First turnout for Taradale’s youngest firey

Simone Stephens on her way home from the Benloch fire.
Simone Stephens on her way home from the Benloch fire.

One of the newest and youngest firefighters at Taradale Fire Brigade had her first turnout last month – as a member of a tanker crew fighting the Benloch fire.
Simone Stephens, 16, was a member of a tanker team that turned out in 40-degree heat to support firefighting operations at the 44-hectare Benloch fire, which broke out on January 15.
Simone became a senior member at Taradale late last year after joining the brigade as a junior four years ago. Her brother is also a junior at the brigade, and her parents are members at a neighbouring brigade.
“I could see a large smoke plume as we drove towards the fire,” Simone said.
“My team on the truck were really supportive – my crew leader Leanne told me to drink lots of water and wear all my protective clothing.
“When we arrived we were at the edge of the fire ensuring it did not spread and then we did some blacking out.
“It was challenging but I really enjoyed putting the skills that I have been learning into practice.”
Simone said it was exciting to attend her first fire and it would be something she’d remember for a long time.
“It was interesting being on the fireground and seeing all the helicopters, bulldozers and other brigades with their tankers,” she said.
Simone is in year 11 this year and is passionate about her studies. She also enjoys playing violin.
“I am aiming to go to university and have a career in science or technology but I plan to remain involved with the CFA throughout my life,” Simone said.
“Being a part of CFA is fun and challenging. I love working with a great team of people and I get to do something that helps the community.”
Taradale Captain Robert Schomacker said he was proud of Simone and thrilled to have her as a member of the team.
“The most encouraging thing for me as captain was that despite the heat and general tough conditions at Benloch, Simone stuck to her training and completed all assigned tasks,” Robert said.
“She also asked more questions about various aspects of what was encountered or what could be encountered on the fire ground than any new firefighter I’ve mentored.
“I was nearly as proud of her as her father and he was pretty chuffed.”
Robert said Simone was one of five new firefighters at the brigade.
“It’s fantastic that the community spirit and the spirit of volunteering is alive and well in today’s demanding and challenging climate,” he said.