There are a few key things that underpin our brigade’s approach to community engagement:
Our brigade has built up a good reputation in the local community. This is helped by the long history of the brigade (est. 1968) and a lot of long-term local members, meaning we are well known and familiar to the residents.
We have tried to understand the unique challenges that exist in the Mount Rumney and Cambridge area through several local organisations such as Landcare, the Clarence Council and other community organisations and local businesses.
We always aim to be respectful but blunt and honest with our discussions at property field days. This has been important in having those difficult conversations with the community, especially for the well-meaning but less-informed newer residents who don’t understand the realities of living in an isolated bush setting.
We explain that we can’t have a fire truck in every driveway. The preparation residents do now will help both them and firefighters to defend their homes.
Residents ask our advice looking for answers about bushfire safety. So, we come prepared to use real life situations and our personal experiences to build a picture. Everyone has their own idea of what it would be like, but we try to set them straight as to what to expect (bushfires are scary, loud, smoky and dangerous).
The challenge for us as a brigade now is getting residents to take action on hazard reduction. We feel that residents could and should be doing a lot more on their own properties, but many of the newer residents seem to lack the necessary understanding, knowledge and skills. This may affect their motivation.
A lot of these factors might not be unique to our situation and we hope there are some useful takeaways for other brigades in how we have done things.
Matt Fenton and Tony Schultz
Cambridge Fire Brigade