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Hot act at music festival
Neerim South and Noojee fire brigades responded to a report of a “grass fire spreading” in McKenzie Rd, Neerim East at 1:47pm on Sunday 9th March.
Further information was that the fire was 1.6km from the Forest Edge Christian Youth Camp and that there were people at the camp for the Forest Edge Music Festival.
En-route, significant smoke was showing, so the call was made by Neerim South Lieutenant Ian MacKay of “Make tankers 5”. On arrival the brigades were confronted with a going fire in a paddock, heading uphill fast, and in the direction of Forest Edge.
The call was upgraded to “Make tankers 10, aerial support required”, and soon after, “Make tankers 15”.
A major concern was the music festival at Forest Edge, which saw some 800 people in close proximity to the fire and with their only escape route (McKenzie Rd) blocked by fire. The fire got within 750m of the camp. Forest Edge enacted their fire plan ensuring their patrons were safe.
Due to the limited access to the fire in the paddocks, the brigades worked from the roadside to stop the spread of the fire.
Two fixed-wing water bombers (Bombers 358 and 361) worked on the inaccessible fire edge, guided by a reconnaissance aircraft (Birddog 374). Later on, a Helitak joined in as well.
Crews were able to pull the fire up before it reached Forest Edge and the main fire front was controlled soon after. However, a spot fire had ignited in the blue gum plantation to the north of the main fire, and this was a concern due to inaccessibility and potential fire weather over the next few days. DEPI assisted with the spotfire with 4 slipons and a dozer joining the firefight.
Festival attendees had to remain at Forest Edge for around 4 hours waiting for the road to be reopened, allowing safe egress from the campsite along the only access road.
Most tankers remained onscene until about 10:30pm with Neerim South Tanker 2 remaining overnight on patrol.
Brigades that attended were: Bunyip, Darnum-Ellinbank, Drouin West, Hallora, Little Yarra, Longwarry, Neerim South, Nilma North, Noojee, Trafalgar, Tynong, Upper Beaconsfield, Warragul, Westbury, Willow Grove and Yarragon. Also in attendance were DEPI and Victoria Police.
Story By Daniel Eshuis
Images by Troy Longson - CFA Photographer