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Meet our future firefighters: NSW students gear up for their RFS graduation

Students in full firefighter uniform using the high pressure hose during drills on the Macksville Highschool oval.
The RFS cadets program is a hands-on approach to teaching, inspiring students to become future firefighters.

Supplied: Aaron Parker, Macksville High School

Swapping a mortarboard for a fluorescent firefighter's helmet, all across New South Wales students are preparing to graduate from the Rural Fire Service cadets program.

Learning skills from radio call-ins to hand signals and handling the high-pressure hose, students from the NSW mid-north coast said the most important skill they took away from the cadets course was the importance of team work.

Ebony Stride, 15

Close up photograph of Macksville Highschool student Ebony Stride.
Ebony Stride says fire fighting is in her blood, and she is excited to join her local brigade.

ABC Mid North Coast: Gabrielle Lyons

Ebony said her family had been her major inspiration to join the RFS cadets.

"My dad is the captain of the Gumma Brigade, just outside of Macksville, my sister is also a part of the brigade, so I have really grown up with firefighting around me," she said.

Macksville High School sports organiser Aaron Parker said the cadets he managed had been outstanding and were excited to consider a future with the RFS.

"This experience has really brought the community together; it's nice to know that your neighbours and their kids can support you if you are in danger during fire season."

Ebony said she was committed to being a part of her local brigade no matter where she lived across the country.

"Firefighting can take you anywhere, my dad assisted in the Victorian fires a few years ago," she said.

"So no matter where I go for university, I will definitely be joining my local brigade, as long as I am helping the community."

Zeke Punton, 14

Macksville Highschool student sitting at a bench with sports oval in the background.
Zeke Punton regularly volunteers at the school canteen, he says he's passionate about giving back to the community.

ABC Mid North Coast: Gabrielle Lyons

Zeke Punton may be softly spoken, but Mr Parker said he showed true leadership throughout the course.

"He was outstanding; a number of weeks he was selected as a leader by the teams," he said.

Zeke said after day one of the course he was keen to get home and share his knowledge with his family.

"Living in Gumma, where fires are pretty common, it makes me more comfortable to know that I could help my community," he said.

"Other than taking home a pretty cool RFS hat, I took home some books and pamphlets to show my parents so they could be prepared too."

Cheyenne Mills, 16

Macksville Highschool student sitting on a bench near sports oval.
Cheyenne Mills says using the radios to call in a fire is nerve-wracking at first, but now she is confident as a volunteer at her local brigade.

ABC Mid North Coast: Gabrielle Lyons

In anticipation for the graduation ceremony, Cheyenne had already signed up as a volunteer at her local fire brigade in Gumma.

"I just have to do my online course and the practical component so once that's done I can go out on the truck and put out fires," she said.

Cheyenne said although a future in firefighting could be confronting, she was excited at the prospect of saving lives.

"Plenty of people aren't prepared for the reality of a bushfire until it's actually happening around them," she said.

"I don't know where I will go after high school, but no matter where I am I will join a local brigade."

Emma Biddich, 14

Image of Highschool student Emma sitting in school library.
Emma Biddich says 90 per cent of the cadets at Camden Haven High School were female.

ABC Mid North Coast: Gabrielle Lyons

When it came to being prepared, Emma said everything you needed to know was in your pocket.

"There are quite a few apps around these days like the Fires Near Me app, and it will send you alerts," she said.

Emma said joining the cadets had allowed her to break the stereotype of a 'fireman'.

"Who said that firefighters have to be men? I think girls are more than capable and these opportunities are definitely open to me."

Lachlan Fellows, 16

Close up photograph of Camden Haven Highschool Student sitting in school library.
Lachlan Fellows says his family have always had a bush fire survival plan in place at their home.

ABC Mid North Coast: Gabrielle Lyons

Lachlan decided to jump into volunteering immediately, and was completing his course to join the Wauchope brigade over the coming weeks.

"The gear isn't too heavy once you get used to it, but the boots can get pretty uncomfortable after a 12-hour shift," he said.

"I am also a scout, and I have always had an interest in serving the community and committing my time to being involved in community engagement."

Program organiser at Camden Haven High School Glen Northey said he has been impressed by how the local brigade had built bonds with his aspiring students.

"These kids have had the opportunity to learn skills that ordinarily aren't taught in schools, and now many of the students are mentors to younger wannabe firefighters," he said.

Firefighting cadets in full uniform running around with hoses during practical test.
Ever wondered how to put out a spot fire? These cadets have the situation under control.

Supplied: Raewyn Macky, Talyors Arm brigade