Benalla’s Jack Harrison picks up CFA honour

Outstanding achievement: Benalla CFA volunteer John “Jack” Harrison has been awarded the Country Fire Authority’s Outstanding Service Medal.

John Harrison, known to mates as Jack, signed up to be a volunteer firefighter in 1957, a few months shy of his 13th birthday.

Back then his dad used to drive the tanker, which was kept on the family’s property in Tatong.

Whenever the alarm went off he was on-board heading towards the danger.

And he has been a member ever since.

At a Benalla CFA meeting in December he wondered what was going on when acting Chief Officer Garry Cooke started discussing some kind of award.

“When he began to run through my service it got a bit obvious that I was about to receive something,” Mr Harrison said.

“It was a great honour to be handed the Outstanding Service Medal.”

In his time volunteering he has held various positions in the volunteer fire service.

“From 1981 to 2001 I was secretary-treasurer of the Tatong Brigade,” Mr Harrison said.

“In that time I had moved into Benalla and in 1993 I was made deputy group officer of the Benalla group.

“I held that position for 20 years, and I’ve been the communications officer for Benalla CFA for the past 10 years.

“I’ve just been appointed for a further two years in that position.”

During his time volunteering with CFA Mr Harrison has also held the role of vice-president and subsequently president of the Victorian Rural Fire Brigade Association, District 23 council.

“I then oversaw the amalgamation with the Victorian Urban Fire Brigades Association and we became Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria,” he said.

Mr Harrison, who was named Benalla Citizen of the Year in 2019, said he had plenty of people to thank.

“I’d like to thank all the people I have been involved with in CFA,” he said.

“It really is like a family, and the highlight of volunteering is all the wonderful people you work with.

“And, of course, I’d like to thank my family who have supported me right through.

“They’ve put up with me going off on strike teams at short notice and being woken up by the pager going off in the middle of the night.”

Mr Harrison said COVID-19 had affected volunteer numbers within CFA, which he said was always looking for new members.

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