In 2001, Tammy watched television footage of firefighters battling the devastating bushfires known as Black Christmas, which tore through parts of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
“I just thought, I’d love to be able to do that; I’d love to be out there helping, and that’s what I did,” she says.
In 2002, Tammy became a CFA volunteer in Waubra, near Ballarat, where she lives with her husband, Andrew, and their three children, Tylor, 21, Hailey, 16, and Cody, 13.
Since signing up 18 years ago, Tammy has been on two deployments, one of which was for the fires in East Gippsland earlier this year.
When talking about her experiences with the recent East Gippsland fires, Tammy, who is now a first lieutenant, says she felt a range of “different emotions”. She says it was “heartbreaking” to see people who had lost their homes, the very place Tammy works so hard to keep her Australian Unity customers.
During her three-day deployment, Tammy’s job was to put out small fires that were still burning – this is known as blacking out hot spots. She did this with a team of 25 to 30 people; some were complete strangers but became more like family during their time together.
“Everyone looks out for each other, because at the end of the day, we all just want to return home to our families safely.”
Tammy would like to return to the places she went to on her deployment “for a visit and some adventures”.
“Being able to help somebody in a time of need, you don’t expect anything in return but to know that you’ve helped them on their worst day is an amazing feeling,” she says.