On call 24/7 for community

Rohan Rizzoli at CFA Werribee Fire Station. Photo Sian Donazzon
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Giving up your time to help the local community seems all too easy, but a firefighter from Werribee’s CFA talks of the realities of being a full-time volunteer. Sian Donazzon reports.

Volunteer work is challenging and fulfilling for both individuals and the community, but it can also take its toll on your personal life, says Werribee CFA rescue operator.

Rohan Rizzoli, a 26-year-old Werribee man works as a sports administrator at MacKillop College Werribee by day and volunteers as a firefighter by night.

Although he has a permanent day job, Rizzoli says that his volunteer work takes priority, as he has “always wanted to get involved in the community”.

“We’re 24/7 here [at the fire station]. You miss Christmas lunches, you miss birthdays. You sacrifice your time and [your] sleep. Sometimes you can have three, four or even five jobs in a night and have to get up for work the next day.”


At one of the busiest volunteer brigades in Victoria with an “average of three call-outs a day”, it is discernible as to why Rizzoli has found his four years at the CFA “very challenging but rewarding”.

CFA Werribee fire station. Photo Sian Donazzon.

The rescue operator devotes all of his time to the community around him, helping those in need free-of-charge every day.

Werribee local, Karina Jon says “the CFA are always so enthusiastic about helping the needy in the community. Rescue operators have one of the toughest jobs around and do it with a smile on their face.”

Rizzoli explains what inspires him to continue devoting his time to the community:

“[There’s] a good culture [at the Werribee CFA]. It involves really good people [who are] just here for the greater good. There’s no [monetary] reward but there’s a lot of sacrifice and you get a real emotional reward out of it,” he says.

“It’s pretty inspiring to be around these sorts of people. It keeps you coming back and helps you to stay motivated to keep going and keep giving.”

Rizzoli says that being a volunteer “changes your whole life. It’s hard to juggle it all when work’s busy and life’s busy because there’s always people who need a helping hand, but you make time.”

This is not his first volunteering gig. He has also worked with charities to help disengaged youth, such as Helping Hoops and Reclink, and has been involved in fundraising events for different charities.

Rizzoli encourages people in the community to join the CFA if they are passionate about helping others but says that “firefighting is not for everyone”.

“There’s things that hit you pretty hard… you go from volunteering trying to save someone’s life… back to normality a couple hours later.”

There are good and bad things that come out of firefighting, but you do it for the good, says Rizzoli.