Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack
Podcast Number 116 – Volunteer Firefighters in Australia
Australia has always been a land of summer bushfires. Our vast areas of bushland and our hot and dry summers have always created the perfect conditions for wild bushfires, often started by lightning during summer thunder storms. In this podcast, I would like to tell you about the volunteer firefighters in regional and country areas of Australia, who bravely fight these fires each and every summer, to protect people’s lives and property.
Australia has had a long tradition of volunteer firefighters in regional areas of Australia. In the big cities, our firefighters are paid professionals, as is the case in other countries around the world. However in country and regional areas of Australia, it is neither practical nor affordable for professional firefighting teams to be maintained. Instead, as is also the case in many other countries around the world, the firefighting is done by teams of volunteers. These are people who live and work in the community, doing normal jobs such as butchers, carpenters, accountants, teachers, farmers, managers, shopkeepers, dentists, hairdressers, plus any other job you can think of. In fact volunteer firefighters come from every occupation. These are people who care about their community strongly and are willing to help fight dangerous fires which might threaten their communities.
In my state of Victoria, the volunteer fire fighter organization is called the Country Fire Authority (or CFA). In New South Wales, it is called the Rural Fire Service (or RFS), which is the biggest volunteer fire fighting service in Australia. The other states also have similar organizations and they all do a wonderful job protecting our communities each and every fire season in summer. I’ll just talk about the Victorian CFA in my home state of Victoria in this podcast. For full and accurate information about our volunteer firefighting organizations, you should visit the relevant website, such as https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/home. I will provide a high level summary here.
The CFA in Victoria (as at 2019) is organized into 1217 brigades (or teams), each of which is located in a country town or country location right across Victoria. These 1217 brigades together have around 53,000 volunteers. Of these, around 34,000 are volunteers who are operational firefighters. This means that, when required, they are actively involved in fighting fires. This means responding at any time of the day or night to go to the scene of the fire. Firefighting is a dangerous activity so all volunteers must be fully trained before they can become part of the firefighting team. Training takes up to 6 months and covers general firefighting, safety, first aid, wildfire behaviours, radio communications, map reading and many other skills. Only when a volunteer has completed all this training satisfactorily can they become part of a firefighting team and then attend a fire emergency. It is also important to note that volunteer CFA firefighters also attend and assist at other types of emergencies, such as floods, road accidents, chemical accidents and other types of rescues. The CFA owns and uses over 2000 well equipped fire trucks, over 200 pumpers (which are trucks with a large pump which can pump large amounts of water onto a fire from a reservoir or other store of water), plus a range of other special firefighting vehicles. You can see how important it is that CFA volunteers are fully trained and able to handle all types of emergency situations and equipment. As well as attending at emergencies, operational firefighters must attend a minimum number of brigade meetings and further training sessions, in order to keep up with the latest information and to maintain their skills.
Not all CFA volunteers are firefighters. The remaining volunteers in the CFA are called non-operational volunteers. They don’t actually fight fires, but they perform all the other supporting tasks for the firefighters, such as raising money, educating local communities, liaising with the media, administration, maintaining firefighting equipment and many other activities. Non-operational roles mean that a large range of people from the community can play a role in keeping their community safe through the CFA.
The CFA also has a junior program, for young people aged 11 to 15 years. Under the guidance of a senior CFA leader, they learn practical firefighting skills such as map reading, radio communications, first aid and general education about fire safety and awareness. It is a great leadership development program. Once they turn 16 years of age, with parental consent they can begin the transition to become a senior firefighter if they so wish.
I am extremely lucky never to have been directly affected by a bushfire. However, in the summer of 2019/20, unprecedented fires have blazed across eastern Australia, especially Victoria and New South Wales. As I write this podcast in January 2020, the fires are still raging and our brave volunteer firefighters continue the fight. Tragically, three volunteer fire fighters in New South Wales have been killed in the last month as they fought these catastrophic fires. Australia owes so much to its volunteer firefighters.
If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. Or, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you. Tell me where you live, a little bit about yourself and what you think of my Slow English podcast. I will write back to you, in English of course. If you would like to take a short quiz to see if you have understood this podcast, you will also find it on my website. Goodbye until next time.
Podcast 116 Quiz - Did you understand the podcast?
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If you got all the questions right, well done! If you got some questions wrong, don’t worry. It’s normal for language learners to take time to develop their understanding.
Question 1 of 10
True or False? – In country and regional areas of Australia, firefighting is done by volunteers.Correct
Question 2 of 10
True or False? – Volunteer firefighters work in normal jobs but, when required, also fight fires as a member of a fire brigade.Correct
Question 3 of 10
True or False? – Volunteer firefighters join a CFA brigade in order to protect their communities.Correct
Question 4 of 10
True or False? – Only the states of Victoria and New South Wales have volunteer firefighters.Correct
Question 5 of 10
True or False? – If you want full and accurate information about volunteer firefighting in Victoria, this podcast is all you need.Correct
Question 6 of 10
True or False? – Volunteer firefighters need only a small amount of training and then they can attend a fire emergency.Correct
Question 7 of 10
True or False? – As well as fires, volunteer firefighters also attend other types of emergencies, including floods and chemical spills.Correct
Question 8 of 10
True or False? – Volunteer firefighters must learn to use special types of firefighting equipment, such as fire trucks and pumpers.Correct
Question 9 of 10
True or False? -If you are not young and fit, you cannot join the CFA.Correct
Question 10 of 10
True or False? – Volunteer operational firefighters need to be brave, as fighting bushfires can be a dangerous activity.Correct
accurate = correct
actively involved = when you are part of an activity
administration = organizing things and keeping records, managing things
affordable = when something doesn’t cost too much
assist = to help
attend = to go to
awareness = when you know of something
bravely = when someone continues to do something dangerous even though they are afraid
brigades = a way to describe a team of firefighters
bushfires = fires that burn through forest or bush
catastrophic = when an event happens which is very harmful, bringing terrible damage, injury and loss of life
community = the people who live in your own town or city
conditions = how things are, what state they are in
country areas = away from the big cities
dangerous = when you could get hurt or die from something
educating = teaching
emergency = an accident or event when things have gone wrong
guidance = being shown the way
handle = to use
junior = of a young age
leadership development = giving people the skills to be leaders
liaising = contacting, talking to
lightning = a strong burst of electricity during a storm
located = placed, found at
maintained = when things are kept in good working condition or at the same level
media = newspapers, television
occupation = job, profession
organizations = groups of people who work together to create or do something
parental consent = when the parents of a young person under 18 give their agreement that they can do an activity
perfect = without error, fault or defect
perform = to do
practical = is possible, can be done
professionals = people who are paid to do a job
property = houses, buildings, things built on land
protect = to keep something safe
provide = to give
raging = (here) very bad, very severe, very dangerous
regional = away from the big cities
relevant = (here) has a connection to, is important for
rescues = to save somebody from a dangerous situation
reservoir = a large area of water like a dam or lake
responding = answering to, reacting to
satisfactorily = to meet a required standard, to be good enough
scene = the place where something is happening.
season = a time of the year
service = something which helps you
similar = is like something else
situations = how things are
store = to keep
supporting tasks = things which help others to do their work
threaten = when someone or something appears to be a danger
thunder = the sound made by lightning, a booming sound during a storm
tradition = something which has been done for a long time
tragically = when something really bad happens, usually involving injuries and death
transition = to move from one situation to another situation
unprecedented = never before seen
vast = very large
vehicles = cars, trucks, motorcycles
volunteer = someone who works without being paid
well equipped = when you have good equipment
wild = (here) out in the bush or forest
wildfire behaviours = how a fire in the bush or forest behaves.