After what I thought was a fairly mild Summer, with only a few hot spells (20+/-C to 40C and back to 20+/-C in successive days), the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) once again declared it the hottest on record, as they always do. Despite the BOM’s usual prestidigitation, the bushfires only started in Gippsland with a vengeance come Autumn. For many days we lived in the smoke palls from numerous fires burning in our north and east, but fared much better than many who lost their homes in the Bunyip fires that raged north-west of our township. Any thoughts of going camping before the weather started to change were rapidly quashed as more areas to our north and east began to burn and eventually the High Country was ostensibly closed off to all visitors. Even locations in the south at Wilson’s Promontory were evacuated due to fires.
When we moved to our rural abode, one of the first things I enquired about from the local CFA was bushfire emergency planning, prevention and action recommendations applicable to our township. Being a bush traveller for decades, I’m well aware of the risks and safety precautions necessary even in Winter time when camping in the High Country and, while much the same applies in a township, I wanted to make sure whether there were any specifics I needed to be aware of so that I had all bases covered. Additionally, at the beginning of each Summer the CFA issues a number warnings and preparatory information for residents as a reminder that they need to be ever vigilant in the hotter months of the year, as well as having evacuation plans in place should the need ever arise. Having experienced and fought High Country bushfires and all too many times travelled through what remains of the bushfires, I was very cognisant of the potential dangers.
…and everywhere else for that matter. Just as the 2017 Easter school holidays began, DELWP decided it was a good time to start preventative burns in Gippsland, amongst other areas. Proper preventative burns have been long overdue, so I hope that this isn’t just a bit of tokenism, but the beginning of a serious attempt to address years of neglected bushfire prevention measures. What’s ironic is that these fires have now created a massive smoke haze across southern Victoria, stretching from Melbourne to at least Wilsons Promontory. Smoke health alerts were issued amongst other warnings and my wife mentioned this to me the other day, but I hadn’t noticed anything locally. It wasn’t until I took our hounds for a run at Mossvale Park early the next morning that it struck me as to how extensive the smoke was across the entire area, as far as you could see.
The Country Fire Authority (CFA) was established in the 1850s, with the first brigades formed in Geelong, Castlemaine and Sandhurst (now Bendigo). Today it consists of over 59,000 volunteers, and others, in 20 districts and eight regions across Victoria. Pretty much every community in Victoria has a CFA fire brigade that provides a host of fire, rescue and other services to their community. For a city dweller, the CFA is often thought of (if thought about at all) as just an arm of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), it’s not; however, it is an essential part of rural communities and also supports the MFB. Most importantly, the people that live in those rural communities are the local fire brigade.