News & Media

Recent lightning fires: Thank you and job well done

By: Euan Ferguson

  10.29 AM 19 December, 2014

Views: 1930

The last three days has seen over 350 new fire starts. Significant fires have occurred in central Victoria, north central and the north east at Creighton’s Creek, Lake Rowan (Warby Ranges), Stewarton, Pastoria and Mia Mia.

The bulk of the fires have been caused by a spectacular and intense lightning storm that lingered overnight last Monday. Experienced Fire Services Communications Controller Jenny Clough reported that over 150 new fires started on Monday night – one of the busiest nights on record!

Sadly, five houses have been lost, with several thousand head of stock and kilometres of fencing. As I write, burning out continues at Creighton’s Creek and mopping up on all fires. Inevitably new fires will show up from “sleepers” over the next few days. Crews are working with roads authorities to clear fallen trees from roadsides.

After a tour of the area on Wednesday I want to share some positives:

  • Many, many fires were kept small due to rapid, concerted initial attack.
  • Detailed planning and a well thought out strategy contained the Wodonga West fire before conditions worsened.
  • Crews on the ground – CFA, DEPI, Parks Vic, Melbourne Water and MFB worked (in some cases literally) hand in hand – often with farm firefighters.
  • VicPol Traffic Management arrangements seemed to be much more responsive. I witnessed a very quick arrangement for a farmer to get access to his chicken farm beyond a TMP. Wrist bands were being issued on some fires to enable residents to get home to look after stock.
  • DEPI agriculture and VicPol worked closely to get access for vets and animal destruction teams. Teams were burying stock by 11am the morning after the fire. I met one farmer who said he’d buried over 1,000 stock by 5pm the day after the fire. The vast majority of farmers were extremely complimentary of firefighter’s efforts.
  • A District 23 Strike Team Leader showed me a video they took of his Strike Team mustering sheep onto burned ground as flames raged across paddocks – crews chose to focus on protecting the farm asset because fire intensity was so great.
  • VicRoads, local government, DEPI, arborists and contractors were working well to clear fallen and dangerous trees from roadsides.
  • MFB USAR crews were embedded into firegrounds to undertake rapid impact assessment.

I was extremely impressed by the enthusiastic and professional approach taken by all the CFA people I came across. Determination, focus and teamwork was evident in bags full. After some of the recent concerns, I was gratified to see so many of the CFA PTA staff doing what they do best: stores and logistics, situation, public information and warnings, record keeping and tracking expenditure.

It is early for such activity. The State Control Team has been very impressed at the fast and determined teamwork displayed over the last 3 days. There is early evidence that we are doing things differently from last year – we have learned some good lessons and are putting them to work. Thank you all! Well done on a fantastic few days of work. A truly outstanding effort that makes me feel humble. There are lots of pitfalls out there. At this early stage of the fire season, continue to be humble, stay safe and take care of each other.

Last Updated: 10 December 2015