In his 41 years as a CFA volunteer, Noel Arandt said his most memorable event was Black Saturday, but for all the wrong reasons.
Mr Arandt served for nine-and-a-half years as captain of the Tallarook Brigade before taking on the role of group officer at the then Seymour Group, which later became the Mitchell Shire Group.
When the initial fire broke out, on the area boundary line between the Seymour and Northern Highway Groups, it was the Seymour Group who were first responders to the incident.
‘‘The Clonbinane captain was the first person on the scene and I recall well when he radioed in to say he’d just opened the door of his ute and the wind had quite literally nearly taken the door off,’’ Mr Arandt said.
‘‘The conditions in the week leading up to the event were a perfect storm.’’
Today, there are 14 brigades that fall under the Mitchell Shire Group.
As group officer, Mr Arandt was in charge of co-ordinating the efforts of the group into one unified fire fighting effort.
‘‘We were operating from our local command facility in Seymour,’’ he said.
‘‘Eventually it was handed across, from a management perspective, to the much larger incident control centre building up in Kilmore and then the rest is history of course.’’
Mr Arandt said the conditions on the day were completely off the scale.
‘‘We had a whole bunch of preparations in place but the conditions of the day just exceeded the capabilities of what was possible,’’ he said.
‘‘The day, then of course the aftermath, are all still being felt.’’
Mr Arandt recalls the incredible work of ordinary people who helped save the lives, homes and communities he volunteered among.
‘‘The work of helicopters and the ground crew saved the main street at Wandong,’’ he said.
‘‘They were working way beyond the margins and it was them, along with the work of the people at the pub and the local school that helped save it.’’
Mr Arandt retired from the role in 2015 but still actively supports the group and his brigade.
He was recently presented with a plaque in recognition of his service to the group and his community.
The wood for the plaque was gathered and donated by volunteers from the footprint of the Black Saturday fires at Kinglake.
It represents the communities, lives and properties that Mr Arandt helped protect, and the countless hours he spent in planning and preparation, response and recovery.
The medals on the plaque mark specific honours and the wording lists the many achievements Mr Arandt earned through his many years of service.
He is honoured by his peers and colleagues through the words etched onto his plaque — ‘A remarkable volunteer contribution by an exemplary gentleman’.
It is a testament to the standard Mr Arandt consistently delivered in his time as group officer, his composure, support and leadership both personally and professionally.
Mr Arandt made a truly remarkable contribution to the CFA and one his peers believe he should be exceptionally proud of.