Ern Wyatt awarded CFA life membership

By Spencer Fowler Steen

After being a volunteer firey for more than 50 years, Ern Wyatt has finally earned himself a life membership from the Country Fire Association.

Along the way, he's lost friends and certainly seen some things, but despite the tough moments, it has been a journey thoroughly enjoyed.

Aged 90, Mr Wyatt now lives in a Shepparton nursing home, his firefighting heyday over.

But his son, Peter, and daughter-in-law, Michelle, recalled the CFA had always been a mainstay in his life.

“It's the main thing he talks about, they're his second family — they spend every moment together helping people,” Michelle said.

Mr Wyatt started off at the Kalorama Fire Brigade in Mt Dandenong back in the 1970s where he spent 20 years.

He also did stints volunteering at Toomuc, and finally the Cobram Fire Brigade.

As a child, Peter remembered his father's little beeper constantly going off, taking him away to Mt Dandenong for various jobs.

Although he was slightly hesitant to talk about it, Peter said there was a standout moment he would always remember from his father's volunteer firefighting career.

“One time they found a couple of people dead in a water tank, drowned,” he said.

“I'm not sure how he reacted to it, it's something you'd never forget you'd think.

“I was just a kid, but with those blokes it's on to the next job, the next disaster.”

Peter said his father was no stranger to tragedy during his time as a volunteer firey.

In a grim coincidence, some of Mr Wyatt's friends and fellow volunteers were driving a fire truck down a road on Ash Wednesday, when the wind suddenly changed leaving them trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time.

They couldn't get out of the fire, and all of them perished in the very same street Mr Wyatt lived in.

Peter said after Ash Wednesday, his dad took him up to help the victims of the fire and to do odd jobs making sure the front line workers were fed and watered.

Aside from being a firefighter, Michelle said Mr Wyatt was a carpet layer for many years — a physically active man who enjoyed playing squash and riding his bike around.

And perhaps laying down the early foundations of the mental fortitude he undoubtedly needed later during his firefighting career, she said Mr Wyatt had a job delivering letters to families notifying them of soldiers dying in World War II.

Mr Wyatt is also a fanatical Sydney Swans supporter.

“He’s been a lifelong Sydney Swans supporter, he lives and dies with them each week and follows them religiously,” Peter said.

And just recently on Sunday, June 21, a day after his beloved Swans won by 11 points over North Melbourne, Mr Wyatt was awarded with a CFA life membership by CFA District 22 Assistant Chief Fire Officer Tony Owen.

Something he couldn't be more chuffed about.