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CFA/DEPI tour Far East Gippsland
On Wednesday 2 October, a group of volunteers from Orbost, Marlo, Newmerella, Bemm River, Cann Valley and Mallacoota brigades, together with CFA staff members from D11 HQ and staff from DEPI in Orbost and Cann River met on the side of a road just off the Princes Highway near Club Terrace.
Their objective was to familiarise themselves with the area north of the highway between Club Terrace and the NSW border and east to Mallacoota, looking at water points, access and egress, fuel reduction burning both past, present and future and to talk to other volunteers and CFA and DEPI staff.
The idea was floated by Bemm Captain and Orbost Group Officer, Russell Pardew who said it was a way for volunteers to appreciate the lay of the land and see just what is in "them thar hills".
“We have some general knowledge of what is up there but to actually drive the roads, see where the water points are and what the bush really looks like gives you a real appreciation of what we’re up against if it catches fire,” Russell said.
Russell then spoke with DEPI Planned Burning and Operations Coordinator James Pardew who found a suitable route to cover all objectives required.
The 10 4WDs met near Club Terrace at 8.30am and after introductions and a short briefing they set off on what was to be an extremely satisfying day’s outing.
James led the convoy north through farmland in the Combienbar Valley. At the top end of the valley they headed up Hensleigh Creek Road towards the Errinundra National Park. The vegetation changed dramatically over 1000m in elevation – with spectacular views.. At the top of the climb the group turned north east onto Coast Range Road. They traversed ridgelines and gullies, bordered on both sides by massive trees until they popped out of the bush on the Victorian/NSW border.
From here the convoy weaved in and out of pine plantations until, heading south on the Buldah Gap Road, they entered the southern end of the Buldah Valley. This was a good spot for lunch and a time for listening to what people had so far experienced.
Most were in awe of the countryside, of the prospects of containing a fire should it occur and of how we can better prepare for such an event. Everyone agreed that these types of tours were an excellent way of actually seeing what is out there. It was also a great opportunity to see the work DEPI staff are doing regarding fuel reduction burning and what a collaborative approach can achieve, especially in places like the Combienbar and Buldah valleys.
The private properties that line these valleys have no delineation between their land and crown land. There are usually no fences and in some respects the private bush is in poor condition and has not been treated with fire in living memory. Some of these areas have not seen fire since 1983.
CFA Vegetation Management Officer Chris Lewis said: “This is where we can help. We can talk to the land owners and develop a plan that will allow the treatment of their land, usually in conjunction with an adjacent DEPI burn. It better utilises all our resources and affords our communities much better protection. It’s a win-win solution.”
Following a wonderful lunch and much discussion, the group set sail again, heading down the Buldah Road to the Monaro Hwy turning north back into NSW. Turning east on the Imlay Rd they travelled a short distance before turning south on Poole Rd, Waalimma Rd and eventually onto Wangarabell Road following the Genoa River until finally emerging from the forest on the Princes Highway a few kilometres north of the Genoa township.
Several of the group peeled off from here and headed home to Mallacoota, with the remainder heading west to Cann River for a cup of tea and a quick de-brief.
Overall the tour was very well received and was deemed very worthwhile. Comments included – “this type of event should happen more often, we should be doing more things together and when’s the next one?”
The next one is in the pipeline; however timing will be a key issue with the fire season fast approaching. From a fire prevention point of view you don’t get opportunities like this too often. To be able to drive through so much varied vegetation and topography in one day with people who have the fire history in their heads as well as those who are planning our future fuel reduction burns is priceless.
Thank you to all attended and gave up their valuable time. All have agreed that it was definitely worthwhile.