JOHNNIE McCarthy’s Irish humour is obviously appreciated by his Warrnambool Fire Brigade colleagues.
Although he joined the 151-year-old organisation only two years ago he quickly warmed to the task and was named firefighter of the year on Saturday night.
The 37-year-old married father of three was recognised for his dedication and skills as volunteer member of the brigade which responded to 544 calls in the 2013-14 financial year.
“It’s all about being able to contribute your time to something worthwhile in the community,” said the employment case worker who was born and raised near Dublin. He hopes to pursue his goal of becoming a full-time career firefighter.
Josh Malone, 19, was presented with the annual encouragement award.
The apprentice painter followed in the footsteps of his parents Anthony and Vicki Malone who were long-time volunteer firefighters.
“It has always been part of my life,” he said yesterday.
“I can remember my parents rushing off to fight the Charcoal Chicken fire (2002) and I had to stay with my grandmother.”
He joined the junior brigade in about 2005 and has been in the senior brigade two years.
“It’s a way of giving back to the community. I’d like to eventually become a full-time officer,” he said.
Johnnie and Josh were an integral part of the brigade’s busy year which included bushfires in the Grampians and a chemical fire at Illowa.
Brigade officer-in-charge Henry Barton, in his annual report, said the summer bushfire season had been the longest and busiest since 2009 with participation in strike teams and incident management across Victoria and interstate.
Two of the most spectacular incidents involved six weeks at the Hazelwood coal mine fire and three weeks at the Derrinallum bomb explosion site.
Mr Barton said highlights of the year ahead would be construction of a new $7.5 million fire station on Mortlake Road and commissioning of the long-awaited aerial pumper truck.
“Membership continues to be strong with expressions of interest from the public online and coming direct to the station to join,” he said.
The annual report shows an average 6.1 members turned out for the 544 call-outs which hit a peak of 60 in February.
Other award presentations on Saturday night were: national medal, Rob Howell; national clasp, Henry Barton; 40-year service, Allan Woodhams; 30yrs, Lennie Gore, Wayne Rooke; 25yrs, David Ferguson, Warren Barker; 20yrs, Grant McCann, Gary Speed; 15yrs, Craig Kidd, Damien Speed; 5yrs, Cameron Bishop, Louis Carvalho, Lachie Woodhams; 30yr auxiliary, Sue McNally, Helen Read.