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CFA's capacity to respond to any emergency, fire or flood
With memories of the January and February floods still raw for many, I want to pay tribute to the communities who defended themselves, and especially those who suffered the impacts.
With family in the town of Quambatook, I spent almost a week there in January and witnessed first hand the strength of our volunteer capacity and the resilience of the community. Their vital role in community leadership was tested as the town faced the biggest flood ever seen.
That leadership is based on sound CFA training and the harnessing of local volunteer and community knowledge gained, in some cases, over generations. The invaluable expertise of river wardens was harnessed. The local community responded with all the resourcing needed. Locals, including many women and children, rolled up their sleeves and worked with all their might when their town needed them. Local businesses and contractors provided food, front-end loaders and hours and days of their labour free of charge. The earthen levees to protect the town were patrolled all day and night and an eye kept on the pumps.
Much of the work was done by CFA volunteers and that's no accident. Pat O'Brien and his team at Loddon Mallee Region have ensured that the volunteers have the capability and enough capacity to respond to any emergency, fire or flood.
That strong capacity was supplemented by other experienced CFA people brought in from outside the community. Neighbouring brigades were invaluable. Local government provided significant support through their key committed and practical people, while the strong arms of Victoria Police offered leadership, support and presence.
The town hub was the Quambatook Fire Station: a tin shed with a meeting room and small communications room. People were working out of the shed 24 hours a day in roles that may have intimidated them at first, but it was a highly supportive environment. That's what communities are all about.
Our volunteers had the capacity to organise, coordinate and make, or support, some hard but well-informed decisions, relying on local resources to enact those decisions.A community was tested and proven to be unified, resourceful and determined. The result was every house in town remaining high and dry. Community resilience is something we read a lot about, but it was truly alive there.
Over the past six months, CFA has shown again that we are a community-based fire and emergency service and we can turn our hand to any urgent threat to our communities. We will act in either a lead or a support capacity to protect lives and property; in both response and recovery.