Saved becomes saviour
WADING through waist deep mud while electric fences dangled in flood waters, John Ruddiman and his family knew they had to give back to those who saved them.
When floodwaters inundated SES group leader and Weranga Rural Fire Brigade firefighter John Ruddiman’s property in Hannaford in 2010, he said the life changing experience led him to volunteering.
“We couldn’t get out for two weeks so I decided to make a run to the shops for bread and milk because we had nothing but I didn’t realise how bad it was, and I sunk the car,” Mr Ruddiman said.
“My oldest boy who was 14-15 and myself then walked 38kms to the local shops… the missus was wondering why we left at seven in the morning and didn’t get home until eight at night.”
Running out of food and having to drink water from puddles of rain on the ground, Mr Ruddiman said it was time to call in the SES for help.
“They had mud up to the belly, dragging me, the kids, and the missus through, with bloody electric fences hanging in the water zapping us and the kids on the way through,” he said.
“The relief when we saw the orange fellas meant the world, and since then my missus said ‘right we have to pay them back’ - so she joined the SES and I joined the fireys.”
Wearing two hats, Mr Ruddiman said he’s been volunteering with the SES for almost seven years and the Weranga Rural Brigade for eight.
“The feeing we got being saved and to be able to give it to someone else, it’s very rewarding and powerful,” he said.
The ex-military volunteer said earlier this year he went south to help fight the horrific fire season, and being able to help save families homes was a powerful moment.
“We were put on a structure protection and the fire came up around the house so quick… and we saved the house,” he said.
“To know that the owners were going to come home and go ‘holy sh*t it’s an absolute moon scape here except for the house’ - it’s a good feeling,” he said.
“You go home at night time and go ‘right-o collectively our strike team saved seven or eight houses’ - it’s a big thing.”
Fighting pain daily due to a spinal injury caused in his army years and on medication to stay standing, Mr Ruddiman said regardless of one’s age and ability, anyone can volunteer.
“Most people care about their neighbours, friends, and family – that’s all were doing – were just watching their back and looking after the community.”
“I just wish the fitter side of the community put their hands up – there’s only so much we can do, we need more people.”
“If you’re interested in getting involved with your local fire station call 0436383128, or 0418311641.”