Firefighter Andrew Wood is on exchange in Victoria from Melbourne

Firefighters turn world upside down

Victoria and Australian firefighters take on one-year exchange

While a Victoria firefighter is down under dodging kangaroos on his bicycle, an Australian firefighter is in Victoria layering up to keep out the colder weather.

The reason? It’s the result of an international exchange in which two families have swapped lives for one year.

Andrew Wood, lead firefighter at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in Melbourne, Australia arrived in Victoria with his wife in mid-March.

For the last two years, he’s worked with both the Melbourne Fire Brigade and Victoria Fire Department to coordinate the exchange with Victoria firefighter Rob Rutherford.

The first exchange through the Victoria Fire Department occurred around 1999, said Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce, when one firefighter went to Perth, Australia.

The last exchange was about 10 years ago.

Throughout the years, there were several inquiries from firefighters in Australia, New Zealand and Victoria about the possibility of an exchange.

It was not until Rutherford and Wood got connected and pursued the idea that anything came of it.

“These requests always piqued my interest as I felt that an exchange would provide me and my family with tremendous career and life experiences,” said Rutherford.

Rutherford, who is now living in Melbourne with his wife and two daughters, is doing a complete house and car swap with Wood.

Wood said the biggest shocks when he got here were the cold and the bigger food portions.

“[I’m] having to keep the exercise up while I’m over here,” he said.

One thing Rutherford said he misses is being able to function as a family without a vehicle as they do in Victoria.

“Work is now an hour-long commute into Melbourne by train instead of a 10 minute walk,” said Rutherford.

Being on exchange gives prime opportunities for both men to share and learn new firefighting methods.

“I have been able to use my experience with VFD’s high angle rescue team to cross train with counterparts in the MFB and will be able to demonstrate the subtle differences in technique when I return home,” said Rutherford.

One of Wood’s main reasons for coming to Victoria was to learn about the Victoria Fire Boat.

“We’re only just now in infancy of getting a marine department running [in Melbourne],” said Wood.

The Melbourne Fire Brigade will be deploying its own fire boat, a Canadian-built Firestrom 40, in October, said Rutherford. He will be involved in the program’s development.

In terms of firefighting, Wood said the Victoria Fire Department is more advanced than the Melbourne Fire Brigade in many ways. For example, he said he would like to take back the VFD’s method of positive pressure, which involves using a fan to aid in firefighting.

Both families have been getting involved with local athletics.

“One thing I love culture-wise is how sport-crazy people are over here,” said Wood, adding that he followed the Victoria Royals through the playoffs and has been getting into the Shamrocks.

Meanwhile, Rutherford said he and his family have become hooked on Australian football. They have also gotten involved in surfing and scuba diving.

Although he loves Victoria, Wood said he and his wife would probably never move here permanently, because of family back home.

“We both come from big families, so we miss them,” said Wood. “And my football team [is] doing well, so I miss that.”

Although Wood is working here in Victoria and Rutherford is taking his place for the year in Melbourne, each of them are still getting paid through their home departments.

“They’re both what I would say honorary members of each other’s local, but they pay dues to their home local,” said Bruce.

“Rob is still on his Canadian benefits and still being paid by the City of Victoria, but he’s actually working in Melbourne, and vice versa. Andrew’s here working for us, but [his] pay, his holiday entitlements and everything are facilitated through Melbourne.”

In the future when Wood and his wife have kids, he said they would like to look into going on another exchange, possibly in a country where English is not the first language.

“Maybe I’ll get my wife, she’s a teacher, to do the exchange and I won’t work for a year,” said Wood.

“It’s such a fantastic experience; not only for your career and for learning about firefighting techniques, but for your family, for culture, for seeing the world.”

 

 

Just Posted

Permit delay could put birth control plan on hold for Oak Bay deer

UWSS has just days to move forward or plan postponed for a year

Cook Street Marketplace closing after 32 years

Owner John de Jong says it’s time to pursue his love of music

Social media attack ads a ‘distraction from democracy’ says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps

‘Elections are won on the doorstep. Elections are not won on Facebook,’ says incumbent mayor

Esquimalt votes for pay hike for incoming council

Mayor’s salary jumps 16 per cent, councillors by 10 per cent

Saanich endorses plan for food production on Panama Flats

Coun. Dean Murdock wants next council to follow through on idea

United Way asks Victoria to share local love

2018 campaign aims to raise another $5M

Potential replacements for Phoenix pay system to start testing soon: Brison

Testing of prototypes to replace troubled federal pay system will begin within weeks

Recent jump in U.S. butter imports? All smooth, says Canadian dairy farmers

U.S. farmers recently enjoyed extra access to the Canadian market

Nanaimo’s Tilray Inc. briefly the world’s largest cannabis company

The company, only listed in the US, nearly reached $300 in afternoon trading on Wednesday

Woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart released from prison

Smart was 14 years old when she was snatched from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 by street preacher Brian David Mitchell

New York books editor out after backlash over Jian Ghomeshi essay

Ian Buruma, who was appointed as editor of the New York Review of Books in late 2017, no longer works for the publication

B.C. couple plans sustainable, zero-waste life in the Shuswap

Plan includes building a tiny house before the snow flies

Housing slowdown forecast to cool B.C. economy

Conference Board says pipeline, trade uncertainty affecting investment

B.C. hockey product eyes shot at Olympic spot with China

Fletcher is one of 24 who travelled to Shenzhen, China for the first official Olympic dev camp.

Most Read