2020-01-21

“Putting good things back into the world”

Hayden Hofland, a technician at Linde Material Handling in Sydney, has been fighting the bushfires in New South Wales with his team of volunteer firefighters.

Unprecedented bushfires brought on by record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have fuelled a series of bushfires across Australia. They have cost the lives of many people and animals and devastated around 10 million hectares of land. In New South Wales, Australia’s worst hit state, fire has immediately affected more than 5 million hectares, destroying more than 2,000 homes and has forced thousands to seek shelter elsewhere. Amidst the disaster are first responders, charitable and community organizations and volunteers all rallying to provide support to bushfire victims and injured wildlife across the country.

In his DNA

Among the volunteers is Hayden Hofland, a Linde workshop technician, who has been a full volunteer with the Hazelbrook – a community about an hour's drive west of Sydney – Rural Fire Brigade for over 17 years and who has demonstrated great bravery and compassion throughout these difficult times for so many Australians. Here's how Hofland describes his job: “knowing that you are trying to help people you don’t know and putting good things back into the world.” This is what he believes is the most important aspect in his role as a volunteer firefighter.

As the second of three generations now involved in firefighting, having, as he states, been born into his volunteer firefighter role, Hayden recalls his father having been a firefighter for the past 48 years with his first memory of his father from the 1994 fires, when he came through the front door covered in ash and Hayden thought, “this is what I want to do”. The third generation of the Hofland family now involved in firefighting is his nephew, who is a cadet at Llandilo, a suburb in western Sydney.

Backburning conducted by Hazelbrook RFS

A job with ups and downs

As expected, there are many moments that both firefighters and volunteers experience that are positive and negative, however as Hayden explains that while they do a lot of work, they forget a large portion of it due to running on adrenaline.

He has shared many moments with the locals as a volunteer and the most memorable ones have been those spent with children, including during the most recent fires. “A young girl, maybe 6, answered the door with her father and looked petrified, hiding behind her father’s leg.” Hofland and his team had only stopped by to speak with them in the fires near Blackheath and in seeing the young girl so frightened, he invited her to have a look at the truck. She spent the next hour playing around with the truck, which seemed to have lifted her spirits.

It’s memories like this that make the very long hours he endures so much more rewarding, helping make people feel normal in a time when they may have been panicked or worried. Hayden’s longest shift without a break that he can recall is a startling 18.5 hours while fighting a fire at Wentworth Falls in 2015.

The family that fights fires together…

As a volunteer firefighter having been on trucks since he was 16, Hayden has spent a long time fighting fires. When asked about how this has impacted his family, Hayden simply responds “it doesn’t, really.” He explains that it is a little like a family reunion when they all see each other at the station and they have some time to catch up with one another. It’s his family’s way of life and they are all lucky to be in the same situation, and thus they are all understanding. Hayden also met his wife, Ellie, through the RFS (Rural Fire Service) and sometimes he misses seeing her when they get a call out to a fire.

And when the horrible fires are over? Hayden says he would like to see people visiting the small towns and putting money back into their businesses that have been affected. “Don’t stay away from the fire affected areas, go spend some money and support these communities who need rebuilding.”

Hofland and his colleagues are doing an incredible service for the local communities. Yet he remains very humble on his reasons for doing the job and stated that, “It’s a job that needs to be done, you just do it.” An extraordinary mindset given all the risks, but one which enriches both his daily life and that of his employer, Linde MH.

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