Wanted : Ararat’s next generation of firefighters

ARARAT Fire Brigade is on the hunt for a new generation of firefighters to be the future protectors of the community.

Boys and girls aged between 11 and 15 are being encouraged to join the CFA Junior Development Program, which pre-prepares participants for firefighting duties.

The program is run across 160 brigades in Victoria and teaches kids important skills covering a number of CFA roles.

Importantly, it also helps build self-esteem and self -confidence and assists participants to develop new skills and social relationships.

CFA volunteer Rob Keith caught up with the Ararat Advocate during training on Wednesday night.

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He’s been running the juniors program in Ararat for decades and is clearly proud of the young participants.

“They’re the next generation of fire fighters. Tonight, we have eight here which is a good start but we’ve also lost a few through COVID,” he said.

“A lot of our current CFA members started off as juniors and worked their way up through the ranks.

“We’ve had juniors go on from here and gone into the brigade as senior members, some have become station officers and a couple of them are even ROs (regional officers),” Rob said.

Junior members do not respond to emergencies, however, the Junior Development Program works to build the skills of junior members in key areas including an understanding of volunteering, emergency response skills, teamwork and familiarisation of hazard types.

Josh Stacpoole started as a junior 16 years ago and has been a volunteer firefighter all his adult life.

He’s now part of the junior program in Ararat and is encouraging younger members of the community to get involved.

“As a kid, I didn’t want to play footy or tennis or anything like that, my interest was in trucks, fire trucks and it just made sense to come down and get involved,” Josh said.

“Once I was too old to run with the juniors it just made sense to go and play with the fire trucks,” he said.

Josh said starting as a junior with the Ararat brigade had been a rewarding experience.

“It’s an hour and a half one night a week. Quite often we go away on demos where we head away to another town on a Saturday or Sunday into a different town and compete against other junior brigades. It’s a bit of fun,” he said.

“Everyone here is equal, it’s a bit of fun and its really easy to pick up. It might seem a bit complicated and a bit scary but you work with your team,” Josh said.

Rob Keith said as members get older, it’s great to have younger people involved with the CFA.

“I’ve been involved just a bit over 62 years, and it’s great to get these young ones coming on. Some of us are getting a bit long in the tooth for it but we’re still here to support them,” Rob said.

Anyone wanting to get involved can contact Michelle Turnham on 0428 628 395.

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