Meet Lisa: Veteran CFS volunteer and Bradbury CFS Captain

Lisa Knight hero

When the Ash Wednesday bushfires swept through Victoria and South Australia in 1983, a lasting impression was left on then 16-year-old Lisa — who vowed she’d never live in a bushfire danger zone.

“I remember Ash Wednesday quite vividly,” Lisa recalled. “I was 16 at the time, studying at TAFE in Mt Gambier boarding with my aunt and uncle.

“The fires hit the South-East quite hard,  and my uncle volunteered through his workplace to help farmers with injured stock.

“I saw footage of the Adelaide Hills on TV and thought ‘I’m never going to live there’.”

But in 2001, with a young family and her husband’s expanding earth moving business, Lisa moved to a 20-acre property in Bradbury, a small town in the Adelaide Hills, located between Scott Creek and Mylor.

Being very aware of the risks that came with living in a bushfire prone area, Lisa and her husband took it upon themselves to join the local Bradbury Country Fire Service (CFS) soon after moving – and the rest is history, as they say!

“Learning about what it was like to live in the Adelaide Hills was the initial motivation…if you’re going to live somewhere, I think it’s important to take responsibility for knowing what to do in an emergency, and how to take care of your family,” Lisa said.

“We also thought we should meet some locals, so we both went up to the station and introduced ourselves.

“We ended up joining as volunteers and loved it…19 years later I’ve become the first female captain at the Bradbury CFS.”

Throughout her 21 -year association with the Bradbury CFS, Lisa has held many roles – Firefighter, Group Health and Safety Coordinator, Senior Firefighter, Lieutenant and now Captain.

Lisa describes her responsibilities as Captain as “involving all sorts of things”, where no two days are the same.

“It's really about making sure the brigade is trained, resourced and prepared to undertake responsibilities within the community, which includes administration, policy compliance and people management,” she said.

“Whether the Brigade is responding to a fire or a car accident, I need to make sure our team knows how to respond appropriately, in a safe manner to themselves, to others and to property.

“Last year we received two new trucks, so our focus for the past 10 months has been ensuring we know what’s on the new trucks, making sure everyone knows how to use them, and ensuring drivers keep their practice up to date.”

Lisa Knight yellows

Over her time with the CFS, Lisa has experienced many changes, embracing improvements in technology, safety, and greater gender diversity.

“The technology and equipment CFS use has certainly improved over the years, and in terms of safety, a lot of initiatives have been introduced,” Lisa said.

“The new trucks are all dual cabins where everyone sits inside, and have in-cab breathing systems and burn over protection.

“I’ve had several  sets of uniforms in my time… the ones we have now are much lighter, and we’ve also got a female uniform that fits better, so that’s been a significant improvement.”

At the time she joined the CFS, Lisa was the only female in the Brigade, and recalls encountering “a bit of resistance from the old guard”. But in the years since, Lisa said an influx of new female volunteers has helped to create an inclusive culture.

“At one stage I was the only female, but we’ve now got six female firefighters.

“I think having greater gender diversity does create a better culture, everyone benefits from different points of view and approaches that come from life experiences, and …it stops all the boys telling bad jokes!.”

Lisa credits her sense of community spirit, passion for lifelong learning and love for meeting new people as key to her ongoing engagement with the CFS.

Volunteering also helps her ‘switch-off’ from her career working full-time in a specialised child protection unit at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“I love giving back to the community, I love the learning opportunities and I love meeting people…some days it's really fun to jump on a fire truck and be able to help someone in need,” she said.

“I have a stressful job at times, so I think being able to focus on something else that is so different to my day job helps put me in a different headset.

“I might have had a bad week, and then you get a CFS call out…I think it re-energises me and allows me to refocus on what is important.

“My husband would say it's because I like bossing people around, but I say that’s not true!”  CFS allows you to utilise life and work skills such as communication and leadership.  Everyone has something to contribute.

Lisa says that people who want to learn new skills, meet new people and enjoy working as a team should also consider volunteering with the CFS.

“The CFS certainly provides professional training and development, and the skills that you learn are lifelong and can be used in so many different contexts and situations,” she said.

“You also meet lots of people, it's rewarding and you have a great time doing it.

“People think it's scary — and at times it can be  challenging — but that’s why it's important to be trained and when you work together as a team you can achieve great things.”

16 May 2023