CFA: Volunteering since 1926

A Captain’s Call in a proud tradition

Captain Seamus Smith reflects on the history of Ferntree Gully CFA, and some of the current challenges faced.


When our member Graham Crichton asked me to write an article for the Ferntree Gully
News, I thought it was appropriate for two reasons.
Firstly, it gives me the opportunity to tell our community that in 2017 Ferntree Gully Fire Brigade will celebrate 75 years since the formation of the brigade under the Country Fire Brigades’ Board on 29 July 1942. In 1945 this board became the Country Fire Authority. In celebrating our 75 years, it will be most appropriate to recognise the membership of the brigade who have contributed so much throughout those years.

Our history actually goes back much further than just 75 years. It goes way back to 1926 when the Fern Tree Gully Bushfire Brigade was formed on 29 February of that year.

Since those days, Ferntree Gully Fire Brigade has had a long and proud tradition of being a 100% volunteer fire brigade supporting our community with a dedicated emergency service response.
This response has often been to every corner of the State of Victoria, and in recent years, has extended into New South Wales, South Australian, Tasmania and Western Australia. Over the years, we have achieved this by having an extremely dedicated number of
volunteers. On receiving a call, our members readily leave their families, their work or their mates and assist in whatever the emergency may be, whether it be fires, floods or any other incident. In this year of 2016, our brigade has close to 45 members most of whom train and respond to calls on a regular basis.

My second reason for writing this article is to answer some questions and concerns that brigade members and I have received from the public with regard to current news and media stories. Many of these media articles have featured a photo of our Ferntree Gully tanker taking part in a motorcade past State Parliament in Spring Street Melbourne on
Saturday 23 April. Our brigade, along with another 420 CFA brigades from across Victoria, took this action to highlight the concerns expressed by our communities and our volunteer fire fighters alike regarding possible far-reaching changes to the CFA presently being considered by the State Government.

These changes we believe would have a very adverse effect on volunteer participation and drastically erode the essential backbone of our fantastic organisation. Over the years this organisation, the Victorian Country Fire Authority, has proclaimed its pride as a community based volunteer fire and emergency organisation supported by some excellent
administration staff and a number of career firefighters.

The current issue of great concern is not about an increase in career firefighter numbers, nor is it about pay and conditions for career firefighters on duty, nor is it about a fear of ‘being replaced’ by career firefighters.

Our concern is about decision making and control of the CFA. Decision making and control must remain with the Country Fire Authority’s executive team: the CFA Board and the Chief Officer. There should be no provision for an industrial body to veto decisions made by the leaders of this Authority.
There should be no clauses that preclude or segregate volunteer fire fighters from carrying out their role as presently performed. It should not be prescribed that all volunteer brigade administration support officers and managers in non-operational support roles come
only from career ranks. It must remain up to the CFA Board and Chief Officer to put in place what is determined to be the best fit in response to the needs of our communities.

We have, over the years, acknowledged the growing need for more career fire fighters to support some of our communities throughout the State. With changes in communities and competing pressures on families, work, and household budgets, assistance can be needed on occasions and we support this.

Finally, I am writing this article the day after Ferntree Gully volunteer fire fighters, supported by CFA career fire fighters from Boronia, volunteers from Bayswater (Breathing Apparatus Specialists) and volunteers from Montrose (Gas Cylinder Flare-off Specialists) fought a late-night structure fire. This fire involved a caravan under a carport near a house, and also a car. The home suffered only minor damage such that the family occupying it was able to sleep in their home for the remainder of the night. The teamwork
shown at this fire and the outcomes achieved were a fine example of what volunteer and career fire fighters can accomplish when all working together in support
of our communities.

In conclusion, I would like to add a point that cannot be stressed highly enough:

only working fire alarms
installed correctly can save lives.

Captain Seamus Smith
Ferntree Gully CFA

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