If you decide to take a trip out to Erskine Falls after all the rain we’ve had, don’t be surprised to see a CFA member in full gear, including breathing apparatus, coming up the 240 steps from the bottom of the Falls.
And if you stay there long enough, you will see him repeat the “down and up” four times! Or maybe you’ll encounter him striding up Francis Street, probably Lorne’s steepest street, in full kit.
Neil Hillard is Maintenance Manager at Mantra Resort. He came to Lorne five years ago and having previously been a volunteer with Narre Warren CFA, on his arrival in Lorne, he immediately joined the Lorne CFA.
On Saturday September 1 2018, Neil will be one of 650 firefighters who will “step up to fight depression, PTSD and suicide” by climbing the 28 floors of Crown Metropol Hotel wearing 25kgs of turnout gear and breathing apparatus. The event simulates the actions of a firefighter entering a burning high rise building, so is exclusively for firefighters in full structural firefighting protective clothing, and wearing Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).
This is one of several stair climbs which take place around the world to commemorate the personnel who climbed the stairs of the World Trade Center after 9/11 to rescue people trapped in the building. The participants in the Melbourne Stair Climb all receive a T Shirt bearing the names of all Victorian firefighters who have lost their lives in line of duty and the firefighters who lost their lives in 9/11.
They aim to raise $700,000 for Lifeline and the Black Dog Institute to improve support services, fund research, remove stigmas and raise awareness of Mental health issues like depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicide, especially for those within the Emergency Service and Defence communities.
This will be the 5th Annual Melbourne Firefighter Stair Climb that will see career and volunteer firefighters come from all over Australasia and the world to compete. Since the inaugural year in 2014, the event has raised almost $1,300,000 for the Alfred Hospital Burns Unit, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Lifeline and the Black Dog Institute.
Neil is representing the Lorne CFA and is one of about 10 volunteer firefighters from the Surf Coast region who will be participating. He entered the event for the first time last year and is back in 2018 to do it again! This is despite experiencing the “what the hell am I doing here?” moment at the sixth floor that previous participants had warned him about.
So if you see Neil, in full CFA kit, climbing around the hills of Lorne or on the steps down to Erskine Falls, remember that in addition to a full-time role at Mantra, he is a volunteer firefighter committing more of his time to train for and participate in an event which raises money for a very worthy cause. Say “hi” and acknowledge the great job he is doing. If you would like to back Neil in this project, you could make a donation here – firefighterclimb.org.au/donations/donate. And don’t forget to specify that your donation is to support Neil Hillard, a great example of a member of our community making a difference.
Committee for Lorne