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February 2009 Bushfires Anniversary
This week marks the fourth anniversary of the February 2009 bushfires that took the lives of 173 people and which destroyed or damaged many thousands of buildings and other property. Our thoughts are with those who suffered the loss of loved ones, friends or neighbours; or who suffered injury or property losses from the events on and around Black Saturday. I still marvel at the great work so many CFA members were able to deliver that day.
It is a difficult time for many of our members, and it comes during a busy fire season with some long-duration fires still burning near towns. Houses have been destroyed and one life has been lost in this current fire season; but many lives and a great deal of property has also been saved
It's a grim reminder of the heartache that occurred four years ago. Many Victorians are still feeling the effects of the 2009 fires every day and some of them are dedicated CFA members still working for their communities.
We remember that some of our members suffered the loss of loved ones. Others experienced loss of property, livestock and fencing while some experienced loss of confidence, control, strength and optimism for some time. Sadly, we also record in this fire season the loss of two respected fire fighters in the line of duty; no greater sacrifice could they make for the safety of others.
An anniversary inevitably prompts reflection. Can I encourage all members to take advantage of the free welfare services offered by CFA. These services are open to everyone in your family regardless of whether they are CFA members or not. You can access services together or by yourself.
Everyone in CFA has played a vital role in moving us forward from 2009 to where we are today. Communities and families have rebuilt and so have CFA and our fellow fire services.
The summer fire campaign and extensive community education has encouraged Victorians to be better prepared for bushfire and reinforced key messages around leaving early, Neighbourhood Safer Places, fire danger rating and total fire bans. There are currently 270 community information guides on CFA's website targeting approximately 580 locations.
More people are partnering with the fire services in confronting risk and $3.2 million has been invested so far in community bushfire projects to strengthen community resilience to bushfire This is another step forward and aligns with Victoria's first State Bushfire Plan which shares responsibility for bushfire management between government, agencies, communities and individuals: a collaborative effort between CFA, MFB, DSE and the Fire Services Commissioner.
The White Paper on Emergency Management Reform, informed by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, lays out a ‘roadmap' for change in the emergency management sector over the next 10 years, with a view to embedding an ‘all-hazards all-agencies' approach.
The Fire Services Commissioner will now evaluate the Bushfire Safety Policy Framework each year, taking into account the lessons learned from the fire season along with other bushfire safety developments. Education and local community fire planning are just some of the priorities.
These high-level changes are complemented at the local level by - as just one example - hard working brigades throwing open the doors of fire stations around the state on CFA Sunday to encourage local conversations about ‘our' risk.
More brigades are being handed the keys to new or retrofitted firefighting vehicles and fire stations while the regional radio dispatch program is almost agreed and has tens of millions of dollars allocated to put it in place.
But new programs, technology and equipment are not the gold that is CFA. The best of CFA is our members: career and volunteers from all walks of life, all ages, making a difference in their communities.
You made a real difference four years ago. Your work continues to be respected and admired by the wider Victorian public who are concerned for your health and wellbeing through this fire season and beyond.
We've come a long way and will continue to find improvements in the way we do business. Thank you for your service; and look after yourselves and each other.
Read more about CFA Welfare Services here. (Note you will be prompted to log in first).