Three generations of the Hockley family reminisce on collective 70 years with Denmark fire brigade

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Three generations of volunteer firefighters Merv, Mitchell and Darin Hockley.
Camera IconThree generations of volunteer firefighters Merv, Mitchell and Darin Hockley. Credit: Laurie Benson

Three generations of one Denmark family have looked back on their 70 years of collective service with the Denmark Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service for National Volunteer Week.

Merv Hockley was the first member of his family to join the local firefighting unit almost 40 years ago.

His service paved the way for his son Darin and grandson Mitchell to continue his volunteering legacy.

Denmark VFRS recently celebrated its 60th anniversary and several life members still contribute to the brigade today.

Merv said he often reminisces on “the old days” with other members.

“I would talk with Ollie Wakka who is a founding member, he’s been here for 60 years, we used to talk about the old days when we tore green branches off trees to put out fires,” he said.

“Today, we have all this modern equipment that’s so vital and so much easier than getting the old hessian bag wet or tree branch.

“It’s good to look back at where we came from compared to what we’ve got today.”

Three generations of volunteer firefighters Darin, Merv and Mitchell Hockley.
Camera IconThree generations of volunteer firefighters Darin, Merv and Mitchell Hockley. Credit: Laurie Benson

Now a support member of the brigade, Merv shares his knowledge and experience with new members.

He said he was proud of his son and grandson for signing up.

“I’m pretty proud to have my son and grandson follow in my footsteps, with that alone it’s made it a really great time and I hope we all continue on,” he said.

“In the early days I helped with training but now I’m a support member and because of the age factor I don’t go out to fires like the (February bushfire).

“As a support worker I give my knowledge and experience to anyone new joining the brigade, so it’s always good to have some support members around.”

Darin has clocked in nearly 29 years of volunteering since joining the brigade aged 18.

“The reason for joining was not that much different to Mitchell’s reason, I went to a lot of Christmas parties and functions and came down to the brigade a lot growing up,” he said.

“It was something that I decided I wanted to be a part of early on— so I joined.

“Over the years I’ve been apparatus officer a couple of times which involved looking after the appliances and I’m the current lieutenant.”

Darin was one of more than 150 firefighters who responded to the February bushfire that threatened the townsite and scorched 2150ha of land.

The blaze destroyed four homes, although 53 other properties were saved.

Darin said his crew were mainly involved in asset protection.

“It was probably the biggest fire I’ve been to just because of the size of it,” he said.

“The next biggest fire that comes to mind was when the environment centre burnt down.”

Three generations of volunteer firefighters Mitchell, Darin and Merv Hockley.
Camera IconThree generations of volunteer firefighters Mitchell, Darin and Merv Hockley. Credit: Laurie Benson

Mitchell, the youngest of the Hockley family volunteers, joined the brigade in January.

The 17-year-old is also a navy cadet.

He said the highlight of his first few months was his first call-out to a backyard fire.

“I went to my first call-out a couple of weeks ago when someone was burning a mattress in their backyard,” he said.

“So we had to ask them to put it out and they did, it was a pretty straight-forward call but it was still a highlight — it was pretty cool.”

Mitchell said he chose to join Denmark VFRS after because of the example set by his father and grandfather.

“They would bring me down to the brigade during school holidays, for different meetings or for Anzac Day,” he said.

“So far it’s been pretty close to what I expected and there have been lots of challenges.”

Merv said he would encourage other young people in the community to volunteer.

“I’m just glad to have my family follow suit and I would encourage all young people to get in and have a go,” he said.

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