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Ensay fire in very steep terrain
Gippsland crews were returning from the Kalimna West fire on Friday 5 January, late afternoon, and the district thought it was in wind-down mode.
Just after 6pm, however, some logs on a private property flared from a burnoff carried out in Spring when it was green and damp. It took off quickly and DSE summer crews stationed at Swifts Creek jumped onto it alongside the whole Omeo Group and a Friday night strike team from Bairnsdale.
Mack Stagg was in the Swifts Creek ICC on Friday night and all day Saturday. “Kalimna West had just finished so we were lucky to get some aircraft,” he says. “Some drops were made on the northern slope just before dark and then ground crews were sent out at night into very steep terrain. You’d have to say it was a bit of a guerrilla firefight that night. We threw everything on it: it’s the CFA method of ‘hit it hard, hit it fast’.
“The fire was in slip-on country and DSE slip-ons were joined the next day by a CFA slip-on strike team from Bairnsdale. We also had three dozers out there.
“The staging area was the hayshed near the entry of the property but really there was no staging; there was just arriving and getting straight onto the fireground.
“The fire was split into two areas over the top of the mountain and was sectioned into CFA and DSE. Pete Sandy from CFA was Divisional Commander and he worked with Mal Smith from DSE and they were both tremendous. So were the boys on the ground. There were about 40 of them and they did a fantastic job.”
District 11 Operations Manager Bryan Russell was also at the Swifts Creek ICC on Friday night and he seconds Mack’s opinion.
“The fire was running pretty hard early on,” says Bryan. “There was good local command and control and incident management worked well from a joint management perspective.
“DSE do an exceptional job for us up here and they ran this job for us. We’re short of management personnel up here but in this area it’s all about joint operations and interoperability. The bulk of this area is DSE country and the way the two agencies work together is something we’re all very proud of.”
The Ensay fire was contained at noon on Saturday and controlled by 6pm. It was 100+ hectares but was contained on farmland.
At 9am on Tuesday 8 January, control of the Ensay fire will pass back to CFA for blacking out and checking on hot spots.
The Kalimna West fire was managed by the Tambo Group as a Level 2 incident.