Young firefighter follows grandfather's footsteps

A young volunteer with Ouyen CFA brigade says she is “in it for life” as she embraces the legacy left by her grandfather.

By Naomi Leach, courtesy of North West Express

Twenty-one year old Rebekka Bursill of Ouyen joined the junior CFA at the age of 11 and it is a passion which hasn’t slowed down since.

“It’s gone quick. I still remember the first day I walked into the old building … I went in with my pop: that was pretty much the reason I joined. He’s been the male role model figure in my life,” Rebekka said.

She describes her grandfather, Les Bursill, as a quiet man who did a lot for the community.

“I’d usually go with him when I was younger. He passed away in 2003 so he hasn’t actually seen me join it. But he’s the reason I joined. I said I always wanted to go out like Pop and fight fires with him,” she said.

The CFA was a big part of his life.

“He was always up there. He would always wear jeans and flannelette shirts because that was the kind of clothes the CFA wanted you to wear... so he was always in jeans no matter what the temperature... even when he went out he’d always wear jeans just in case the fire siren went off.

“He’d take both me and my cousin Tegan out in the trucks. I go up there on a Sunday to the fire station with him and sit there while he’s on the radios, clean out the truck bay, polish his boots. Most Sundays I’d go out there with him if I could. I always told him that I was going to join the fire brigade and follow in his footsteps.”

She might have joined out of love for her grandfather, but Rebekka has made her own mark as part of the brigade. Since officially becoming a volunteer at the age of 16, she has attended everything from paddock fires to house fires and car accidents. On a quieter occasion she responded to a call out to help rescue a couple in the caravan park who were locked inside their own caravan.

Despite there being few young women actively involved in Ouyen brigade, she doesn’t think that being a young woman is a barrier to serving in CFA.

“Sometimes I wonder if the females think that it’s not a thing for a female to do because for a long time, it was a men’s thing... but it can be a female thing,” Rebekka said.

Although she says she is not treated differently to any of the guys, Rebekka says that you have to be willing to ‘get your fingernails dirty’ if you volunteer.

“We can do just as much as the males: we can work the hoses and fire extinguishers; we can get up on the ladders; we can get up on top of cars to comfort that person that’s trapped... so it’s not just a male thing any more – it’s a female thing. And we have got a few female volunteers,” she said.

Brigade captain Trevor Mills says he believes that there is a need for newer and younger members to join the brigade and he would welcome any who wanted to join ‘with open arms.’

“A brigade like Ouyen we really need to have the young people in the community step up because they are the future of the brigade,” Trevor said.

“Rebekka’s a real goer. She likes to get out on the truck and have a fair dinkum go: she’s great – as long as we can keep her,” he said.

Rebekka notes that being involved in CFA means always learning but she also really enjoys the practical side of the work.

“I get so annoyed when I can’t go out to the calls … I get an adrenalin rush every time I hear the fire siren go off,” she said.

Last week, Rebekka was awarded a certificate commemorating five years of dedicated service.

Author: Bec McDonald