By Emma Xerri
With El Niño already declared and the nation collectively preparing for another challenging Summer, the CFA are hard at work ensuring they are prepared to help Australians face the bushfire season ahead.
Last weekend, a group of more than 160 South East CFA volunteers gathered at Crib Point Refinery for an exercise training day.
Deputy Chief Officer South East Trevor Owen said the brigade groups meet for these trainings annually, running through a vegetation fire simulation that ensures skill maintenance and preparedness.
“We’re getting ready for the fast-moving intense grassfires that will come as a result of the abundance of grass we are now seeing across the state,” DCO Owen said.
“Landowners really need to get prepared, and that means having a bushfire plan.
“If you live in an area that is bushfire-prone, preparation is key, but also keeping an eye on fire danger danger ratings and making the decision to leave and leave early on those more extreme and catastrophic fire weather days.
Training days like the one held last weekend allow for the CFA to be equipped with the skills to assist families and landowners in these trying times.
“We’re working with safety at the forefront but also enlisting our strike teams to work through fuel management, identifying what type of fuel was involved and how much fuel is nearby,” DCO Owen said.
“An important aspect of the day was practising the teamwork between aircraft and ground crews. Following direction from the air attack observers, we had water bombing assistance from a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter to assist teams below.
“Others worked on our staging techniques and the deployment of our resources, making sure our operational plans on the ground were fit and safe and they’re going to do what we need them to do when we need it.
“The crews also ran through entrapment drills and hazardous tree assessments, which are also both really important safety functions.”
DCO Owen said days like this are not only beneficial for skill-building but they help to bring firefighters together, allowing for collaboration, camaraderie and learning experiences that foster confidence and trust.
“CFA is a people-based organisation, our volunteers give so much, and they do it so willingly. They’re revisiting techniques to ensure everybody comes home safe to their families,” he said.
“To see them come together, operate together, and build those relationships, gives me great confidence as we head into the bushfire season that our people are prepared and more importantly that our people are safe.
“They’re putting their life on the line in many cases over the summer and going into dangerous situations but knowing that they’re safe and they’ve done everything they need to do practically means we’re prepared as an organisation and ready for the warmer conditions.”