My mentors have been experienced members of our group, our district and my mum and husband who’ve pushed me to do the best I can. They also help me share what they see I have to offer to CFA, which I sometimes just don’t see in myself. After I unexpectedly lost my mum, I never thought I would get back on the tanker, but other people refused to allow me to quit and I’m glad I’m still part of CFA.

What have been the highlights of your time in CFA?

I love being an active member of CFA and have a family that supports me in my roles. When the kids were younger my husband and I would alternate turning out. If we didn’t know whose turn it was, the kids always knew. We are always thankful for family and friends, as often when we are deployed with strike teams we swap shifts and people step up and take our kids until the other returns. We have always worked as a team whether it be rotating shifts turning out or at home.

My husband and I have always been each other’s sounding boards, counsellors, teachers and advisers, and that’s why our involvement in CFA and marriage have worked so well.

Other highlights are helping to form the Women of Wellington, which supports existing CFA women in areas of leadership, mentoring and succession planning, and the appreciation I get from people I help every time I arrive on the big red truck.

How do you motivate your brigade members?

I have a sense of humour and I like to make people feel at ease around me. I want to inspire not just women to become leaders, but the next generation after me.

What lessons are you most keen to pass onto other members?

No matter how many years of experience you have, you will learn something different every time you’re at an incident because no incident is ever the same. Also, in CFA you are never alone.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

When I am not assisting in CFA training courses, I love spending time with family, friends, travelling, being part of the kids’ hobbies and playing music.


Submitted by News and Media