Most superheroes are known to work the streets of large cities and fly across the universe battling intergalactic threats.
But for The Rock, a town of fewer than 1500 people, it has Petrina O’Connor: school-bus driver by day and firefighter when needed.
On occasions where she needs to switch quickly between the two roles, youngsters around town say she is like a superhero.
“When we do presentations at pre-schools, for example, I drop off the school bus then jump into the fire truck and change uniforms and the kids go ‘Petrina, you’re the bus driver and now you drive the big, red truck – like superwoman’,” Mrs O’Connor said.
“That’s really cute.”
Asked about her motivation to volunteer as a member of the RFS, she said it was the community service.
“It’s like a family here,” she said.
“You’re doing something meaningful for not only yourself but for others, too.
You’re doing something meaningful for not only yourself but for others, too.Petrina O'Connor, member of The Rock NSW RFS
“Also because we’re on land, so to be able to fight for our own property and to help other community members do so.”
Mrs O’Connor said her skills in driving a school bus meant her heavy-vehicle driving skills were transferable to driving an RFS vehicle.
"I’ve taken the trucks on an obstacle course for further training and now I’m qualified in driving these trucks through hills and obstacles,” she said.
“It’s a lot different being fully loaded with water, so you’ve just got to watch what you’re doing.”
As for challenges, she said it was “going back to training, going back into the classroom”.
Brigade captain Matt Paton praised Mrs O’Connor for her voluntary efforts.
“She’s obviously an asset to the brigade and the community and brigade’s not the only thing she does,” Mr Paton said.
“She’s always level headed and her skills are more than in driving a school bus.”
After two years in the RFS, Mrs O’Connor encouraged more girls and women to join.
“If you believe yourself, you can do whatever you set your mind to,” she said.
At 44 years old and about 160cm tall, she said anyone of any age and size can join to serve their community.
“It doesn’t matter when, you can start at any age,” Mrs O’Connor said.
“You’re also not forced to do things you don’t want to.
“You can come in and choose what you’d like to do – they’re [fellow members] are really easy going.”
Mrs O’Connor’s encouragement for more females to join the RFS comes two months before the inaugural Girls Fire and Emergency Services Camp.
The event, which is open to all girls aged 15 to 17 years, will be held at YMCA Camp Yarramundi (about 70km northwest of Sydney) on December 2–8 this year.
It aims to challenge young women to break down barriers and test themselves in ways they never thought possible.
The seven-day camp will see the participants learn firefighting and emergency services skills, increase their confidence and resilience, encourage problem solving, teamwork and leadership, and introduce them to the possibility of a career in the emergency services.
The girls will participate in a range of theoretical and practical lessons as well as extinguish simulated fires, undertake rescue operations, go abseiling, build a raft and go on an overnight hike.
The initiative is led by Girls on Fire, a not-for-profit organisation, in conjunction with the NSW RFS and other emergency services – including Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW SES, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council.
- More about the camp: Girls on Fire
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