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2013 Harrietville Fire
Report to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services
I welcomed the public release yesterday of the report into the first 72 hours of the Harrietville fire. The fire started on 21 January 2013 and had a significant social and economic impact on communities in north-east Victoria. The report was commissioned by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services to examine the organisation and management of resources during the initial response to the Harrietville fire.
Key issues in the report include the:
• sufficiency and adequacy of the first and extended attack
• relationship between the local CFA and DEPI
• relationship between local DEPI and the Harrietville community
• need for more rigorous record keeping, in particular logging of key decisions and strategies.
Of note I would like to reinforce:
• Firefighting is a difficult, dangerous task and our decision makers do a tough job very well. We are pleased the report confirmed the fire was managed appropriately.
• We always welcome views from the community and this report will form an important part of our continuous improvement culture. It's not about blame or finding fault, it's about learning and improving.
• I have already met with Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) Chief Fire Officer Alan Goodwin to discuss the report and how our agencies will address the issues raised. Work is continuing to improve relationships between the agencies locally, and between the agencies and the community.
• The Fire Services Commissioner has also met with community leaders from Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain and Harrietville to discuss the report and how the fire agencies will progress action in specific areas.
• Yesterday afternoon in Bright, alongside Chief Fire Officer Goodwin, I met with CFA and DEPI members to walk through the report. Constructive feedback was provided by those in attendance.
You will be aware that the fire agencies are well into a process of debriefing from the 2012-13 fire season and the outcomes from this report need to be seen in the context of the overall lessons learned from the 2012-13 debrief process.
You will also be aware that since the advent of the Fire Services Commissioner we have identified key issues of focus in the lead-up to each fire season. In conjunction with the Fire Services Commissioner and the other agency chiefs, there will be a number of actions undertaken to ensure that the lessons from the Harrietville fire are incorporated into changed arrangements for the 2013-14 fire season.
In conclusion, and I know I speak on behalf of the other Chiefs and the Fire Services Commissioner, I want to reinforce the great work that all of our firefighters did over a very busy 2012-13 fire season.
The Harrietville Report is available from www.oesc.vic.gov.au.
"The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them."
- Ralph Nichols