Spirit of CFA Award for Mark Roberts of Cobden Fire Brigade

Member News image Mark Roberts with Acting Deputy Chief Officer Glenn Pröbstl


On St Patrick’s Day 2018, Spirit of CFA 2020 category winner Mark Roberts and his CFA brigade at Cobden in the state’s south-west were on high alert.


With a Severe fire danger rating and a Total Fire Ban in place and winds and temperatures rising to dangerous levels around them, they had good reason. Between 9pm and 9.30pm on that Saturday, their worst fears were realised. Four fires sparked off around Terang, Camperdown, Garvoc and Gazette.  

Things happened quickly. By 10pm more than six local grassfires were headed towards the communities of Camperdown, Cobden and Terang. Over the following days and weeks, the fires burnt through 40,000 hectares of land leaving devastation to livestock, farmland, wildlife reserves and property in their wake. 

Mark Roberts AFSM is the winner of the 2020 - Excellence in Interagency or Group Cooperation Award (individual) of the Spirit of CFA Awards for his leadership and role in the St Patrick’s Day fires. District 10’s Peter Dymond was Highly Commended, and Lachlan Gales from District 23 was Commended in the category. 

Mark’s award is a tribute to his leadership and liaison between the community, his brigade and the emergency services. His efforts encompassed volunteers, CFA staff, other emergency services, interstate staff and volunteers and members of the local community.

At the incident control centre, he was relied on by all agencies, talking to incident controllers and providing invaluable local knowledge of the area and the community, such as an understanding of peat fires and specific local conditions. Mark assisted with all operational decisions and made himself available as a contact person at any time of the day or night.  

As Cobden Group Officer and a CFA volunteer himself, he spent many hours on the fire front, organising crews and providing information to the volunteers on the ground. 

As the fires continued, the incident management team remained in place for ten weeks. Mark visited impacted families and stepped up to talk to his community and keep them informed and supported, putting them in touch with resources and assistance. He worked with the local municipality through the incident and then through the following four months while the peat fires continued to burn, contributing to the recovery process which is still ongoing today.  

Reflecting on his win, Mark said the battle against the St Patrick’s Day fires was a joint effort.  

“It’s humbling to win this award and of course I’m proud,” he said, “but I’m proud of the whole community and the combined effort of the emergency services. You had CFA, MFB (now Fire Rescue Victoria), DHS, Forest Fire Management, Victoria Police, DELWP, Parks Victoria, Ambulance Victoria, Corangamite Shire Council, interstate staff and volunteers and members of the local community all pulling together to get this job done. This is their award as much as mine. 

‘You see bad press about issues between agencies but out on the fireground or working side-by-side in the incident control centre, the uniform just didn’t matter. It was all about the people working together towards one goal getting those fires under control with minimal impact to life and property.” 

Mark has earned the deep respect of his local community, the staff and volunteers in CFA’s District 6 and of Forest Fire Management and Parks and other agency staff.  His actions and commitment during and after the fires are the true embodiment of the Spirit of CFA. 


Submitted by CFA Media