Community safety comes first when disaster strikes

SNAKE Valley firefighter Craig McInnes yesterday joined 11,000 CFA volunteers in 220 brigades waiting for their pagers to go off in the middle of their Christmas lunch.

A CFA volunteer for 30 years, Mr McInnes is no stranger to giving up his family Christmas lunch to help fight fires.

“A few years ago, I spent a very lonely Christmas night watching fires at Stawell,” Mr McInnes said.

“It’s always at the back of your mind that your pager will go off on Christmas Day.”

Being on call during the festive season has made it hard for Mr McInnes and his family to organise holidays away. “Christmas is a family thing. While I am a volunteer fire fighter, you must remember to keep the family in the mix.”

Now that his family has grown, being called out during a Christmas Day lunch is a bit easier.

While being on call during the Christmas/New Year break is a downfall for Mr McInnes and the thousands of other firies, job satisfaction is what keeps him coming back for more.

“It is satisfying to know that you are doing the community a service ... and putting out a fire is a bonus.”

Mr McInnes is so good at his fire fighting job, that he has been one of 20 hand-picked current and potential leaders from around the state working closely with CFA chief officer Euan Ferguson as part of a year-long leadership program.

He believes the Chief Officer’s Leadership Development Program, described by many as potentially life-changing, is an opportunity to expand his goals and pass information on to others within his brigade. 

“I thought I’d established my goals before the program started, but now I see they were too small,” he said. 

“This is an ambitious and in-depth program and I need to make my goals bigger.”

Admitting to being “in awe” of some of the other members in the program, Mr McInnes said one of its biggest benefits was the sheer diversity of backgrounds and the kind of discussion that produced.

“You’ve got tradies, fruit growers, prison officers, a uni student – all sharing their life experience,” he said. 

Mr Ferguson said his program emphasised reflection and discussion, and was about building up a network of current and future leaders who were confident not only as a leader of a team, but in themselves as people. 

“By understanding our values, we can lead ethically and with forethought, respect and humility,” he said. “It’s about being the best we can be.”

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