Word of mouth inspired Joel Wood to join Gisborne Fire Brigade in 2006 and he hasn’t looked back, growing from the youngest member to being a strong mentor for the fresh faces at the brigade.
Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers across Victoria are acknowledging the close bonds they’ve formed as brigade members to celebrate International Day of Friendship on Thursday, 30 July 2020.
Joel first became a senior member at the brigade in 2008 when he began his training to become an operational firefighter.
His training led to him getting to know people of all ages and backgrounds.
“As I moved through to the seniors I started to click with different people of varying ages,” Joel said.
“Initially there were a few people I was close with when I became an operational member and they were those who helped train me the most. Beyond that we started to get along well and hung outside of CFA activities as well.”
Joel said around five years ago he met Jordan Whitefield, who was a new addition to the brigade and has become one of his closest friends at the brigade.
“We got along really well straight away because we were two younger members of the brigade,” he said.
“Jordan felt comfortable coming to me at the start because he could relate to me more than some of the older members and I understood that as I felt the same way when I first started, so it was good to be on the other end of that.
“Naturally, you gravitate towards people you are closer to in age but CFA is a great way to expose yourself to people who are at different stages of life.
“Jordan and I have also been spending time with another older member of the brigade who has been providing us with a lot of guidance too, which I find is something that can’t find at many other organisations.”
Joel, who also is a member of the local football club, said his involvement with CFA has also opened up new relationships with people who share the common interest of sport.
“The CFA element has brought me closer to a number of people within the community and through that you find that you share a heap of other interests,” Joel said.
“There were a couple of blokes in the brigade who turned out to be massive fans of the footy club which was a strong common interest between me and them.”
He said the connections made with fellow CFA members and football teammates can be very different.
“At CFA you see people at their rawest emotionally,” he said.
“I can be an emotional person. There’s been many times I’ve cried as soon as I’ve gotten off the frontline of the fires as a release after what I’ve just experienced and that’s not something I’d really consider doing in front of my footy mates.
“That’s the kind of bond you form with people at CFA, everyone understands the things we do can affect us in many ways and are there to listen and help.
“There’s no one at the brigade I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my guard down with.”
He said relationships with people at the brigade have helped his grow as a person.
“I’ve shared a lot of unique conversations and experiences with so many people of different ages and backgrounds,” Joel said.
“I hope to always stay in touch with the people I’ve met through the brigade.
“I’d recommend CFA to anyone who is willing to give back and meet some really supportive people along the way.”