There have been a lot of volunteer family dynasties in organisations such as the Country Fire Authority, but the Coyle family of Wodonga can claim to be there from the start.
Ross Coyle, the current Wodonga West brigade captain and a 30-year volunteer veteran, says the family tradition is set to continue for more generations to come.
“It may have started as self-preservation back in the day, but it becomes part of the fabric of who you are and what you enjoy doing for the community”
Ross’ grandfather George, still alive and turning 103 in July, was a charter member of the Wodonga Rural CFA brigade. Ross’ father Colin was captain for 20 years and group officer for 12 years and now his daughters Lauren and Aleisha and wife Jan are following suit.
Son, Toby 10, can’t wait till he turns 11 to join the junior squad.
“It may have started as self-preservation back in the day, but it becomes part of the fabric of who you are and what you enjoy doing for the community,” Ross said.
Ross, a generational beef and sheep farmer, started riding around in the fire truck with his father on school holidays and signed up as a junior at 13.
“I was on the back of a truck as soon as I was allowed to be,” he said.
“The strength of the brigade is the people around you”
The 100 per cent volunteer brigade has undergone significant changes in the past three decades, and has emerged with a revitalised outlook over the past year.
“When I started we were a rural brigade only doing a handful of calls per year,” Ross said.
“Now we do between 250 and 300 calls per year and we’ve gone from strength to strength to keep up with demand.
“Most of our calls are supporting the integrated station at Wodonga. We have a good relationship and support each other.”
The brigade moved into a new station last year.
“Our dedicated volunteers are continuing a great Australian tradition”
“Having moved from a tin shed to a new station has really changed the brigade,” Ross said.
“We’ve had a huge surge in female and non-operational members and we’ve got a junior brigade going really strongly.”
Both junior and senior teams won conduct and discipline awards at the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria rural championships this year.
“That’s a credit to the quality of people we have in the brigade,” Ross said.
“The strength of the brigade is the people around you. We’re very professional and skilled to our risk profile,” he said.
Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria CEO Andrew Ford said volunteers are essential to public safety and provide a professional service that is effective and affordable.
“Our dedicated volunteers are continuing a great Australian tradition that is well respected in our communities,” Mr Ford said.
Mr Ford said volunteers are part of the fabric of society and contribute to community resilience.