U.S pilot adds to roster of female firefighters protecting Melbourne's water supply

Melbourne Water’s growing team of female firefighters has been bolstered by the addition of an experienced female water bombing pilot for this summer’s operations.

Jennifer Bartley from Ruidoso, New Mexico is an experienced pilot with a strong record of fighting major wildfires from the skies in the US. She has temporarily relocated to Australia to experience the challenge of aerial firefighting in another country.

Jennifer is based at the Melbourne Water Healesville depot with the Forest Air helicopter, which provides vital emergency fire management protection.

In addition to Jennifer, Melbourne Water has seven fulltime female firefighting employees and eight casual female project fire fighters. They are part of a broader team responsible for protecting Melbourne’s water supply catchments from the dangers of bushfire.

Melbourne Water Executive General Manager, Service Delivery, Charmaine Quick, said the addition of the outstanding American pilot was providing benefits for the rest of the team.

“Having Jennifer working with our team is a wonderful demonstration of the diverse roles available for women at Melbourne Water and we know our firefighers will do a stellar job protecting our catchments this summer with her support from the air,” she said.

Ms Quick said the organisation had noticed an increase in applications from women for firefighting positions.

“It’s extremely encouraging that we are seeing an increase in the number of female applicants for both fulltime and seasonal firefighting roles.”

Melbourne Water has been actively seeking diverse candidates across all positions, including women.

“We are committed to a diverse and representative workforce where there are no barriers for women in any areas, including firefighting, which might previously have been viewed as a male-only field.”

“We have changed the way we conduct recruitment campaigns for these roles by using more social media channels such as Facebook, which is helping us attract more female applicants.”

“But we have some way to go. Our female firefighters currently make up around 30% of our total firefighting team and it would be great to see this closer to parity.”

Melbourne Water firefighters are involved in fire preparation and suppression duties to protect Melbourne’s water supply catchments from the risk of bushfire. These fires can have major and long lasting impacts on both the quality and quantity of water which can be harvested from impacted the catchments, so an immediate and effective response to fires is critical.

“A seasonal fire fighter works to reduce the risk of fire, contains fire outbreaks and manages environmental effects by being part of a team that is able to respond to fires in the catchments quickly and efficiently.”

“It’s a vitally important job which carries a responsibility to all Melbournians to safeguard their precious supply of water; our firefighters take great pride in their work.”

All prospective Melbourne Water firefighting team members are required to pass a range of medical and fitness tests and must live within 20 minutes of one of the three firefighting depots at Healesville, Warburton or Thomson.

Melbourne Water firefighting operations are conducted as part of Forest Fire Management Victoria. FFMV includes staff from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Parks Victoria, VicForests and Melbourne Water. The organisation’s aim is to reduce the risk and impact of bushfires on Victoria's parks, forests and other public land.

For more information about becoming a Melbourne Water firefighter contact [email protected] or visit https://www.melbournewater.com.au/about-us/jobs-and-careers/seasonal-firefighters   

Advertising campaigns are also conducted each September via SEEK, local papers and social media.

For more information about Forest Fire Management Victoria visit https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au