A move to the country was the biggest inspiration behind Marianne Thomson joining CFA.
After moving with her family from Mooroolbark to Yellingbo in 2018, Marianne was inspired to join her local brigade.
“It was kind of a race between my husband and me as to who would join CFA first,” Marianne said.
“I’ve always wanted to join, and when I moved to Yellingbo I went to the brigade and fell straight in love with it. Everyone was so warm and caring.
“Living in this environment you think about bushfires and we’d be in trouble if something broke out around here. I also wanted to be able to help other people in the same situation that may not be able to help themselves.”
Since joining, the past four years have been action-packed for Marianne. She said a highlight was her time away in New South Wales during the 2019-20 fires.
“I’ve been lucky enough to go away on a few strike teams and my biggest one was probably to New South Wales in 2019.
“It was such an amazing experience to go into an environment where they were struggling so hard with the bad fires and to be able to be on the back of a truck helping out. To know that you could help was just great and I got so much experience from it.
“We did a lot of frontline backburning in areas up there that hadn’t been touched because people were worried the fire would reach it. We also protected houses that were coming up to the fire front and helped the community get prepared for the fires.
“It was my first time actually fighting a running grassfire on the back of a truck. You practise all these things but it’s not until it happens in real life that you really get to see what it’s like.”
During her time, Marianne was part of a crew that saved a New South Wales member’s life.
“When we were up there, we were led by a New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Commander and we were out on site with him doing a backburn. He had a heart attack and collapsed and our strike team was amazing. Everyone did such a good job.
‘We were able to bring him back to life and make him stable enough to get him onto a helicopter. It was an incredible experience and I’m so glad it ended the way that it did.”
Since joining CFA Marianne has been inspired to branch out in her personal life.
“I’m now doing my diploma of conservation and land management. Being in the CFA environment and having all of these skills that I’ve learned at CFA have already helped me so much with my diploma.”
Marianne is also moving up the ranks in her brigade, having recently being elected 4th Lieutenant.
Marianne said she would encourage anyone to get involved with their local brigade.
“I would say just go for it – it doesn’t have to be as full on as what my four years have been. There are so many different roles, no matter what your strengths and weaknesses are.
“You get so much out of it. I’ve met so many great people and it’s really brought me out of my shell. I’ve got so much more confidence; it’s really changed me.”