News & Media

Bus tour with TEWT angle

  • Rakehoe crew from the Mt Alexander fire
  • Rakehoe crew from Mt Alexander fire
  • Mt Alexander terrain
  • Mt Alexander fuel load
  • Mt Alexander lightning strike
  • Rakehoe edge
  • Rakehoe edge

By: Leith Hillard

Category: Events / Fundraising / Offers

  12.00 PM 21 December, 2012


Location: District 2 News

Views: 2469

In early December, District 2 Operations Manager Mark Gilmore led the annual pre-season bus tour for 35 local crew leaders from the nine brigade groups. Mark has been running the tours for 20 years going back to his days at DSE.

Each year the tour visits the sites of several previous fires. Members from on-scene crews provide a briefing: what happened, what decisions were made and why, and what could have been done differently. And each year Mark is full of praise and appreciation for the openness and honesty of members who present and the engaged questions of those listening in.

"We got total honesty, warts and all, out of three people," said Mark.

“We look at the season ahead but it’s also a time to talk about tactics,” says Harcourt Captain Tyrone Rice who presented on the Mt Alexander fire from February this year. “We started off at Castlemaine Fire Station with what you could call theory and then headed out to the bush.”

The first fire under discussion was started by lightning at 4.35pm in hilly terrain in the Harcourt brigade area. It was both tricky and exhausting to tackle with Tyrone describing it as a “walk in with rakehoes. There were six of us in the CFA rakehoe crew and we came in from the bottom while DSE approached it from the top in their slip-ons.

“Two of the main issues in the initial attack were hydration and fitness. We got a rakehoe trail around it while the other crews did a hose relay and boost from the dam down the hill.”

Bendigo Fire Brigade’s Acting Officer in Charge Chris Eagle was also on the bus tour and aware of the difficulty involved in the Mt Alexander fire attack. “They were pumping about 70 metres uphill using 64 millimetre hose and, hydraulically, it shouldn’t have worked, but it did!”

Harcourt First Lieutenant Andrew Wilson called in the February fire and was also on the bus tour ready and willing to discuss the brigade’s response. Both Andrew and Tyrone talked about how they applied what they learned in the crew leaders’ course to the fire, with the latter describing their response as “by the book”.

“One member on the bus had never seen irrigation channels before – it’s just not something they have in their area,” continues Tyrone. “It was good familiarisation in that regard.”

The bus tour then moved on to Baringhup to look at the late November fire’s point of origin and the main road. The blaze was a flare up of a burn off that the farmer had doused in about 6000 litres of water in the days before…but it still didn’t go out. That was understandable when the members saw it started in the mulch under a peppercorn tree - always a high risk area.

Baringhup West Captain Brendan McKnight briefed the bus group on the response. “It burnt really quickly in the initial stages,” says Chris Eagle. “Brendan was on scene early and he straightaway saw that the road needed to be blocked to give the trucks freedom of movement. He knew the crop was insured and got crews to focus on the head of the fire.”

“That was something I learned,” says Tyrone. “If the farmer hasn’t cut the crop it still holds moisture. Brendan didn’t concentrate on the crop because he knew it wouldn’t burn so easily but you don’t necessarily think of that coming from a different area.

“That’s how the tour works: it’s an open forum and everyone’s there to learn. We identify trees, assess the fuel and talk about how cured it is. You get networking. We’ve got people on board from the Macedon Ranges with its hilly dense bush; our area where the bush isn’t as dense and it’s rocky, then over to the broadacre cropping areas. We have a lot to learn from each other.”

Last Updated: 21 December 2012