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Little River video: 8 days, 3 fires
A fire that started late afternoon on Sunday 6 January in Ripley Road, Little River was quickly sectorised by the Lara Field Command Vehicle before Incident Controller and Operations Officer Ian Beswicke arrived on scene.
“The fire was in open country with a lot of tussocks and rocks,” says Ian, “so it was a tough slog for all crews on scene. There was a lot of manual work done off the trucks with hoselines. Everything had to be done on foot. The fire also got on both sides of the river so we had District 7 crews on the south side and support vehicle from District 14 on the north side.”
By then two strike teams were on scene along with the Erickson skycrane out of Essendon flying alongside its air attack supervisor in a helicopter.
“They gave us some really good support,” continues Ian. “They took the sting out of the head of the fire so our crews could move in. They got water from the treatment plant in between Barwon and Marngoneet prisons which wasn’t far away.”
Ian is enthusiastic about the collaborative relationship between incident control and the air attack supervisor; the eye in the sky. “They can tell you the edges that are still really hot,” he says, “and can see what’s in the path of the fire and is going to come under threat. He gave us precision information right before they headed home that evening and it was very useful.”
Little River Captain Terry Hedt brought along his private 10,000 litre water tanker, with trucks able to fill up from the fireground. He also owns a quickfill which can fill two trucks in approximately two minutes.
The fire reached 167 hectares.
Terry then spent seven hours of his birthday on 11 January with crews at a tip fire close to Avalon Airport.
“Carbon fibres in some aircraft components there contaminated our gear,” he says. “We had to bag it all up and 12 of us were provided with new PPE so we were ready for the TFB the next day.”
The largest of the three fires broke out on the afternoon of 14 January in mild conditions under a south easterly wind. There were 55 appliances on scene, 230 firefighters and three aircraft.
“The toughest thing about this fire was the rocks,” says Terry. “It wasn’t in grazing land and there were no buildings. This one was in serrated tussock which burns twice as hot as ordinary grass and puts up a lot of black smoke. It wasn’t fast running but it was very intense and all up it got to about 1400 hectares.
“It was very similar to another fire we had on January 11 in 1997.”
Clearly Terry has had a couple of eventful birthdays in recent years. He has been with CFA for 46 years and proud to serve as the Little River brigade captain since 1974.
Many thanks to Cameron Edwards from Melton Fire Brigade for video footage.