Volunteer fireys hone planned burning skills
More than 80 volunteer firefighters and 20-odd fire trucks turned out to support a large-scale roadside burn in Victoria’s South West on Sunday to conduct fuel reduction and improve fire safety, boost the local ecology and provide an opportunity for Burn Controllers-in-training to hone their skills.
More than 60 hectares of roadside vegetation was burned along Hamilton-Port Fairy Road in Broadwater during Sunday’s operation.
The roadside burn was divided into 10 separate burn blocks to allow more firefighters to be assessed as part of their training to become Burn Controllers.
District 5 Assistant Chief Fire Officer Richard Bourke congratulated the district’s volunteer firefighters for their commitment to roadside burning, and the Vegetation Management Advisory Group for coming up with the idea and coordinating it together with the Broadwater Brigade.
He said the local Broadwater brigade had expressed an interest in getting some of its members qualified as Burn Controllers, with more brigades and members joining in as the planning of the exercise developed.
“The whole idea of today is to provide opportunity for our volunteers to gain experience and exposure to roadside burning and to afford opportunities for the up-and-coming Burn Controllers to be able to get that evidence that is required to become an accredited Burn Controller,” ACFO Bourke said.
“This year’s been a quiet season without a lot of opportunity for roadside burning but today is very critical in that we have people that are looking to get experience in burn controlling and we have a lot of mentors here today to support and mentor those people performing those roles.
“It’s great to see so many of our volunteers get the opportunity to be assessed as part of their training.”
To become a Burn Controller, members need to undertake a theoretical component and then be assessed while leading three burns. For some of Sunday’s participants, it was the first burn they were being assessed on, for others it was the final assessment before becoming a qualified Burn Controller.
CFA volunteer and Chair of the District 5 Vegetation Management Advisory Group, Steve Lewis, said it had been a great day that had allowed Burn Controllers-in-training to take the next step in their training.
“They are the future of the CFA and us old, experienced guys won’t be around forever so it’s so important to get them on the job and doing it today with their peers,” he said.
Broadwater CFA Captain Hugh McFarlane, who was the Burn Controller in charge on Sunday, said roadside burning had a long tradition in the district and it was pleasing to see so many new Burn Controllers coming up through the ranks.
Kirkstall Captain Hannah Morris (front) is training to become a Burn Controller.
One of them, Kirkstall CFA captain Hannah Morris, said she had started training as a Burn Controller as she felt it was important to build capacity in the local brigade.
“We generally try to burn each year to be able to protect our community. The roadsides are an important fire break in our district,” she said.
“There’s so many friendships in the CFA and you get to catch up with so many people and build on that experience. There’s a lot of people here that have many years of experience and you can talk to them and lean on them for some ideas and suggestions.
CFA Community Capability Service Delivery Coordinator Adam Rogers said not only did roadside burns improve fire safety, they were also important to the local ecology.
“Roadside burning has been taking place in the South West Region in particular since CFA was formed more than 70 years ago. In fact, 50 per cent of all roadside burning in the state takes place in District 5 and 75 per cent in the South West Region as a whole,” he said.
“It’s a historically important tool to protect the communities on the volcanic plains of the South West, but over the last 15 years there’s also been a higher awareness of the ecological role fire can play in these areas.”