Larissa’s proud volunteering legacy

By Adrienne Hartnett

Rutherglen firefighter Larissa Cooper is one of almost 55,000 CFA volunteers across the country being celebrated as part of National Volunteer Week. 

The annual event acknowledges the generous contribution of the nation’s volunteers for the countless hours of volunteer work they undertake for their communities. 

Firefighter Miss Cooper grew up in Rutherglen and has been a member Rutherglen Fire Brigade since 2017. Prior to joining the CFA, she was a volunteer with St John Ambulance in Corowa. 

A third-generation firefighter, Miss Cooper is proud of her family legacy. Her great-uncle, Tony Cooper is a life member of the Rutherglen Fire Brigade and the CFA. 

Over the 2019/2020 catastrophic bushfire season Miss Cooper at just 22 years of age, was deployed to Kempsey in November and Batemans Bay in December. She also assisted with the fires in the Upper Murray. 

“My deployments were life changing experiences. I experienced fire behaviour, especially in Kempsey with the coastal winds, like I have never experienced before,” she said. 

“There is one day I will never forget. It was the scariest day of my life. We lost contact, part of our strike team was cut off and we had to drive through fire to get out. We lost our first house. There was just nothing we could do. We did manage to save a property with half a tank of water.”

For Miss Cooper, the most rewarding part of volunteering with the CFA is making a difference within the community and the bond she shares with her brigade. 

“We are one big family. We all get along so well and we all support each other. Even with COVID-19, we have all been keeping in contact with each other and having our weekly meetings over Zoom. 

“At the end of the day, it is all about giving back to the community,” she said.

This year’s theme for National Volunteer week is “Changing Communities. Changing Lives”  

In what has been a tough year for Australians, it is more important than ever to recognise and acknowledge volunteers in essential services who remain on the frontline.