CFA CEO/Chief Officer Steve Warrington and CFA Board members toured communities in East Gippsland to see first-hand the devastation caused by the recent fires and to acknowledge the efforts of volunteers and staff.
The group visited Sarsfield, Bruthen and Buchan where numerous homes and other infrastructure were destroyed in recent weeks.
At Sarsfield, CFA leaders heard from local brigade Captain Ian Brownrigg and Bruthen Brigade Captain James Nicholas about the impacts of the fires of 30 and 31 December.
Twenty per cent (or one in five) of the homes in Sarsfield were destroyed but Mr Brownrigg said the community was strongly focused on helping affected residents rebuild their lives.
With 80 members, including 50 active members on the ground this fire season, the focus for Sarsfield brigade has been on community protection, while Bruthen brigade outlined its own challenges with communications and water supply as they protected lives and property.
On Sunday dozens of people gathered at the Sarsfield Recreation Reserve to watch the live broadcast of the Fire Fight Australia concert, with CEO/Chief Officer Warrington speaking with local residents about how they are moving forward with a weekly whole-of-community get together for a meal and to discuss their recovery.
At Buchan, Brigade Captain Peter White outlined the activation of plans to defend assets including telecommunications networks, the school, major buildings and the local tourism attraction the Buchan Caves, complemented by weeks of preparatory work by graders around the perimeter of the town.
Mr White said despite the experience of the community in dealing with fires in recent years, the ferocity of the recent blaze caught many by surprise.
Police and emergency services workers undertook door knocks of homes to ensure people were aware of the risks from the approaching fire which had started weeks earlier.
Board Chair Greg Smith AM praised the efforts of CFA and other emergency services agencies including Victoria Police and DELWP in saving many homes and the bulk of the township during what was an extremely difficult firefight.
“I want to pay tribute to all those volunteers who have put their own lives on the line in recent weeks to help and protect others,” Mr Smith said.
“We’ve heard remarkable examples of how our CFA members and their colleagues spent days preparing their townships for this event and how they remain side-by-side with their communities now as they rebuild.
“These communities should be applauded for their resilience in the face of significant loss and damage.”