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Heartfelt thanks from Kentbruck

Dartmoor Group Officer Neale Emerson can’t contain his gratitude for all the crews who turned out from far and wide to fight the long-duration Kentbruck fire.

“I think it’s blooming marvellous,” says the Drik Drik member and resident. “We’ve had the whole box and dice. We had a Sikorsky land beside us and we met the crew. We met people on strike teams from all over the place and they were all just wonderful. There was excellent work from Parks [Victoria] and DSE. The firefighters from HVP and Hancock pine plantations left their pine trees and helped do asset protection in Drik Drik when we were in trouble.

“We are so grateful for the input when things went pear shaped. I drive around and I’m so gobsmacked. It’s the biggest fire I’ve ever seen in this district but we are so lucky.

“There has been no home loss, no sheds lost, no stock loss. We’ve lost about five kilometres of private fencing and one of my brigade members had lost about 50 hectares of farmland.

“We’re mainly a beef cattle area and everyone helped each other shift stock or organise trucks to cart away cattle.

“It confirms your faith in human nature and we had some luck on our side too. We managed to hold a flank in two places that I thought we weren’t going to save.”

Neale spent Sunday 6 January doorknocking homes most at threat in his area to tell people to enact their bushfire plans. He was initially going to manage a strike team but became a sector commander then a divisional commander for two days. When his property came under direct threat, however, he was released to take the firefight home.

Once that was safe, he became the taskforce leader of a group comprised of local CFA trucks and private units. “We were a ragtag army of locals,” he says, “and even had someone come across the border in a private unit.

“Nelson brigade has a float pump and we took that out on a boat on the first day and today blacking out along the Glenelg River. There are some 100 foot high cliffs along the river so there’s some very inhospitable terrain. You can only cross the river at Dartmoor and Nelson so you have to be very organised with your resources.

“Today we’re staying in Drik Drik and monitoring the local area and we have a plan for the next three days. We have to be ready if another local incident comes in.

“I’ve been to Sydney. I’ve been to Kinglake and what I hear is that what goes around comes around. I guess that’s true.

“This is just a genuine heartfelt thanks to those people who gave their time.”

Last Updated: 26 February 2013