MAIN IMAGE: Sophie Ballard, back at Maclean High after helping fight fires with local RFS units. INSET: Proudly wearing the RFS uniform.
MAIN IMAGE: Sophie Ballard, back at Maclean High after helping fight fires with local RFS units. INSET: Proudly wearing the RFS uniform. Adam Hourigan

Cadet program sparks Sophie to help with fires

MACLEAN High Year 12 student Sophie Ballard would've been out helping with fires a week ago if it wasn't for one prior engagement.

"I had my HSC practical Italian exam," she said. "I told them I couldn't come because it was really, really important."

Sophie became involved in the RFS after completing the Rural Fire Service cadet program through the school in conjunction with Gulmarrad Rural Fire Service when she was in Year 9.

Taken through basic skills as part of the program, Sophie was encouraged to continue learning her skills, and now is a member of the Ashby Rural Fire Service, though she is still called on by Gulmarrad.

With the first of her exams out of the way, she sent a message that she was available on Sunday, and was called straight to Gulmarrad station on Monday at 7am and was out on the firefront on Brooms Head until 6pm.

"It was only my second fire I'd been out to, and you can feel the heat coming through the truck travelling towards. It was a bit freaky," she said.

Maclean High's Sophie Ballard on the fireground
Maclean High's Sophie Ballard on the fireground

"But it's amazing, your instincts kick in with your training, and you look for where the fire is and you blast it with water."

Tuesday, she was called out with her crew to Wooloweyah to help protect houses from spot fires that had started, returning again later.

Asked why she wanted to help, she said it was simply to give back to a community that appreciate them.



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