Program History

The CFA Youth Crew started in 1997 as a project of the Upper Murray Kiewa Cluster of schools, with 45 students selected from Years 9 at Mount Beauty, Tallangatta and Corryong. In 2000 this was expanded to 60 students, and this has been continued over recent years. Students are part of the program for two years and in that time they receive CFA Minimum Skills Training and first aid training.

Our Youth Crew program is unique in that it is run as 8-10 full days of activities spread over the year - 'learning by doing' is the underlying principle of the program, and the program has been very successful in encouraging students to continue with volunteer CFA duties.


The first students graduated at the end of 1998 and since then many more groups have graduated. The program has now changed to have annual entry of students, with the more experienced Year 10 students taking on a leadership role in training exercises and as captains and lieutenants of their groups.

The Youth Crew program draws on expertise from a wide range of agencies in addition to the CFA, running activities with the SES, Police, DSE, Parks Victoria, Snowy Hydro and the NSW Fire Brigades.

Staff and Volunteers

Any long-running school program must have a dedicated staff. In the formative years Bruce Vine and Anne Matthews worked hard to build up the Mount Beauty Youth Crew program to the success it is today. From 2014, Shaun Thorpe has done an outstanding job running the program.

In addition, and by no means the minor component, the voluntary work of many of the CFA personnel in the region has been essential to the safe and efficient running of the 'hands-on' and theoretical activities. Pictured on the right are Noel Russel and Livo and considerable volunteer help has also been received from Christine Jewel, Maureen Piera, Teresa Black, Liz Jones, Theresa Hall, Taila Briggs, Marty Taylor, Adam Edmonson and many other volunteers and CFA staff from the region.

Student Activities
Students are trained in a wide variety of CFA skills chosen from the CFA Minimum Skills program. This prepares Youth Crew graduates for entry into the CFA as active members if they so wish. The skills learnt include -

-Personal fire safety and hazard perception
-Using knapsack water-pumps
-Starting and running a tanker pump
-Draughting water from a tank, dam or river
-Selecting and running out hoses
-Selecting and using branches (nozzles)
-Rake hoeing and dry fire-fighting methods
-Radio technique
-Map reading and location referencing
-Basic search and rescue methods
-Theory of wildfire behaviour
-Gas, house and car fires
-Burning-off techniques
Students are taken to specialist CFA training grounds for some activities, where fully trained CFA personnel conduct the exercises. At such times the Cluster CFA Youth Crew combines with other Youth Crew types such as the SES to broaden the experiences learned and to more closely simulate the real-life management of an emergency situation.

Pictured on the right are Warren Crawford and Ashley Cooper evacuating a smoke affected 'victim' after their crewmates had successfully entered a smoke-filled house, effectively removed the smoke by water entrainment, located the 'victim' and removed 'it' to safety.


Students have recently been to a training exercise at the Wangaratta CFA pad. The photos above illustrate some of the activities that the Youth Crew encounter - some get a bit hot and most are rather wet! With the variety and interest associated with such activities, it is not surpising that our retention levels are very high.

Our Youth Crew students have used their training many times in the service of the wider community -

  • one student maintained a person who had suffered a heart attack until medical assistance arrived,
  • another student resuscitated a baby and maintained it's breathing until ambulance arrived.
  • Bushfires 2003, 2006 and 2009: Many graduates were involved in the fire fights conducted during the NE fires....
    • some operated radios at ICC's for long periods,
    • some manned quickfill units on their own whilst the fires raged around them,
    • some(who had joined their local Brigade) acted as crew on tankers for several shifts,
    • some simply assisted families and friends with property protection and advice.