Kessr Ali’s first major call-out as a CFA volunteer firefighter took place on 1 April, but it was no joke.
In the lead-up to Volunteer Week (9-14 May), CFA is highlighting volunteer members like Kessr who dedicate hours of their time to helping the community.
“It’s gonna stick in my memory for a long time,” the Hoppers Crossing member said, recalling the three-hour cardboard recycling truck fire which brought the Princes Freeway to a standstill.
“The fire was intense – there was so much heat and so much smoke. It was a good two hours before we put it out.
“There was one moment when they opened up the cab and you could see the flames inside. It was full-on.”
Kessr, who moved to Melbourne from Manchester six years ago along with his Australian partner, said the idea of volunteering as a firefighter had never crossed his mind.
“It just isn’t an opportunity in the UK,” he said.
“Being away from my family has left an empty space to fill. Volunteering is definitely a way for me to feel part of the community, and part of the community around the station,” Kessr said.
The IT engineer completed his basic firefighter training qualification with Hoppers Crossing fire brigade in September last year.
Since then he’s been to a handful of minor jobs before going out to the cardboard truck fire – his first major ‘start-to-finish’ incident as a firefighter.
“I was part of the crews standing on the sides, just soaking it as much as we could with water, and freeing up access for the breathing apparatus operators,” said Kessr.
“We had crews rotating non-stop because of the smoke. At one point it got so intense that we had to retreat back to a safer position.”
Kessr was impressed by the sheer scale of the operation, and the challenges faced by fireys, who used special equipment to open up the back of the truck and pull apart the contents.
“It was amazing seeing the system behind it and everyone working together. I really felt like part of a team.”
Kessr said he will never look at cardboard the same way again.
“We were just lucky it wasn’t a rubbish truck, which would have turned it into a hazmat incident
“Thankfully the clear up was only soggy cardboard.”
The theme for National Volunteer Week 2016 is ‘Give Happy, Live Happy’. According to Volunteering Australia, research shows that volunteers live happier and healthier lives.
See also: Rod Barford: Why didn't I do this 20 years ago?
Author: CFA Media