News & Media

Chief Officer's Intent for the 2014/15 Summer Season

By: Euan Ferguson

Category: Operational Information

  1.52 PM 31 October, 2014

Views: 3542


This document is intended to assist CFA leaders in briefing staff and volunteers on our intent, key messages and priorities for the summer season.  This should be read in with the intent established by the Emergency Management Commissioner and the State Control Team.

The intent is to minimise the impacts of emergencies and enable affected communities to focus on their recovery as early as practicable.


3 month rainfall (July to September 2014) is generally below average across the State, with the exception of East Gippsland. 

For this period, rainfall has been very much below average in much of the south west, Wimmera, Mallee, and significant parts of the central and north.

There is a longer term (2 years) dryness in areas from Melbourne to the Mallee and Wimmera and the northern slopes of the Great Divide.

In the Mallee and Wimmera, there is advanced drying of forest fuels and grassland fuels have cured to greater than 80% rapidly.

In parts of the Mallee and Wimmera, crops are sparse and have failed.  Ground water and surface dams are well below normal or dry.

In other parts of Victoria good autumn rain and frequent winter showers has resulted in “good” grass and crop growth.  Surface dams are average to full.

The outlook is for warmer and slightly drier conditions for the next 3 months. 

What does this mean?

In many locations the fire season may be 2 to 4 weeks earlier than in recent years. 

Dam water may be scarce in parts of north west Victoria.

In areas affected by 3 month dry conditions we may see more active fires in the forest due to drier than normal fuels. 

We will see early fires in cropping and grassland areas in the west and north west of the state. 

Where pastures are good to abundant, we may see more intense grassfires.  The underlying dryness may cause rapid drying of grasslands.



As in previous years, the key risks to firefighters (and the primary controls) include:

  • Burn-over:  (LACES, the 18 “Watchout” Situations);
  • Falling trees:  (Assessing and marking “Clear and Present Danger” trees);
  • Vehicle accidents:  (Driving defensively and to the conditions);
  • Fatigue:  (Ensuring proper rest breaks are taken);
  • Dehydration:  (Ensuring people are adequately fed, watered and are fit for the task they perform).
  • Everyone comes home safe.
  • Community engagement focuses on risk.
  • Hit fires hard and fast, allowing for safety first.
  • Priority is given to issuing public information and warnings.
  • We put fires out in order to protect lives and property.
  • We work as one team.
  • We work with communities and individuals to protect what is important to them.  After the impact of an emergency, we may need to reassess tasks so that we continue to do good things and to create hope in people who have been impacted.
  • Enable affected communities to recover.  Our common purpose is to minimise the impacts of emergencies and enable affected communities to focus on their recovery as early as practicable.  Where individual citizens, families and communities are relocated, evacuated or affected by traffic management points, we will work with other emergency management agencies to return them home and reunite them as soon as it is safe and practical to do so after the passage of the fire. 


Key Messages For CFA members:

The following key messages should be highlighted in local briefings, exercises and workshops.  These should be read in conjunction with the intent statements by the Emergency Management Commissioner; by other agency Chiefs; within the “Victorian Bushfire Handbook Edition 4”; and in conjunction with the State Strategic Control Priorities:

Our workplace has inherent risks which may change quickly and without warning.  The risk we take balances the reward of success against the consequences of failure.  We use “LACES” and the Dynamic Risk Assessment process to guide our actions, controls and decision making.

Our community engagement activities will focus on those most at risk and target advice to “at risk” properties within 150 metres of the bush.  Specific hazard reduction messages and programs will be delivered to people living on the perimeter of residential growth areas that abut significant grassland or pasture fuels.  This includes those properties defined as high, very high and extreme in the Victorian Fire Risk Register. 

Response to fires and other emergencies will be fast, determined and thorough and will take precedence over normal agency activities.  Initial attack will be integrated with other agencies.  Rapid detection, response, sustained weight of attack and attention to mop up and patrol are keys to keeping small fires small.

Controllers at incident, regional and state level must be mindful of plotting the progression of fires, identifying communities in the path of fire(s) and issuing information and warnings to communities at risk.  Information must be meaningful, timely, tailored and relevant.

Fire agencies have well-developed capabilities to enable safe and effective fire suppression.  The community expect us to suppress fires to the best of our ability.  Our focus on putting out uncontrolled fires will be determined and thorough.  We will use resources where they can be most efficient and effective in suppressing fires.  Strategies will take account of the State Control Priorities and our intent. 

We work with Emergency Management Victoria, other fire agencies (especially DEPI and MFB), SES, Police, Ambulance, Department of Health and Human Services, Government departments, Local Government, recovery bodies, interstate and Commonwealth agencies.  Our approach will be joined up, inclusive, and integrated.  We adopt a “tenure blind” approach to fires.  We create opportunities to develop our relationships with other agencies all year round.  We strive for interoperability and collaboration.  We will work as one team through the line of control.

Other Points: 

  • Exercise foresight.  It is only through anticipating the changing risk environment and envisioning the future situation, that we are able to develop and resource sound incident action plans.
  • Think and act with humility.  Humility is about respecting the other person’s view and respecting others for who they are.  Humility is not underestimating the capability of others.  It is embracing and promoting a spirit of service.  Humility is seeking out and listening to different views and new ideas, even weird ideas.  Humility involves being passionately curious and having a mindfulness to learn from the lessons of the past.

Command and Management Of Strike Teams: 

Strike Teams are an effective method to organise individual resources.  Volunteers and other CFA members invest significant time and effort to partake in Strike Teams.  They must be managed safely, effectively and efficiently.  In the last 5 years there have been instances where there has been insufficient work, slow deployment and an inability to deploy. 

Strike Teams are often deployed into an environment that is rapidly changing. Strike Teams are planned to be a complete force with embedded leadership, safety in numbers, weight of attack and communication capability.  Volunteers sacrifice a lot of time, effort and skill to take part in Strike Teams. 

We must learn to maximise the efficiency of Strike teams and to make sure that they are effective at putting the fire out. 

In order that we gain maximum benefit from Strike Teams, consideration must be given to:

  • Identify the task before the Strike Team is requested;
  • Firefighting vehicles on Strike Teams should be self-sufficient for food and water for the first 8 hours;
  • Moving incoming Strike Teams through Staging Areas quickly and efficiently (no waiting);
  • Ensuring Strike Team Leader is paired with a local;
  • Sector and Division Commanders must be able to task, manage and re-deploy;
  • Work Strike Teams hard.  Where there is no apparent work, empower Strike Team Leaders to seek out work or to ask to be re-deployed to more active parts of the fire;
  • At the end of the shift, feed, water, clean and rest Strike Teams well.

We need to reinforce a bias towards action.  We need to encourage local leadership and decision making (within the line of control and chain of command).  It is unacceptable, for example, to hold strike teams until sufficient information is accrued by incident controllers prior to deployment. We need to empower Crew Leaders, Strike Team Leaders, Sector Commanders and Division Commanders to actively and purposefully carry out our mission to protect life and property. 

Euan Ferguson

Chief Officer

31 October 2014


Last Updated: 10 December 2015