By Brendan Rees
When Ash Richmond saw the horror caused by the Black Saturday bushfires he knew then to put his hand up as a CFA volunteer firefighter.
“What I saw has never left me, and the people I spoke to up there were some of the bravest people I have ever met,” he said, after visiting Kinglake with his son’s Auskick group.
“The devastation and destruction which was still so obvious really got to me, it was gut wrenching.
“I decided then that if I could do my bit to help stop that sought of loss and destruction, I would.”
Mr Richmond is one of more than 56,000 CFA volunteers who were celebrated on Tuesday 5 December on International Volunteer Day, which recognises volunteers worldwide for the contribution they make to their communities.
Today, Mr Richmond puts his own safety on the line helping the community after signing up as a senior with Clyde Fire Brigade in 2013.
He originally joined the CFA as a junior in 1984 and received a 10 year service award this year.
“What I love most about the role is the chance to help the general public and the community, and also the relationships you develop not only with your fellow brigade members, but fellow firefighters from other brigades as well.
“You meet a very diverse range of people from all walks of life. I love what I do, and I will do it for as long as I can,” he said.
Mr Richmond mentors recruits but says this is not just because of his role as a lieutenant.
“I do it because we all need to be on the same page when it comes to turning out, and we need to know we can rely on our crew mates when push comes to shove.”
During the day Mr Richmond works as a forklift driver for a timber company in Keysborough.
He said the training with the CFA has given him skills for life.
“Some of these are theory, some practical, and once a month we get together with the other surrounding brigades and have a large group training session.
“I have recently completed the Drive-Off Roads course which now gives me the skills and qualifications to drive a vehicle off road to assist with bush firefighting.
“Also, I have just completed the full structure firefighting course which gave me invaluable information when fighting a structure fire, so the training offered by the CFA is extremely valuable,” he said.
For those thinking about joining, Mr Richmond offers some words of advice.
“There is a lot involved in being a fire fighter and it is a serious commitment, but would strongly encourage anyone thinking of doing it.”
CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said volunteers play a crucial role in their communities and contribute to “making CFA the fantastic organisation it is.”