A ‘HIT them hard and hit them fast’ approach the Country Fire Authority adopted this fire season has been effective, according to chief officer Euan Ferguson.
Mr Ferguson, in Warrnambool for the State Urban Firefighting Championships, told The Standard the focus had been very successful, but warned the fire season was far from over.
With the mercury expected to hit 38 degrees, and a total fire ban declared across the south-west today, he urged the community to remain vigilant, and for brigades to remain on high alert.
“My message to the community is even though we are not in the middle of summer, it is still very dry and they need to remain vigilant,” he said.
“It’s been a long fire season, and there will no doubt be some fatigue in the brigades, but I ask them to ensure they remain alert, and ready to act.”
He said the Western District still posed a significant risk of grassfire. “The western part of the state hasn’t received the rainfall other areas have, so it’s still very dry,” he said.
Mr Ferguson said significant dryness around the state had forced the CFA to adopt the ‘hit them hard and hit them fast’ mantra.
“What has been different about this fire season is there has been significant grass growth, which we haven’t seen for a number of years due to the drought,” he said.
“We had a severe drying-out period from October last year which is continuing now. Brigades have been on heightened alert, and we have had 41 aircraft stationed around the state to support efforts. While the focus has been on getting on top of fires quickly, safety has remained the number one priority.”
Mr Ferguson said locally, large fires at Kentbruck, near Portland, and the complex of fires in the Grampians National Park had kept local strike teams and volunteers busy.
“Those fires involved some very aggressive fire fights, and good co-operation between local councils, the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria ensured we got on top of them,” he said.
“The Victoria Valley fire in the Grampians gave us some of the fiercest fire fights we have seen, but good forward planning meant that property and stock losses were kept at a minimum, and we were ready when the fire came down out of the mountains.”
Mr Ferguson also paid tribute to the organisation’s volunteers.
“We understand that when we need them we are taking them away from their families and their work,” he said.
“It can be a big disruption, and we cannot thank them, their families and their employers enough.”