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Summer wrap up
By the final day of summer, the Victoria Valley Complex fire had been burning for 13 days with only a light sprinkling of rain over the fireground.
South-west Victoria is one of the driest parts of the state and many areas have had no significant rain since last September. That's led to some unusual fire activity and behaviour that has really tested us through large and long-duration fires such as Kentbruck and this one in the southern Grampians.
In addition to fires sparked by lightning or farm machinery, we've had an increase in arson activity and that has got us more involved in Operation Firesetter, Victoria Police's crackdown on bushfire arson with its emphasis on prevention. This operation works in conjunction with Crimestoppers to raise community awareness of arson. We're right behind an initiative that encourages early reporting so our hard-working crews are not turning out to deliberately lit fires and crime scenes.
An enormous amount of excellent work has been done by Barwon South West volunteers and staff. No doubt the speed and force of attack have been instrumental in limiting losses. You have ‘hit it hard, hit fast' and achieved the CFA aim of protecting lives, property and the environment.
I speak on behalf of CFA, but no doubt I voice the thoughts of our Barwon South West communities when I say a heartfelt thank you for your tireless efforts. Members have made an immense contribution on the fireground, at incident control centres and at regional control level. Some of you served on strike teams or incident management at the Harrietville and Aberfeldy fires, while others were deployed to Tasmania and New South Wales.
In turn, I extend my thanks to our neighbouring districts and those on CFA strike teams who responded to Barwon South West region when we needed you. We've also been the grateful hosts of some dedicated firefighters from New South Wales and New Zealand. This influx of people from outside the area is crucial to help locals manage their fatigue and allow them to get home, take care of their own properties and recuperate.
It's been a tough fire season but our emergency services have stood together. We've had excellent support from VicSES, DSE and Parks Victoria, and councils have thrown their energies into supporting the fire agencies. We also pay tribute to all the government agencies that have supported us at regional and incident levels. Together we can reflect on the losses averted and the lives saved.
Dartmoor Group Officer Neale Emerson certainly reflected along those lines when he spoke to me about the Kentbruck fire response. He said that he may have missed a few meals but, on balance, he was grateful for the support; aware of how much had been saved, and inspired by the hard work of complete strangers that had made all the difference.