AS THE FIRST female captain in the history of the Barwon Heads fire brigade, Helen Wood is forging the way for women in service and said it’s an exciting time for the brigade.
The station’s major $510,000 upgrade was made possible by $250,000 in funding from the Victorian Government, $210,000 in community funding from the brigade itself and $50,000 through CFA’s Base Capital Works program.
“The upgrades give us the capacity to serve the community into the future. It means we can have all three of our vehicles face to face and side by side facing out onto the road,” Ms Wood said.
“At the moment, one of our vehicles is in a workshop around the side. The renovations have also enabled us to move our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
“We now have male and female changing rooms for the uniforms to hang, they were hanging alongside the trucks so they’re no longer exposed to fumes from the vehicles.”
Ms Wood began her career in emergency services in 1981 when she joined the Barwon Heads 13th Beach Surf Life Saving Club (BHSLSC) – a year after women were first accepted as active members.
She left and returned in 2002 to become the club’s first female captain and switched agencies in 2003, joining the CFA and Barwon Heads fire brigade.
“My gender has nothing to do with me being captain, it’s about my skills and abilities. That’s the same for anyone that holds a role within the brigade; regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s about being the best and most qualified person for the role,” she said.
Ms Wood has held numerous positions including secretary, 3rd, 2nd and 1st lieutenant, before being elected captain in 2015.
“It’s all voluntarily, we’re an entirely voluntarily run brigade. I just really enjoy being involved with the community and being able to feel like I can give something back.”
Upgrades to power, water and CFA communications and data services will ensure the brigade can provide the best possible emergency response to the local community and surrounding areas, according to Bellarine MP Lisa Neville.
“The upgraded CFA station will provide the Barwon Heads Fire Brigade with the modern facilities they deserve, as well as more space to train and prepare for emergency incidents, and to assist neighbouring brigades,” Ms Neville said.
“The Barwon Heads CFA has a proud long history of service to the community and this continues under Captain Helen Wood and the entire brigade.”
Ms Wood said the upgrade came after years of hard work to get the project off the ground but the brigade was still in need of donations to help fund the balance of the build.
If you would like to make a monetary donation, you can via cfa.vic.gov.au or go into the Barwon Heads Bendigo Bank.