Imagine the worst day at work you’ve ever had… Now think of an emergency services worker and consider theirs. These people spend their lives trying to save ours and manage to love their work in the process. Meet a few of Bendigo’s everyday heroes.

Writer: Amy Doak – Photographer: David Field

The Firefighter
You might think that for Ash Baker, growing up in a small country town and having a dad who volunteered for the CFA, being a firefighter was in the blood.
You’d be mistaken though. “I didn’t have any aspirations to become a firefighter at all when I was a kid,” admits Ash, who now works as a Leading Firefighter. “I spent plenty of time hanging around with dad at the fire station, but it wasn’t something that I thought about when deciding on a career.”
In fact, Ash took a completely different road to begin with. A career in finance and life in Melbourne was to follow school and after 10 years of office life, he decided it was time for a change. “I’m a country boy at heart,” says Ash. “Office work wasn’t really for me either. I love what I do now – the longer I am in the job and the more I learn, the more I enjoy it.”
Becoming a firefighter is a notoriously difficult career path and while Ash jokes that perhaps he just got lucky, it seems more likely that those making the decisions saw qualities in him that he didn’t even see in himself at that time.
“There are a lot of numbers and a lot of steps,” he explains. “I think that making the process challenging is worth it though. It means you are getting the right people in the industry. I enjoy the diversity of the job but more than anything I really enjoy working with a close team to help others.
“There are certainly challenging aspects to the job. Personally, night shift kills me. But in all seriousness, there are definitely times – like car accidents – that obviously aren’t good. In any tough situation you tend to just revert back to your training and try to be as quick thinking and professional as you possibly can. It’s always a worry in a place like Bendigo, where everyone knows everyone, that you might come across someone you know. Thankfully, I haven’t had that.”
Knowing people can also be a happy coincidence though. Ash tells the story of saving a house last year – only to discover that the owner was from Horsham (where Ash grew up) and she used to babysit him as a child. The region seems to offer him the perfect mix of diversity and small town connections.
“Bendigo offers a good variety of work. We work out of a major station here and we look after a broad range of areas so there is plenty to keep you busy. In the past few years we’ve dealt with Black Friday, the 2010 floods and other disasters as well as the day to day incidents.”
“I really enjoy seeing the young members develop and move up through the ranks and I would absolutely encourage anyone wanting to become a firefighter to give it a go. It can be stressful at times but for the right person, it’s a great job. You need to be able to make quick, safe decisions and more than anything you need to be a team player. On a shift, you will eat, sleep and work with your team so it’s important that you get along well with people.”
For now, Ash is loving his work as a firefighter in Bendigo and by the sounds of it he is doing lots more than getting cats out of trees… “Although I have had to do that before,” he laughs…