Meet Matt Partridge, Captain of Browns Plains Fire Brigade in District 24.
What are your CFA roles?
When and why did you join?
I grew up in the Blue Mountains and joined my local brigade when I was 15. Since then, I’ve remained a member of the local fire service wherever I have lived including six years as a CFS member in SA, and now 10 years and counting in CFA.
Originally, I joined to help out in such a fire-prone area, but once we moved it has become a great way of being part of our local rural communities.
What was the first incident you attended?
It was a bushfire in the Blue Mountains in 1995. I worked a night shift in really steep and rocky terrain, which made me realise the importance of teamwork.
What incident has had the greatest impact on you?
There are two. On Boxing Day 2001, the combination of drought, heat, high winds and difficult terrain was just incredible and resulted in a day where we saw houses explode, trucks burnt over (including ours) and moments where you cut your hoses and ran for your own safety. It was a day when you realised having a good team, good training and excellent leadership cannot be replaced.
The second incident was the first road accident I attended with a fatality, and the simple realisation of how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken from you.
What lessons are you most keen to pass onto other members?
Safety is not an area we can compromise on, so if you feel unsafe say so! If you are unsure, then stop and don’t do it, ask someone, and then ask again just to be sure.
Having good people and good training is essential in this job. We need to remember that the jobs we go to are not safe and put us in the line of fire (pun intended) so we need to be careful every moment we’re out there. One of my mentors once said to me, “The day you are not scared going to a fire is the day you do not go”.
I also like to remind everyone at Browns Plains that we all go out together and we all come home together.
Finally, remember most of us are volunteers and although we do what we can, family always comes first, work second and CFA third.
Who have been your mentors in CFA?
When I first started as a volunteer, I was lucky enough to have three officers in my local RFS brigade who mentored me. They taught me different things, not only firefighting but also what it took to be a leader. Each had their unique ways and provided me with skills that I use today.
Since becoming captain, I’ve also been lucky that the leadership group of group officers, neighbouring captains and district staff from Wodonga have always been available to give me help and advice when needed.
What has been the highlight of your time in CFA?
Without doubt my highlight has been the people I have been privileged to meet and work with while at CFA. It’s really enjoyable being able to involve yourself with such great small communities like Browns Plains. As captain, I’m exceptionally proud to be the leader of a little brigade that I think punches well above its weight.
What do you do outside CFA?
I work for Rutherglen Estates as the viticulturist, which means I grow grapes for wine (and also like to drink wine!)