CFA leader receives highest honour

CFA Deputy Chief Officer Ross Sullivan (supplied).

CFA Deputy Chief Officer (DCO) Ross Sullivan has been recognised in today’s Australia Day

Honours, receiving an Australian Fire Service Medal for his more than 45 years of dedicated service to CFA and his community.

Throughout his career Ross Sullivan AFSM has exemplified the values of CFA and is well- regarded by volunteers and staff alike as an assured, knowledgeable, supportive, empathetic and humble leader.

He has held the role of DCO North East Region since 2018, overseeing 271 brigades and more than 14,000 volunteers within an area stretching from the eastern Melbourne suburb of Scoresby to the northern border of the state.

Ross began his career at Bolinda and Monegeetta brigade in the junior running team before officially joining as a volunteer in 1978 at the age of 16.

By his early 20s he knew that firefighting was the career for him.

“Being a volunteer at a small rural fire brigade was about looking after friends and farms around the district,” Ross said.

“It meant a lot to be part of a service that made such a valued contribution to community.

“After I finished high school, the lure of working with machinery and equipment and the skills I learned operating vehicles led me to seek a career in the fire services.

“I never thought I would have been able to be a career firefighter with CFA and jumped at the opportunity when the course opened up.”

Over the years Ross worked his way through the CFA ranks from a frontline firefighter to his current role as DCO of North East Region.

“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take on acting and more senior roles throughout my time at CFA, including when I was on station, and I felt I had something to contribute as a leader,” Ross said.

“To be in a position to support, provide assuredness and opportunities to people on the ground- whether volunteers or staff- and help them to be successful in their own right is a great privilege.”

Ross has been on the frontline and led through many emergencies and large-scale fires and floods including the 2009 fires, the 2014 Hazelwood Mine fire, the 2019-20 fires and the October 2022 floods.

During the 2009 fires, Ross was deployed to Churchill where he was part of the team that led and managed the response in the chaotic first hours of the fire when impacts on life, communities and first responders were not known.

After the fires, he supported volunteers and staff in the ongoing response to the fires and subsequent recovery.

At the Hazelwood Mine fire, Ross was deployed as incident controller where his knowledge of

the power industry and coal mine firefighting tactics supported the development and

implementation of strategic plans to suppress the fire and minimise community impact.

With many members impacted by the 2022 floods, Ross set a clear intent about safety, wellbeing and the priority of effort being directed to the emergency, ensuring members in unaffected parts of the region were able to support those in affected communities.

His emergency management experience and leadership also extend to post-incident recovery

and rehabilitation.

During the 2019-20 fires Ross established a process for the rehabilitation and repair of areas damaged by firefighting activity. This received widespread positive community feedback and it is now used as the CFA standard.

Ross also provided in-field and on-ground support to the relief and recovery effort after the 2019-20 Upper Murray fires and the 2022 floods.

Ross has also implemented programs and innovation that support members on the frontline. He

led the establishment of the CFA Alpine Strategy to address a very high community and agency

fire and capability risk.

He has also supported the design and development of CFA’s structural and urban firefighting fleet, ensuring firefighters have the right tools and equipment to protect the growing urban cities and towns in country Victoria.

“January 27 will be 38 years since I began my journey as a CFA firefighter. To receive an AFSM today is surreal and an absolute honour,” Ross said.

“You don’t come into these roles to be recognised. I feel very fortunate to have been at CFA for

so long, to have had the career I’ve had and to have done what I’ve been able to do.”