Women firing up in District 18

Seventeen female volunteers from the furthest reaches of District 18 came together at VEMTC Sunraysia Campus on Sunday to practice their skills as part of the Women in Firefighting event.

Assistant Chief Officer Gavin Thompson was in attendance to provide a stirring welcome and officially open the event, noting that only 14% of CFA’s operational members are female.

ACO Thompson spoke about the new ideas and positive changes to Brigade culture that our women provide and encouraged all members to ensure all women in CFA feel welcome, appreciated, valued and supported.

Our volunteers were then given the chance to build confidence by going through hose bowling and rolling, ladder use, pump operation, hose handling and branch operation in the morning.

Sophie Shaw (Red Cliffs), Codi Gange and Zoe Brown (Merbein) gave attendees a thrill when they demonstrated standard procedure on handling a car fire whilst rescuing a casualty. The young ladies were able to manage radio operations, size-up, rescue and fire-attack while maintaining situational awareness in the space of only five minutes, before calling through that it was safe.

Inspired by the passionate and sophisticated demonstration, all attendees were raring to get out on the PAD again by the time lunch was over.

In the afternoon, four syndicates of about five participants each were able to practice extinguisher use, car fire attack, search and rescue with optional BA, and the use of a gas impingement shield – a three person fog attack where yet another casualty was rescued.

The Women in Firefighting event aimed to build the confidence of our female volunteers to get out there and give firefighting a go, knowing that they are needed and that their individual skills are valued by CFA.

The day was designed from a request that came out of the Connecting Women Forum that was held in Berriwillock early last year. Our female members asked for an opportunity to practice their skills and build confidence in a safe and supportive environment.

A big thank you must be given to the six Volunteer PAD Endorsed Instructors who gave of their own time to assist with Sunday's event, including Mick Blackmore, Harold Jochs and Michael Howard from Swan Hill, Daniel Floyd from Ouyen, David Screaton from Irymple and Mathew Maher from Red Cliffs.

The event also wouldn’t have been possible without the support received from District 18 OM John Bigham, PAD Supervisor Daryl Radford and Structural Instructors Ken Walker and Tony Shilson.

Author: Bec McDonald