Mundaring: Sawyers Valley Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade firey says women can do everything men can in role

Sawyers Valley Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade members Jen O'Hehir, Michelle Van Den Dungen, Delphine Wilson (back), Lynne Strang (in black), Jennifer Gardiner (in black), Tina Merrybard, Mirline Dzieciol and Shayla Russo. Picture: David Baylis
Sawyers Valley Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade members Jen O'Hehir, Michelle Van Den Dungen, Delphine Wilson (back), Lynne Strang (in black), Jennifer Gardiner (in black), Tina Merrybard, Mirline Dzieciol and Shayla Russo. Picture: David Baylis

THERE is nothing firefighters do that cannot be done equally by a man or woman, according to volunteer firefighter recruiter Angus Hay.

Mundaring novelist Tina Merrybard (51) would agree.

She joined Sawyers Valley Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade within weeks of her husband Andrew signing up about two years ago.

“I thought I was going to join as an auxiliary member and be making the tea but after meeting a few people on active firefighting training, I decided to have a go,” she said.

“These days, volunteer brigades work around parents, fly-in fly-out workers, we’re really very flexible.”

The diminutive firey said her husband was proud of her.

“It’s great to see another facet of your partner, out and about doing good things and it gives you something to talk about together,” he said.

“We have a few married couple in our firefighting team and a father and daughter too.”

Mrs Merrybard said when she started there were not many women in her brigade, but currently there are five female fireys and another five women in other roles.

She said she did not consider active service until she met firefighters at her local brigade.

“I do like new challenges and adventure; I was told you can never tell who will be a good firefighter.

“It’s not about size and at only 155cm tall I was pleased to hear that,” she said.

“They say the bravest act is becoming a firefighter because after that it’s all training.”

Mrs Merrybard said fighting fires was different to what she had expected.

“You see the pictures and you think you’re going to be standing in front of a fire, but we work from the sides and behind to stop the fire spreading while the helitacs do their job,” she said.

She said new recruits undertake two weekends of basic training with options to complete extension courses at Mundaring Fire School and a first aid course with St John Ambulance.

Weekly training sessions take place on Saturday mornings and newcomers are welcome to visit any time.

“I felt excited the first time I went out on a fire; there is an amazing sense of camaraderie and of course, I was apprehensive,” said.

“The experience made me want to keep going, I’ve learnt so much, it really is an exercise in life expansion.”

She said until recently, the Sawyers Valley brigade had experienced a relatively quiet fire-fighting season.

“Unfortunately, some people haven’t been sensible about burning off and we’ve had a few callouts to escaped fires,” she said.

Sawyers Valley Volunteer Fire Brigade first lieutenant Angus Hay is keen to attract more volunteers to fire brigades across the Hills.

“We really want to persuade women that there’s nothing firefighters do, which can’t be done equally by a man or a woman.

“There’s training, protective clothing and equipment provided and it’s not an irreversible choice if someone really finds they can’t do it,” he said.

Non-fire fighting roles include administrative work, vehicle and equipment maintenance, planning school programs, social and community events.

For more information, contact your local brigade.

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