Rachel Cowling comes from a long line of firefighters – five generations to be precise. In 2005 Rachel became the first female firefighter in her family.
Like her father Tony, Rachel grew up around fire stations. She and her brother spent a lot of time on site visiting Tony and his crew at Carlton Fire Station (Station No. 3). Rachel remembers as a child:
My brother and I used to go to the fire station … we used to get to play some basketball or table tennis or cook up a really good roast. They had some guys there that were great cooks. I remember they were always smiling and having fun, and getting along, or stirring each other up, and I think that's sort of what I felt like was the footy club sort of environment that I'd grown up around, so yeah, I just loved going there and following the guys around and spending the night with Dad if we got a chance, and he would let us come in.
When considering what she might do once she finished school, Rachel remembers asking her father if girls could join the fire brigade. His answer was to introduce her to Anita Carlin, a firefighter at his station and the 13th female firefighter to join MFB. After speaking to Anita and observing her work with her crew at the station, Rachel ‘saw that they had a really good relationship with each other and it was a good job that served the community well’. Ultimately, says Rachel, ‘I just fell in love with what [Dad] did’.
Despite her strong family connection to MFB, Rachel faced the same application process as all aspiring MFB recruits.
She trained and studied hard before her physical and aptitude tests. The day the results were released her whole family was waiting on tenterhooks. Would this new chapter of their family history commence? When the call came through with the news that Rachel would indeed become an MFB recruit, everyone was over the moon. Her grandmother, the matriarch of this firefighting family, came to celebrate with them all. ‘I can’t even imagine how she would have felt having a granddaughter in’, Rachel reflects.
For Rachel, the fifth in a long line of firefighters and the first woman, it was a ‘pretty proud moment for the family’.