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Remembering our fallen firefighters 20 years on

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This Sunday (2 December) marks the 20-year anniversary of the Linton bushfire which claimed the lives of five CFA firefighters.

Remembering our fallen firefighters 20 years on

CFA is honouring and remembering the loss of Matthew Armstrong, Jason Thomas, Chris Evans, Stuart Davidson and Garry Vredeveldt from Geelong West Fire Brigade.

CFA Acting Chief Officer Stephanie Rotarangi said CFA will never forget the sacrifice those firefighters made while protecting the community.

“CFA has come a long way since the Linton fire – our safety procedures, communication, training and equipment changed as a result of this fire. The legacy of this event continues to drive our pre-season and ongoing training,” Acting Chief Officer Rotarangi said.

“If there’s one way we can honour those brave men, it’s to ensure we continue to improve the way we train our firefighters to avoid this happening again.”

CFA has been running a ‘Linton staff ride’ for around five years, allowing its members to walk in the shoes of the firefighters that day. The ride is also used as a way to train Incident Management Teams, and firefighters who could be faced with the same decisions in a similar situation one day.

Stuart Davidson’s father Max said there were so many things that went wrong on that day, but if they were ever going to learn, Linton would be the place to do it.

“Since 1998 there have been no firefighters lost in the same way, now that they’re doing this staff ride and the lessons learned out of this will be beneficial for all,” Mr Davidson said.

Bill Thomas, Jason Thomas’s father said you never forget the loss of a child, you learn to live with it.

“CFA has looked after us so well since day one, throughout the inquiry and even to this day,” Mr Thomas said.

“My son had never been on a firetruck in the forest, he had only been with the brigade for 12 months, that would never happen today.”

The Linton fire resulted in the biggest change in our history for training requirements for our members. This change is based on safety and the learnings are used by firefighters on a daily basis. Minimum skills for firefighters was introduced as part of that change which is now mandatory for all new firefighters.

In memory of the five firefighters’ sacrifice, Geelong West Brigade is conducting a commemoration service on Sunday 2 December at 6pm at the Geelong West Memorial Park.