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Staging Area Manager Wally Prior
“I don’t have problems – only solutions.” Now, that’s what you want to hear from a staging area manager at the end of a 12 hour shift.
Wally Prior’s upbeat attitude has been a huge benefit to anyone passing through the Harrietville fire staging areas. He spent the last half of his army career in logistics and as Quartermaster Adviser to all units and right up to Brigadier and General level, so organising large contingents of stores, troops and trucks is second nature to him.
“I have the happy fortune to be able to work with people,” said Wally from the DSE-run staging area at Bright.
“We have the transportable staging area office here and that’s decked out with radios and photocopiers. We have cool rooms and medical personnel have a tent. I make sure all the stores and rations for firefighters and contractors are available. The DMO [District Mechanical Officer] and contractors all work through the staging area.
“We receive vehicles in, send them out and make sure the firefighters have all they need in the way of fuel and food. They put on weight I think! There’s a substantial breakfast and lunch with the evening meal at the Bright Chalet.
“We’ve had people ask for many different types of stores and requests are forwarded through the DSE depot at Ovens.”
The Harrietville fire staging area was originally in that township before moving to Bright Fire Station. Most of the traffic has been made up of slip-ons and ultra-lights with heavier trucks not suitable for the terrain.
Wally retired to Eskdale and is the brigade’s training officer. He was on a fire truck until the 2009 fires. “If you can’t give 110 per cent on the fireline, you shouldn’t be on the fireline,” he said, so he jumped at the chance to do the staging area managers course followed by staging area positions at Tangambalanga and Alexandra.
He’s on a long-term mission to transform the way District 24 activates its staging areas with the wholehearted support of Operations Manager Paul King.
“It’s about pre-planning,” Wally explained. “I’ve identified 22 locations that are suitable for staging areas. I’ve mapped them and am still in talks with some shires, encouraging them to put in some funding for things like improved access and wider gates.
“We want to set the 22 locations in concrete: have maps and photos available; have all the local contacts and resources which we’ll update every 12 months. It’s good to turn up and know who you’re talking to.”
Wally has found a satisfying way to support the frontline fire fighters but there’s a downside: “I haven’t played golf for weeks and I’m getting withdrawal.”