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Huntly CFA volunteers are shining a light on fire safety with a new initiative to grab the attention of passing motorists on the Midland Highway.

The brigade has erected a large electronic LED sign on the front of the fire station to provide community safety messages and information.

The 3-metre long by 0.5-metre wide sign will feature advisory messages like fire restriction periods or Total Fire Ban days, and special alerts if there is a fire in the area.

Brigade member and former captain Alan Roberts said the LED sign would help the brigade to better communicate with the community.

“Like lots of brigades we have a sandwich board sign that we put out on Total Fire Ban days, but that’s a pretty basic way of communicating a single message,” Mr Roberts said.

The brigade investigated a range of options, such as vinyl signs that could attach to the fence, but decided an LED sign would be the most effective and flexible option.

“I had driven through Nhill which has a smaller LED sign at the front of their fire station and it struck me that a sign where you could have a series of programmable messages and the ability to create specific messages was a much better idea than vinyl signs that would wear out,” Mr Roberts said.

“It’s one of only a few such signs we know of in District 2,” Mr Roberts said.

The brigade obtained permits from the CFA, VicRoads and City of Greater Bendigo for the $6000 sign, which was funded through brigade fund-raising and a grant from the Bendigo Northern District Community Enterprise.

About 15,000 cars drive past the Huntly Fire Station on the Midland Highway every day.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Adam Barnett said the sign was a great example of volunteers taking the initiative to improve community safety.

“This shows how volunteers put community safety at the forefront of everything they do,” Mr Barnett said.

John Beavis is soon going to need a bigger loungeroom wall.

Mr Beavis, 83, has to find space for his latest Commendation for Service as a CFA volunteer for more than 60 years, but his display of certificates is already looking a bit clogged.

The new framed certificate will hang alongside life memberships for Bunyip fire Brigade, Flinders Urban Fire Brigades Association, East Central Zone Fire Brigades Association, Combined Gippsland Fire Brigades Association, No. 8 Fire Control Regional Council, and Drouin-Bunyip Competition Team.

He also has long service certificates from the Eastern Districts Fire Brigades Association, as president of Regional Council 8 from 1986-88, CFA certificate of Appreciation for 30 years’ service and Victorian Urban Fire Brigades Association, the forerunner to Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV), in appreciation for service as an official at competitions.

Then there’s his Australia Day citizen of the year nomination, and certificates of thanks for supporting the Good Friday appeal and Hillview Bunyip Aged Care, where he has instructed staff on the use of portable fire extinguishers for more than 20 years.

“They’re all on my loungeroom wall. Some are up a bit high to see,” he said. “You don’t go out of your way to look for recognition or awards, but if they come along you appreciate them.”

The latest commendation stands as one of his most memorable. “It blew me away,” Mr Beavis said. “I had my youngest daughter with me and then when I looked up my other two daughters walked in. It was very much appreciated.”

Mr Beavis, 83, officially joined Dromana brigade in 1956

“For a few years before that my Dad was in the brigade and the alarm would go off and I’d tag along,” he said.

After five years at Dromana, Mr Beavis moved to Bunyip for a work promotion and joined the local brigade a few years later when there was a major fire.

“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed for the comradeship and in giving something back to your community,” he said. “Volunteering is an integral part of the community, not only in CFA but in a lot of other organisations as well.”

Although he no longer turns out for emergencies, Mr Beavis is still involved as a competition official and in community safety.

“I enjoy that side of it, especially meeting people from other brigades,” he said.

Mr Beavis was brigade secretary for 30 years and treasurer for a number of years, and brigade delegate to several associations.

VFBV CEO Adam Barnett said Mr Beavis typified the volunteering spirit of regional Victorians.

“Volunteers like John play a huge role in the community, not only in protecting people and assets close to home and far afield as volunteer firefighters, but in advocating for community safety and helping behind the scenes,” Mr Barrett said.

Learn more about CFA’s world-respected surge capacity on the VFBV website.

Volunteer firefighter Alex Caughey won’t let anything get in the way of his contribution to community safety.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) recently presented a plaque to Mr Caughey recognising nearly 30 years of service as District 12 secretary for the VFBV and its urban and rural predecessors

At 69, Mr Caughey has stopped turning out to fires due to his battle with Parkinson’s Disease, but he’s determined to continue making a mark on community safety.

“I no longer turn-out to incidents but I’m a long way from finished with the CFA and VFBV,” he said. “Parkinson’s disease has put the brakes on things but I do a bit with the Fire Equipment Maintenance team and just completed my St Johns refresher and the two fire safety units.”

Mr Caughey joined the Eildon CFA in 1991 after moving from Melbourne to take up a job with Victorian Fisheries.

“When we moved here, we made a decision to become involved with a community service; my wife got involved with local groups and I joined the CFA, encouraged by brigade lieutenant Bruce Luckman,” he said.

During his time with the Eildon brigade Mr Caughey was involved with developing a fundraising strategy to purchase a small tanker, was part of a working party which designed and built a purpose-built staging area trailer which is still in service, and worked as a volunteer trainer and assessor across Districts 12 and 22.

Mr Caughey soon became District 12 secretary for the Victorian Urban Fire Brigades Association (VUFBA), the VFBV predecessor, and stayed in the role until the most recent election. He also took on secretarial duties for his brigades.

With the Alexandra brigade he was involved with campaign fires and multi-agency task forces. “Alexandra was a large, relatively accessible brigade and was often the launching point for busloads of firefighters and brigade members gained new skills in operational support. A new expression crept into our vocabulary “surge capacity’ and Mr Caughey became a strike team leader across Victoria and interstate.

He has also taken on the task of consolidating and documenting the brigade’s history. “I’m determined to continue contributing to community safety,” he added.

He has been a member of CFA and VFBV’s Community Safety Advisory Committee for a number of years.

In the late 1990s Mr Caughey joined CFA as a Community Education Coordinator. “The CFA was just getting into the serious business of talking to the community and I was there right at the beginning,” he said.

“It’s an incredibly important role in reaching out and encouraging people and communities to step up and take responsibility for themselves and to be prepared.”

He has been a member of CFA and VFBV’s Community Safety Advisory Committee for a number of years and is the brigade’s community engagement officer. “The brigade takes this role seriously and has raised its community profile,” he said. “A couple of weeks ago we were visiting a caravan park with 20-plus permanent residents to have a sausage sizzle and talk caravan safety.

Mr Caughey remains committed to the VFBV and volunteering. “It gets in your blood and becomes an important part of your life. The VFBV is an essential organisation,” he said. “It has played an incredibly important role in making things happen in the CFA and acting on things for volunteers and also in terms of community safety.

“Everyone needs to do something that makes a difference.”

VFBV CEO Adam Barnett said Mr Caughey’s commitment typified the community spirit of regional Victorians.

“Volunteers like Alex make a huge difference in the community and in brigades,” Mr Barnett said. “Alex has had significant roles as secretary and as a strike team leader, improving our important surge capacity when major fires occur,” he said. “Now he illustrates the diversity of brigades by continuing the very important role of advocating for community safety and helping behind the scenes.”

Learn more about CFA’s world-respected surge capacity on the VFBV website.

Flowerdale was devastated by the Black Saturday fires but the destruction never dampened the dedication of local volunteer firefighters.

Now with NSW reeling from fire, the Flowerdale community is repaying some of the support it received in 2009.

At the weekend Flowerdale CFA volunteers inspired the local community to raise $1000 to donate to the Rainbow Flats Rural Fire Service brigade which lost its station and some equipment while houses were destroyed in the town.

Thirteen Flowerdale district people died in the 2009 fires and many local houses were destroyed. The fire station was damaged but survived.

Captain Brian Makin said the community had rallied to make the brigade’s annual open day a successful fundraiser.

“Our treasurer Trudie Gouge was watching the news and saw what happened at Rainbow Flats and suggested we donate the money from our annual open day to support the brigade,” Captain Makin said.

“We received money from New South Wales and we had personnel come down here to help…we’re just one brigade returning a favour.”

Captain Makin said the brigade was thankful for the support it received after the Black Saturday fires and the community was keen to support the fundraiser. “We put up a big board explaining the donation and people were happy to support it,” he said. “New South Wales came to assist us with money and people, now we’re repaying them.”

The open day, which included stallholders from the regular Flowerdale market, also carried important fire safety messages.

“We handed out fire prevention material and did demonstrations on fire safety,” Captain Makin said. “Our area is slowly browning up and on a bad day a fire would push along.”

Brigade volunteers have been to NSW to support the massive campaign. First lieutenant Ian Charles has had two trips along with firefighters Gabby Denk and Glen Woods.

The nearby Whittlesea Freemason’s Lodge is also donating to the NSW fire appeal.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Adam Barnett said the brigade’s donation showed how volunteers reached out to help communities in different ways during times of crisis.

“Not only has the Flowerdale brigade sent volunteers to help on the fire ground, they have dug deep to raise money to help a fellow brigade get back on its feet,” Mr Barnett said.

“This is another example of CFA volunteers supporting communities near and far.”

Learn more about CFA’s world-respected surge capacity on the VFBV website.

More than 100 south-east Victorian volunteer firefighters have so far helped to ease the fire threat in NSW and Queensland as part of a huge mobilisation of support.

Along with volunteers from across Victoria, about 150 from the south-east have joined the interstate campaign, another example of the strength of the state’s volunteer CFA system.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Adam Barnett said this reflected the commitment and readiness of volunteers to help in times of crisis.

“Volunteers play an important role in our communities every day of the year, but when major disasters happen their training, dedication and professionalism really come to the fore,” Mr Barnett said. “To be able to give their time to help interstate is a fantastic contribution.”

VFBV District 27 President and Yallourn North volunteer Lance King was one of the strike team members and said the efforts had been appreciated.

“Everyone you drive past waves at you; it makes you feel like you’re doing something good for the community,” he said.

Mr King was one of about 150 volunteers to fly from Melbourne with the Royal Airforce, following a similar deployment earlier in the week.

Based at Richmond Airforce Base, Mr King and other volunteers were involved in community assurance work, clearing around properties and other asset protection, manning communications vehicles and backburning.

The deployment was hard work. “You might get in between 9 or 11 at night depending on how far you go and what work you’re doing and you’re on the bus at 6 in the morning to go to the staging area,” Mr King said.

“But it’s worth it. A lot of people have been evacuated but everyone we saw was very appreciative. We had one guy who brought us cartons of soft drinks,” he said.

The team was based north-west of Sydney near the Gospers Mountain fire.

Mr King and his fellow volunteer group returned to Victoria on Monday.

VFBV District 10 President Stratford brigade member Mark Jones returned home on Friday after a week in NSW before returning to the fire zone this week.

“We did a lot backburning and dry firefighting with hand tools like rake hoes to build fire breaks, starting at Goulburn and then Wilberforce and then north of there,” he said.

“There’s tonnes of work to do up there. It was extremely steep terrain and the fires were massive.”

Mr Jones also appreciated the community welcome. “You find a lot of people tooting the horn and giving us thumbs up, which was nice,” he said.

The volunteers praised employers for allowing them time to contribute to the fire effort.

Crews from Bunyip, Koo Wee Rup, Nerrim South, Lakes Entrance, Bairnsdale, Carrum Downs, Mt Martha, Churchill, Rosebud, Welshpool, Traralgon East, Loch, Stratford, Lang Lang, Heyfield and Yallourn North were among those from the region to contribute to the firefighting surge capacity.

Learn more about CFA’s world-respected surge capacity on the VFBV website.

Quick-thinking northern Victorian CFA volunteers nipped a spreading fire in the bud during their strike team patrols in New South Wales.

While hundreds of Victorian volunteers were deployed to NSW to assist with the firefight and assisting with patrols, backburning and community engagement, one strike team happened upon a new fire as it started.

The team included volunteers and tankers from Yea, Alexandra, Kilmore, Kinglake, Dookie and Strathbogie and was part of a huge mobilisation of support.

Yea volunteer Neil Beer said strike team members based at the Singleton army barracks were refuelling vehicles when they noticed the fire starting.

“We were going to fill up the forward command vehicle and were heading towards the main highway when we saw a puff of smoke coming up from the rear of a passing coal train,” Mr Beer said. “The next thing there were flames and there was a strong wind, probably 40-45 kph, and within a minute it had covered more than 100 metres.

“We were seeing this happen in front of us.”

The volunteers rushed to the nearby New England Highway where they met a traffic policeman who closed the highway and asked them to organise a strike team.

In the meantime, a NSW Rural Fire Service tanker arrived, allowing the Victorian volunteers call Singleton and arrange two strike teams to return to the blaze.

The highway was closed for about four hours. The fire briefly jumped the highway but went into a river flat area and stopped within about 50 metres.

“The concern was there was a fuel station about 200 metres away but it was kept contained,” Mr Beer said. “It was pure luck that we were Johnny on the spot to see the smoke and then the flames start up.”

Mr Beer said he was impressed by the efforts of Victorian volunteers during their deployment. “The professionalism of CFA volunteers really stood out,” he said.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Adam Barnett said the quick action reflected the professionalism and high quality of training undertaken by all Victorian volunteers.

“All volunteers should be proud of their efforts in New South Wales and in their own communities every day of the year,” Mr Barnett said. “Incidents like this show why we invest so much time, energy and effort into improving CFA and working together to make it a better place to volunteer and work.”

“What we do aims to protect our state’s most important asset – its people.”

Learn more about CFA’s world-respected surge capacity on the VFBV website

Young Boort CFA volunteer Mitch Baker has jumped straight from the frying pan of VCE exams into the devastating fires in New South Wales.

Fresh from completing his final VCE exam, Mitch, 18, joined about 70 volunteers from around Victoria in the latest strike team to battle the massive fires.

Overall hundreds of Victorian volunteers have travelled to NSW and Queensland in a huge mobilisation of support.

Mitch has been a Boort brigade member for more than two years and communications officer for the past year while continuing his school studies.

“I had my last exam the previous Thursday and then flew out the next Tuesday,” he said.

Although still a teenager, Mitch says he’s well trained and prepared for the major fire zone.

“I’ve been to a few fires locally but nothing of this magnitude but we’re all well trained and know what to do and how to take direction,” he said.

This was Mitch’s first strike team and he was pleased to add to the huge CFA volunteer surge capacity. “When you look at the news and see how bad it is, you just want to go and help the people,” he said. “It’s good to chip in and do your bit.”

Mitch hopes to study cyber security at Deakin University Geelong next year.

Boort brigade secretary Russel Talbot and fellow member Mark Minogue were among those flying to NSW on Wednesday afternoon.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Adam Barnett said the commitment of experienced and new members contributed to the CFA’s amazing surge capacity when major disasters happen.

“Our volunteers come from diverse backgrounds and make an incredible contribution both locally and far afield when needed,” Mr Barnett said.

“What makes our CFA so special is its connection with our communities and the fact that we have well-trained and capable people ready to drop everything and help in times of crisis,” he said.

“We expect to have a long and challenging season ahead of us and hope these latest fires inspire more young people to consider joining their local CFA.”

Learn more about CFA’s world-respected surge capacity on the VFBV website.

Rushworth Fire Brigade volunteer Deb Thompson helped to save houses in New South Wales as part of her first strike team experience and has returned for a second campaign.

Ms Thompson was one of six Rushworth volunteers in the initial strike team, working as a second tanker driver and a firefighter.

Last Wednesday she joined about 90 volunteers from across Victoria to return to the devastated area to resume her duties.

Ms Thompson, who has been a Rushworth brigade volunteer for more than 10 years, was part of the team that drove the Rushworth tanker to the fire area on Sunday, November 10.

“We stopped the first night in Wagga Wagga, then went to Singleton for a few days and then on to near Taree,” she said.

The fire devastation was overwhelming. “You see it on TV and it’s massive but to see it in real life really hits you,” Ms Thompson said.

“We were deployed to a town called Greta to help save some houses and we did that. It made me feel really good to know that we made a difference.”

Ms Thompson was happy to return to the area.

“They need the help and if us volunteers don’t stick our hands up, you’re going to have a hard time and the damage is going to be much worse.”

Brigade captain Mark Jones said Rushworth’s tanker remained in NSW and the brigade was continuing to send crews to it.

“We’ve done a lot of blacking out and working on the fire front around Port Macquarie and Taree,” he said.

“We were based at the Singleton Lone Pine Army Barracks during the catastrophic day and went to the Greta fire. It was close to being Black Saturday weather.”

Mr Jones had been part of a strike team around Sydney in the late 1990s but this was “a lot worse”. “The fire is everywhere,” he said.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Adam Barnett said CFA volunteers had stepped up when needed the most.

“Like an elastic band stretching when you need it to – CFA’s volunteer surge capacity has been working exactly as it is designed to,” Mr Barnett said.

“Victoria is one of Australia’s most fire-prone areas and we rely on the sacrifice and dedication of CFA volunteers every year. It looks like we will have a long and challenging season ahead of us but volunteers will be working hard to keep us safe.”

Learn more about CFA’s world-respected surge capacity on the VFBV website.

Stawell CFA volunteers Jason Willis and Molly Gray have made a good tag team in supporting the massive firefighting operation in NSW.

The parents were among hundreds of volunteers from across Victoria who joined the interstate campaign, another example of the strength and importance of the state’s volunteer CFA system.

Molly was part of the first district strike team and Jason later joined a separate team, helping with strategic backburning and community support.

Molly returned on Saturday for a second deployment and Jason will return at the start of December to help for a second time.

This was their first interstate mission but the parents are experienced in local and regional firefighting.  

Jason followed his father into the CFA and Molly joined about six years ago. They are both junior leaders in the Stawell brigade and Jason was recently elected District 16 Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) State Councillor.

Their daughter, Myah, has just moved from being a junior to a senior CFA volunteer while they have another daughter too young to join but already keen.

VFBV CEO Adam Barnett said the commitment of volunteers to help in times of crisis should be applauded, along with the support of their families and workplaces.

“Across Victoria in recent weeks hundreds of volunteers have gone to New South Wales to help and in each case, they’ve had families, partners, friends and workplaces pitching in to assist,” Mr Barnett said.

“For every volunteer on the fire ground there are many people at home keeping life on track. This is what makes our CFA surge capacity such a successful force.”

Jason said he and Molly were happy to support the interstate teams. “We have good family support and my mother-in-law was able to look after the girls while we were away,” he said.

Molly was part of the District 15 and 16 strike team working on CFA appliances while Jason was part of an 18-member strike team working alongside NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers doing strategic burns near Kempsey.

“We took all our directions from the local incident controller,” he said.

“It was a massive fire and they need a lot of support so that’s why we’ve put our hands up to go back again.”

“District 16 has a great reputation for assisting others. We have the Grampians in our region so we’re grateful for any help that comes to us and always willing to put our hand up to return the favour.”

Jason said Victorian volunteers did valuable work and integrated into the community. “We bought our supplies from the local supermarket and ate at the local RSL with the other strike teams; we were working with the community,” he said.

Learn more about CFA’s world-respected surge capacity on the VFBV website.

Werribee CFA volunteer Belinda Craig says protecting the community is her number one priority…meeting stars like U2’s Bono is just a bonus.

Ms Craig led a four-member Werribee crew to patrol fire lines, completing backburning and checking on residents.

The crew, also including Simon Roberson, Matt Mannix and Rohan Rizzoli, arrived in NSW on Tuesday and returned on Saturday. They were based at Richmond.

On the way to the fire zone, they met Bono and other U2 band members at the Melbourne airport.

Ms Craig said meeting the rock stars was a thrill but paled in comparison to protecting lives and property.

“Meeting Bono was awesome and we appreciated their interest, but if I had to choose between meeting a celebrity and saving a house, I’d protect the house any day,” she said.

“That’s our priority.”

Ms Craig has been a volunteer for 30 years, following in the footsteps of her father Don.

“I joined as soon as I turned 11 and went up to seniors at 16 and have been there ever since,” she said. “It’s nice to give back to the community.”

Ms Craig has been on many strike teams, including Sydney 2001-2002, Black Saturday and others across the region.

“They’ve all been big fires and challenging but we’re well trained and experienced to deal with then,” she said.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Adam Barnett praised the commitment and readiness of volunteers to help in times of crisis.

“About 400 CFA members have been deployed to assist NSW crews with firefighting, incident management and specialist roles and that number increases every day,” he said.

Mr Barnett added that no Victorian stations were left empty and no communities left unprotected while the volunteers were interstate.

“The CFA surge capacity is working exactly as it is designed to,” he said. “When major disasters happen the training, dedication and professionalism of volunteers really come to the fore.”

Learn more about CFA’s world-respected surge capacity on the VFBV website.

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CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.