Making time to fight fires

We all have to fight fires in our daily roles, but Payroll Officer, Julie McEwan, has literally been at the frontline of the state’s most recent fire crisis.

Julie is a firefighter with the CFA, who recently took part in deployments to Kempsey NSW, Rochester in Victoria and to the East Gippsland fires.

After just 18 months on the job, Julie has already been to three major deployments and out with 10 strike teams, including to Bunyip, Grantville and Shoreham.

“The scale this time is just enormous – so massive. I haven’t been right at the fire front during the fire storms like you’ve been seeing on the news. It’s not like that all the time. So much of what we do is the clean-up, the blacking out and back burning so that fuel is reduced before the main fire comes,” Julie said.

When Julie sees the other fire grounds on the news, or hears about an incident like last week’s loss of life with the helicopter crash in NSW, she finds it really emotional.

“It’s so sad. Your whole heart and soul goes into it. It just makes me want to have another go.”

“It’s very emotional but the CFA has an amazing support network. They have a lot of things in place to help us deal with our mental health. They always know what’s happening and immediately get the wheels in motion to provide the best support,” Julie said.

“There are shifts on constant rotation responding to flare ups. I’d go again if needed,” Julie said.

Julie says she really feels like her job makes a big difference but is keen to thank others for their part.

“I have been thanked so many times but that’s not why we do it. I am just so grateful also to so many people – there are so many volunteers on the ground. We’ve never gone hungry or thirsty; we’ve always had great medical support on hand.”

Julie wanted to give thanks to her team leader and director, who fully supported her efforts even though it meant being away from work for four days in this latest stint and a few more just after new year.

“I was fully supported and encouraged by my team and it is such a relief to have that total support from the department. It makes it easier to concentrate on the job at hand. They didn’t ask any questions, they just said ‘go’!

“I know it’s in our EBA that emergency services leave is to be paid, but I really appreciated the support of Monash Health as an employer, especially when some of the others I was deployed with found it more challenging. It was such a relief.”

Julie wanted to do a story to thank Monash Health as an employer. She was also pretty keen to acknowledge the love and support of her partner and four children, who also enable her to do this important work. But we want to say thank you, Julie – and to any of our other emergency services volunteers – for your bravery and service.