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05 August 2020
BY DYLAN DE JONG
An operations leader overseeing the Wimmera’s firefighting crews is reminding all residents ‘it is never too early’ to prepare for the region’s fire danger period.
Country Fire Authority District 17 operations manager Craig Brittain said higher than average spring rain forecasted for the Wimmera was likely to result in higher fuel loads during summer.
Mr Brittain said preparedness was key to saving lives and protecting assets throughout the Wimmera’s driest summer months.
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This comes at a time when all CFA career staff were recruited to a newly formed Fire Rescue Victoria, FRV, as part of reforms to Victoria’s fire rescue organisations starting July 1.
Mr Brittain said he was recruited to FRV but was seconded back into his position at Horsham’s CFA headquarters and would continue overseeing brigades across the region.
He has assured Wimmera residents he would continue to protect his community despite reforms.
“I’m still living in Horsham, looking after our brigades,” he said.
“We will continue to focus on what we need to focus on – which is supporting our members and supporting our brigades to make sure they still have the ability to protect our communities.”
A distant memory throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for most, the 2019-20 bushfire season is still likely front of mind for people who lost their loved ones, property, livestock and everything in between.
Authorities estimated fires burnt about 18.6-million hectares, destroyed more than 5900 buildings and killed at least 34 people.
World Wild Fund for Nature reported nearly three billion animals – mammals, reptiles, birds, and frogs – were killed or displaced.
Australian leaders were calling on all resources and personnel to help fight walls of flames.
Some Wimmera CFA firefighters committed themselves to the frontline in Victoria’s east.
Mr Brittain said while the Wimmera was less affected, the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires were a reminder that fire management needed to be a year-round process.
“Preparedness has got to be one of the biggest things,” he said.
“Last summer we saw lighting and multiple fires occur in the southern end of our district and it’s not something you can put a finger on.
“If we get those high wind days, low humidity and dry storms come through, that’s when we have issues.
“Most of our areas are of concern, especially when we have isolated communities, individuals or farming land where it’s their home, their income, their everything – it’s all a concern for us.”
Mr Brittain said the fire danger period in the region generally started in October, but he recommended residents started preparing earlier.
“As a rule of thumb, we used to look at AFL grand final day, the last Saturday of September, he said.
“If you haven’t prepared your property for summer by then, you’re at risk.”
Mr Brittain said it was important to manage fuel loads around the house and to have a fire safety plan.
“It’s about keeping the grass low, trimming back trees and bushes and moving excess fuel loads away from your house,” he said.
“You might want to have some firefighting equipment around such as pumps, hoses and personal protective equipment.
“Have a fire plan – it’s too late on a day of high risk to start preparing.”
Mr Brittain said CFA brigades and members were always preparing for the fire danger period.
“We always come into our summers with volunteers completing all their pre-season preparedness and making themselves available – which is a fantastic effort,” he said.
Mr Brittain said the COVID-19 pandemic was also preventing CFA brigades recruiting and training members.
But he said District 17 still had more than 1800 personnel available across the region, up on previous years.
“Because of coronavirus this year and restrictions on face-to-face training that means we haven’t been able to run any recruitment courses,” he said.
“But most of our bigger brigades have quite a number of personnel available to them.”
Mr Brittain said the CFA would still be there to protect the community.
“CFA is a 100 percent volunteer-based organisation – always was, always will be – these people are out there leaving their homes, families and workplaces to do what they do best, to protect life and property,” he said.
The entire August 5, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!