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08 January 2020
By LOTTE REITER
Wimmera fire management authorities remain confident in their ability to manage potential regional fire threats despite deploying significant resources to help combat emergency conditions in the state’s east.
Country Fire Authority District 17 and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning crews have joined fire-relief efforts in East Gippsland and Tallangatta.
The teams, many of which are now expected for regular rotation including a 20-person taskforce at Tallangatta, are providing crucial on-ground and incident management support to help control the emergency situations.
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Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning senior forest fire management officer Dom Uljanic said emergency management teams were receiving an influx of external support requests.
He said any supply of the region’s resources would rest on fire staff and volunteers’ capacity to appropriately respond if any Wimmera incidents were to occur.
“Our first priority is always resources,” he said.
“We have one taskforce purely from the Wimmera fire district in Tallangatta, and we feel we can comfortably keep that one taskforce rotating to the east of the state without compromising our response back home.
“Any extra personnel we send is done so on a case-by-case basis and based on the fire risk locally.
“We recently had a bit of a lull with the weather, but it’s set to warm up again at the end of the week, so we’ll need to ensure we have the resources here to deal with that. It becomes a bit of a juggling act trying to help our cousins in the rest of the state but also ensure we don’t sell ourselves short.”
Country Fire Authority, CFA, District 17 commander and regional duty officer Alfred Mason said a CFA strike team of 19 volunteers left for Tallangatta at noon on Monday, set to return home tomorrow, in addition to people located in Bairnsdale in management teams.
Mr Mason said this was the third or fourth CFA team to leave and assist another fire district.
He said the region was ‘more than covered’ to respond to and manage its own fire emergencies as well as help others across the state.
“We have 1653 firefighters in district 17 who have completed minimum training, which includes tree-hazard training and entrapment training,” he said.
“And they are part of our 3998 brigade members in total, which includes members who support the brigade on the ground in roles such as communication and management.”
“So, when we say we’re sending away less than 20 people and we’ve got 1600 available, we’re more than covered. We only send away what we’re asked,” Mr Mason said.
Mr Uljanic and Mr Mason said all fires in the Wimmera district, including a recent fire at Cherrypool, were currently under control.
However, Mr Uljanic said fire-relief efforts in the east would likely continue until March or April, and Wimmera residents should remain alert and understand that fire season for their own region was still at its peak.
“We continue to ask Wimmera residents to not be complacent,” he said.
“We’re still in the middle of the fire season, and although the attention of the national media is in the east, as demonstrated by the fires across the district in the Christmas and New Year period, we still need to remain vigilant and on alert for fires in our own area.”
Alike to the region’s emergency staff and volunteers, Wimmera people have also been pooling their resources to support individuals and communities affected by both the East Gippsland and New South Wales bushfires.
Among these were Horsham exports and basketballers Mitch Creek and Shaun Bruce, who used recent matches as a platform to raise money for bushfire relief funds.
Creek helped raise $5500, split equally between Country Fire Authority and The Salvation Army Australia.
Bruce and his team-mates raised $2850 for Red Cross Bush Fire Relief, Australia.
Horsham women Nicole Miller and Cecelia McDonald are sewing items for injured wildlife.
They are seeking help from people who can either sew or donate material.
"We are seeking any old flannelette sheets or pillow cases or blankets. Just need to be clean and in good condition and preferably 100% natural," Mrs McDonald said.
Drop off point is at: Bank of Melbourne Horsham Branch, 73 Firebrace St Horsham.
The entire January 8, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!