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Corryong Group Officer Brown talks risk

“It’s absolutely picturesque at the moment,” said Group Officer Colin Brown, “and we’re not expecting anything between now and Christmas but then, if the rain stays away, look out!

“We’re very self-sufficient up here and we need to be. We’re two hours uphill in a tanker all the way from Tallangatta, our neighbouring group.

“A bad day is high, swirly winds and lightning. We’re the last in line for Victorian weather which means resources are spent by the time it hits us.

“Traditionally fires come from New South Wales into Victoria on the north- westerlies and we’re in constant contact with the RFS [NSW Rural Fire Service] on bad days and train with them.

“In the 2003 campaign fires, we felt on our own for a while. It was six weeks of hell and a huge learning curve. Not much work was done outside of firefighting.

“Cross-border liaison is a work in progress that our Ops Manager Paul King has put a lot of work into. He and his opposite number in RFS and our border captains are working on a Memorandum of Understanding about near-border response, but the ground rules are already set out.

“Pre-determined dispatch [PDD] of aircraft has been a sensational development. There are two PDD fixed-wing bombers out of Benambra and the Super Scooper out of Albury is also Victorian funded, but if it’s not in use it can be sent anywhere into NSW to help out, as are all aircraft.

“Their rotary and fixed wing aircraft have helped us out on a number of occasions with fires close to the border.

“This is also the first year of a DELWP helicopter operating out of Ovens on PDD.”

There’s also a mixing plant for Foschek accessed via an elevated airstrip at Shelley, 50 kilometres south west of Corryong, where Corryong Group’s HVP plantation brigade is also stationed. This is managed by DELWP crews on very high fire danger days.

Nestled in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, the Corryong Group area is about 90 kilometres end to end, taking in the wild country around Tom Groggin that has seen long-running bushfires. Colin estimates the Corryong population at 1300 with about 3500 living within a 60 kilometre radius in the Upper Murray. The town has never been burnt out but it was surrounded by fires in the 50s and 60s.

Vehicle calculations add the five DELWP ultralights and tanker and the HVP trucks to the group’s eight four wheel drive tankers and three slip-ons.

“The DELWP summer crew is about 15-strong and we rely heavily on them,” continued Colin. “There is a Level 3 ICC is at their office and we go straight there if something starts on a really bad day.

“By the same token, we’ve supported them in tough times.

“The teamwork between the agencies is something to be admired and needs to echo around. The unwritten law up here is that we need each other’s support.

“We have to get along and we just do.”

Last Updated: 23 March 2017