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Helping others keeps Ian fired up


14th May 2012

For Knox Deputy Group Officer, Ian Atherton, it all began just over 22 years ago with a dinner and a rocky dirt road.

When moving to Rowville back in the late eighties, Ian only knew one person in the area and as luck would have it, he was a CFA volunteer with Rowville.

“Sharing stories over dinner one night, he told me all about CFA, the team, and his experiences. It sounded like an amazing way to help my community, so I joined up the very next day,” Ian said.

In 1989, the Rowville CFA was very different to how it is today, but for Ian it was one of the most memorable times in his career.

“We had a small station on a small block on a dirt road, very basic PPC and a front mounted pumper that took some getting used to.

“The brigade consisted of about 15 members back then, responded to about 30 fire calls a year and had a fire siren which boomed out across Rowville and Lysterfield.

Ian recalls responding via tone only pagers, followed by voice pages before the introduction of the current day text based pagers.

Things have come a long way for Ian since his first day at Rowville. He has moved into Rowville’s current station and will soon see a move into a new integrated station with the arrival of full time staff. He has moved through the ranks from brigade secretary/treasurer and firefighter to senior firefighter, to Crew Leader, Lieutenant, and then Training Manager, before moving into his current role as Deputy Group Officer (Group Training) for Knox in 2009.

In conjunction with the eight Brigade Training Officers in Knox, Ian is responsible for all group related training covering about 450 firefighters across Knox. Ian’s primary focus is to ensure that all firefighters have the necessary firefighting and command and control skills required to carry out their roles safely and effectively.

“This training encompasses initial minimum skills recruit courses through to senior leadership courses such as Strike Team Leader, Sector Commander and everything in between”. In addition Ian has developed a strong focus on looking at development opportunities for current and future Brigade leaders through finding target opportunities for them, running leadership forums and specialists sessions where leaders can build up their overall knowledge and leadership skills.

“That’s what I enjoy in my role and we can show some really great results in this area,” Ian said.

“But it’s not just the day to day tasks that make my job rewarding, it’s also the special events we run, like our Knox Multi-Agency Specialist Appliance Displays and our Major Tactical Water Relay Exercises, that keep this role interesting.”

However, the most important thing for Ian is the mateship that he has gained across CFA and the other emergency service agencies. Over the past 22 years he has built a lot of lifelong friendships and looks forward to building a lot more as he interacts with more and more CFA and other agency personnel in his Group Training role.

“It’s often said but it’s worth repeating. We are like one big family. We have the same passion and experiences and all want to help our local community. I feel proud knowing that I and my colleagues have made a difference to date, and we will continue to make a difference to people’s lives in the future,” Ian said.

Ian said the skills he’s gained whilst volunteering with CFA have been of great benefit to him both at a personal and corporate career level and he is continuing to learn new skills as he moves into a new phase of his CFA career.

In 2007, Ian was awarded the National Medal for his work with the CFA and noted at the time, most volunteers are not in the CFA for personal reward or glory however it is a great feeling to be recognised for something you love doing.

Ian also said that without the ongoing support of his wife Lyn and sons, Dylan and Mitchell none of what he has achieved with CFA would have been possible and for that he is extremely grateful.

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