News & Media

French fire chiefs tour Vic fires

  • Discussing the run of the fire
  • Chomley sector
  • Talking to Tim Wells about fire behaviour analysis
  • Meeting Chief Officer Euan Ferguson
  • French wildfire gear in Seaton
  • John Haynes and visiting French firefighters meeting the Euroa strike Team at the Boho fire.

By: Leith Hillard

Category: People

  4.05 PM 1 February, 2013

Location: General

Views: 3579

Two French fire chiefs from Bouches-Du Rhone in the south of the country are touring Victoria for two weeks.  Their main aims are to observe the operation of IMTs and learn more about fuel reduction burn programs and community alerts and warnings.

This follows on from the visit of members of the Bushfire CRC, DCO John Haynes and others to France last year.

Story and photos from Noel McWilliams, Regional IMT Capability Coordinator

Eric Samson and Fabrice Mosse kicked off their trip with a firey highlight – on Monday night they went for a ride in the Bronto at Traralgon Fire Station.

Tuesday morning we met at the Regional Control Centre in Traralgon and attended the morning teleconference. We received a briefing on how the Aberfeldy fire had developed over the previous 10 days and what the current situation was. We did a brief tour of the Traralgon ICC (upstairs from the RCC) and both men were impressed that we had an ICC available just in case we had a fire or other emergency.

We travelled to Heyfield and saw both the area impacted by the Coopers Creek fire and the impact on Cowwarr and Seaton.

In Heyfield we first visited the base camp which was being packed up to be stored. We arrived at the Heyfield ICC for lunch where we chatted with the crews over roast beef and roast pork (no lamb). We toured the facility and were briefed by the IC Dennis Mathews and Operations Officer Chris Stephenson. There was some discussion about the initial response and why aircraft didn’t stop the run of the fire.

Eric explained that they have an initial response of a number of water bombing aircraft and 10 strike teams (1 command vehicle and 4 tankers) and he was having trouble understanding why our response had not been similar. The French approach to incident management is to engage in aggressive, rapid attack within the first 30 minutes, with the aim of confining 95 per cent of their wildfires to an area of less than one hectare. This requires a considerable amount of pre-incident planning such as pre-deployed strike teams, aircraft in the air and increased staffing during peak season.

We listened to the afternoon weather briefing then drove through Glenmaggie and up the Licola Rd to 20 Acre Creek. We stopped at Blanket Hill which gave us a good view back in to Glenmaggie and Heyfield as well as a view to the north into the Chomley sector of the fire and the Black Range Area.

We returned to the Seaton area where the main fire came out of the forest and looked at the impact on housing in the interface area. Despite the losses to housing in the area, there appears to have been a lot of good work done around the properties close to the forest.

We travelled south to Cowwarr and Toongabbie before heading up to Erica and the west side of the fire with both men reluctant to leave the fireline. In Erica we visited the ICC and the Div Comm at Erica Fire Station.

Fabrice was very interested in the technology we have available and said that our meeting/training room was far bigger than most at their manned stations.

Dinner was at the Erica pub with local delicacies – the chicken parma for Fabrice and Aussie medley on the hot rock for Eric. We then retired home for a chat and a bottle of red.

In the morning was a photo session with the king parrots on the verandah followed by a visit to a local koala refuge so Fabrice wouldn’t keep stopping to photograph the wildlife road signs! The refuge is not normally open to visitors but the owners kindly allowed us to hold some of the locals and a 10 minute stopover became a 40 minute break.

Eric, Fabrice and interpreter and CFA member Gary McQuade then toured the west side of the fire with the DSE sector commander who showed them the impact on the local environment.

DCO John Haynes took Eric and Fabrice to the Harrietville-Feathertop fire on Thursday.  They then enjoyed a barbecue at Tawonga hosted by the brigade before an overnight stay in Bright. 

This morning they headed up to Hotham Village to view the impact of the overnight fire.

Last Updated: 01 February 2013