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Fire season - lessons learned to date
As anticipated, we experienced an early start to fire season across our District. Below average rainfall in most parts throughout winter and spring resulted in the early curing of grass, drying of forest fuels, along with below average levels in dams and water catchments.
Within all four of our municipalities we saw the introduction of the fire danger period, the occurrence of large running fires, and the regular deployment of strike teams approximately two to three weeks ahead of what we would traditionally expect.
The high level of activity in the early stages of the fire season has provided the opportunity to collect valuable information from Brigade and Group After Action Reviews (AAR’s). The following points contain a number of the key learning’s highlighted to date;
1. The rapid escalation of fireground resources requires the rapid escalation of command structure, and communications structure. Consistent with the Chief Officers intent for the summer season, incident controllers have proactively escalated ground and air resources to successfully control fires.
Incident controllers that have managed the rapid influx of resources effectively have ensured;
- The early sectorisation of fires,
- Sufficient resourcing of sectors, including the response of FCV’s and the appointment of sector commanders,
- The escalation of the communications plan to support the command structure,
- The transition of fireground communications from Vicfire to a Local Command Facility (LCF) on the appropriate Incident Management Channel (IMC).
2. LCF’s are an essential link in supporting fire ground operations for escalating incidents. LCF’s have proved vital in supporting Incident Controllers and fireground commanders by enabling them to focus on operational strategies and tactics, and the tasking of resources. Key support roles performed by LCF’s have included;
- Managing communications between the fireground and Vicfire,
- The tracking of resources,
- The timely activation and coordination of catering,
- The communication of fireground intelligence to key stakeholders such as, the District Rostered Duty Officer (RDO), local media, Municipalities, and Victoria Police.
- Supporting the transition of control to Incident Control Centres (ICC’s).
3. To ensure an effective and coordinated response it is essential that all incident personnel proactively seek information in regards to their role. Incidents that have been managed effectively have had clarity in relation to who is performing key roles, such as the incident controller, sector commanders, and strike team leaders. In addition to clarity in who is performing these roles, there has been clarity in relation to their responsibilities. In the early stages of a rapidly escalating incident gaining clarity on the control structure and incident strategies and tactics can be difficult. It is critical that all responding crews know their role, who they are reporting to, and what the operational priorities are.
4. Hydration and pre-hydration are essential in avoiding heat related illnesses. We continue to experience firefighters suffering from heat related illnesses. A review of incident reports relating to members treated for heat related illnesses whilst on the fireground identified that effected members actively hydrated once responded to an incident, but failed to do so sufficiently prior to responding. If you do not pre-hydrate before responding to an incident you will be at high risk of suffering a heat related illness. In addition to pre-hydration, adequate consumption of water must continue once on the fireground to prevent your core body temperature becoming dangerously high.
Endeavouring to ensure we continue to improve our response to emergencies I strongly encourage all brigades and groups to continue to conduct post incident AAR’s, and ensure any lessons learnt are captured and forwarded to the District through your catchment officer.