Denmark volunteer firefighters share frontline experiences to encourage other women to join brigade

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Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
Scotsdale/ Shadforth Bushfire Brigade volunteer Mel Haymont and Denmark Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service secretary Noni Entwisle.
Camera IconScotsdale/ Shadforth Bushfire Brigade volunteer Mel Haymont and Denmark Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service secretary Noni Entwisle. Credit: Laurie Benson

Two Denmark volunteer firefighters have shared their experiences from the frontline of last month’s bushfire on International Women’s Day to encourage other women to join their local brigades.

Scotsdale/Shadforth Bush Fire Brigade volunteer Mel Haymont and Denmark Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service secretary Noni Entwisle did their part to protect their community when it came under threat on the first weekend of February.

Ms Entwisle is in her third year as a volunteer firefighter after moving to Denmark from Port Hedland.

Her first experience of a major blaze happened on the night of February 4, when she joined a crew heading to the fireground.

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Ms Entwisle also helped with radio communications at incident control and in the refuelling of water bombers during the emergency.

“It is amazing to see all those cogs in action from behind the fire scene,” she said.

“From the people who are producing maps everyday for the crews to take out with them to the fireground, to welfare.

“That fire just highlighted for me that nearly every piece of training I had, I was actually able to use on that weekend.

“I would encourage anybody to just give it a crack because there will be at least something they will be able to do and it will make them feel involved and give them purpose.”

In 2012, Ms Haymont and her children were forced to flee their Bremer Bay home when it was deemed “indefensible”.

That terrifying incident ignited a decade of volunteer firefighting service and a new career path for Ms Haymont, who has worked as a bushfire mitigation practitioner for local and State governments for the past six years.

“I suppose I just preferred being on the inside and knowing what was going on, rather than that experience of being evacuated and really not knowing the mechanisms of controlling fire and how the brigades worked,” she said.

“I was relying on a whole bunch of other people to look after my community.”

Ms Haymont said February’s bushfire disaster showed there was a role for everyone and volunteers did not have to be fighting the flames to make a difference.

“It showed how many people it does take when you have a massive incident, how many people it takes to prevent a town being lost or prevent lives being lost and all JUthe different roles,” she said.

“You couldn’t be out there without all those people behind the scenes, it shows how vulnerable a little community can be.”

As the Shire of Denmark continues its recovery, the volunteers urged women of all ages to consider joining local brigades.

“Knowledge is power and there are so many different roles you can take,” Ms Haymont said.

“I think women are really good at rallying people together and we are good communicators.

“I just like that maybe we can help other people not feel intimidated by that traditionally male role.

“I think the more women that get involved the easier it is for other women to step up and be involved as well.”

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