Running Brooks a Ballarat legend

If you want to keep up with Ballarat Fire Brigade volunteer Barry Brooks, lace on your running shoes.

A fit and active 74 year old, Barry is also a member of the Ballarat Harriers who specialises in marathons and half marathons. His membership of CFA has likewise been a marathon, amounting to 54 years’ service and attendance at an estimated 3000 emergency incidents.

Earlier this year, Barry made the decision to take on other roles in the brigade and no longer turns out to incidents on the truck.

“There have been so many long-running bushfires over the years and I’ve been to most of them,” says Barry.

“Black Saturday was a surreal situation. On Sunday we were around Whittlesea and worked overnight in Kinglake West. It was very confronting and so different to anything else I’d done. The heat was so intense that everything in the aftermath was white and silent apart from the sound of trees collapsing.

“It affects you; it leaves an impression.

“Now there are so many young people in the brigade so I stepped down from the role to give other people a turn. A lot of people join with the aim of career firefighting. You try and help young people so they don’t fall into the same pitfalls as you. Think things through before you do them.

“Firefighters used to be more gung ho and go in anywhere and everywhere but now crew safety is the most important thing. We’re more likely to say, ‘What is the best thing to do and where is the safe place for our crews?’

“We’re a very good brigade. We have most of the equipment we feel we need. We’re a road rescue brigade and have a CFA vehicle, but our first road rescue vehicle was bought by the brigade through community fundraising.

"We’re very busy with between 600 and 700 calls a year. Our training is very consistent. Our officers know what is required.”

According to Ballarat Fire Brigade Captain Mark Cartledge, Barry is one of the reasons the brigade is so strong.

“He’s a fantastic member to have,” says Mark. “He’s a mentor and so well loved and respected by the volunteers, the headquarters staff and the firefighters at Ballarat City Fire Brigade.

“Barry is a great example of an active firefighter recognising that there is life after being on the fire truck. Other roles within the brigade are also very important.”

Barry has not been a widower long and was the carer for his wife Bernadette.

“It’s a big change,” he says, “but you have to adjust; you have to go on.”

And so running, CFA and his son remain his constants.

Barry runs twice a day and runs to do his shopping wearing a backpack. He describes himself as living “three minutes on a bike from the fire station and four minutes running.

“Running and the fire brigade have been a big part of my life for so long,” says Barry.

“I’m nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve got far more out of being in the brigade than I’ve put into it and made lifelong friends. You meet the top class of people in the fire brigade – they’re doers.”

Thanks to Blair Dellemijn for the photo.

Author: Leith Hillard