Residents and tourists had to gather on the foreshore of Mallacoota seeking safety, with our Australian Defence Force called in to assist with evacuating people to safer areas, while CFA crews have guided convoys of vehicles out of danger zones throughout the state.
We have been unable to reach many isolated communities and we still don’t know the extent of damage in these areas, due to the lack of access by road. As you will have seen in media reports, a lack of telephone communication and dwindling basic resources mean these communities are facing very significant threats.
Be assured that at a state level, all Victorian emergency sector agencies and departments are working collaboratively and tirelessly to ensure that basic services and resources are reaching those in need.
Tomorrow’s hot and windy conditions will place additional pressure on our members working in these areas and we expect that we will experience some significant challenges managing fires in our high country and alpine areas as well.
It’s a similar picture in NSW’s south coast as well and we are facing the very real possibility that fires raging in NSW will join with those impacting the north-east and east of our state. We are as prepared as we can be and have made the calls to put resources where we believe they will have the most impact.
I’ve been privileged to meet with some of our many thousands of volunteers and staff who are on the ground in east Gippsland. I went into some of the communities that have been significantly impacted by devastating property loss and was so proud to see our local brigades and their residents banding together in these tragic conditions.
Some of the reports of what they have experienced in recent days are truly terrifying and it’s a credit to our training and professionalism that we have not experienced any significant injuries or worse.
We have peer support out in the regions to assist people but I want to encourage all members to consider taking advantage of our Member Assistance Services, even if it’s only to debrief on what they’ve gone through. Our Member Assistance Services are also available to immediate family members.
While the focus of media reporting has been on the east and north-east of our state, we cannot forget that there are also fires in the west and south-west of the state, where conditions are extremely dry and the combination of strong winds and dry lightning with the change tonight could create similarly extreme firefighting conditions.
We all need to do our part in supporting our regions and districts and I know you will support me in wishing our firefighters well as they tackle these extreme conditions.
If you’re in a fire affected region or district, and not on operational duties, you should follow the advice of authorities regarding where you live and leave these areas as directed.
As I have said, repeatedly, this will be a marathon, with days of sprinting, but we are only four weeks into summer and there is a long season ahead for all of us.
I remind you to stay safe and ensure your friends, family, neighbours and communities are getting and responding to the information available and making the best decisions possible.