Close to 100 women firefighters representing 39 CFA brigades from all over Victoria honed their skills and shared their experiences over the weekend as the Cape Clear Women’s Burn Day was held for the fifth time.
An initiative of the Cape Clear Fire Brigade, the Women’s Burn Day had to be cancelled last year due to Covid-19 concerns, with this year’s participants grateful to finally be able to get together face to face.
The brigade is passionate about roadside fuel reduction burns, with Captain Michael Rowe coming up with the idea of a Women’s Burn Day several years ago to get more women involved in and experienced in burning.
“By nurturing those firefighters, they go back and empower their own brigades and empowering other firefighters to get out there and have a go,” he said.
The Women’s Burn Day has grown from a one-day event to a full weekend program of skills maintenance, roadside burning and the opportunity for female firefighters to increase their expertise, knowledge and confidence in a fun and safe environment.
This year, participants had travelled from across the state, including as far away as Sale, Wodonga and Portland.
Portland Fire Brigade Secretary Kim Deane said she had attended the Cape Clear Women’s Burn Day to mingle with like-minded firefighters and learn new skills.
“It was a fantastic way to pay respect to all of the other firefighters who work so tirelessly on and off the fireground,” she said.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my first opportunity to drive under instruction in a pumper tanker in a controlled environment and look forward to completing my Medium Rigid licence. I also learned many new skills to help me become a better firefighter, person and brigade member.
“It was fantastic to see so many incredible firefighters, new and experienced excelling at everything they put their hand to.”
She thanked Captain Michael Rowe and the Cape Clear Brigade for “a fantastic job spreading enthusiasm back to all parts of the state after the weekend”.
Jasmine Emselle from Wendouree Fire Brigade echoed the sentiment, saying it had been a great opportunity to learn new skill in a different environment and to meet new people.
“We’re an urban brigade so we don’t do too much of the burning, so it was a really awesome opportunity to get some more skills in that area. Being able to understand something we don’t get to do as much is probably one of our biggest drivers for coming,” she said.
“The general camaraderie and attitude among the people that are here is a benefit. Everyone here had similar experiences and where here no matter what background to learn and to grow and get better at what we do and let nothing hold us back. You get that excitement and empowerment just being around people like that.”
Fellow brigade member Sandy Minion said it had been great to learn from other participants.
“It’s been really good and empowering with all the other women and seeing their skill level and that nothing is stopping them doing what they need to do and want to do. It’s great to see that the power is there!”
CFA Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alen Slijepcevic and District 15 Assistant Chief Fire Officer Eddie Lacko took the opportunity to meet with participants on the Sunday.
“I’ve seen a lot of future leaders, future female leaders with a smile on their face when they were learning about planned burning, with a drip torch in their hand – learning about fire behaviour in grasslands, learning about lighting pattern to achieve what they want to do,” DCO Slijepcevic said. “
“I’ve learnt a lot about the passion our ladies have across the state because people were coming from as far as Sale or Portland here to this fantastic camp.