One week on from one of the most destructive storms in Victoria’s recent history, and CFA crews in the Dandenong Ranges continue to help those communities most impacted.
Volunteer firefighters have been working tirelessly in support of VICSES members and other emergency agencies since powerful winds tore through the hills, bringing massive trees down into homes and across roads, and leaving thousands of homes without power.
Dandenong Ranges Group Officer Stuart Parker said he had never seen a storm of this magnitude.
“On Wednesday evening as the winds really picked up, we kept getting pager reports like structure collapse, trees through houses, and possible persons trapped.
“There were also reports of gas leaks because the roots of the tress were getting pulled out of the ground which was then pulling the gas mains out of the ground.
GO Parker said he remains so grateful that no community members, firefighters, or first responders were lost during the storm as the environment was horrendously dangerous.
“At one incident on Thursday morning there was a person trapped at Olinda, and the responding brigade and Strike Team 1313 not only had to cut the access for the ambulance on the way in, but trees were falling behind them so they also had to cut the access for the ambulance exit as well.”
Group Officer Parker said the storm had wide ranging impacts throughout the entire region.
“There is a lot of damage right along the ridge of the mountain in areas like Kalorama, Olinda, and Sassafras, but the outlying areas like Monbulk, Silvan, Lilydale have all been impacted as well,” he said.
“And it’s not only the communities, but the brigades are also affected by this event and have been non-stop helping out their local communities.
“The extent of the damage and the clean-up now is just huge.”
The heavy winds along with significant rainfall played havoc across the state, with CFA supporting VICSES as they received more than 9000 requests for assistance during the storm and across the following days.
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan and Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp met with volunteers at Kalorama on Tuesday, discussing response and recovery efforts in the area.
“We also had Knox Group help on the weekend, and individual brigades came to do some welfare door knocking on Monday,” said GO Parker.
“It’s been great to see all groups out of District 13 helping out throughout the week, as Maroondah and Yarra Valley Groups have all been up on the mountain.
“Along with CFA, there are a lot of different agencies that become involved in the recovery stage, like Parks Victoria and DELWP, as well as some private contractors.
“They’re here as they have the heavy equipment needed to help clear these massive trees, but the clean-up involves everything from the leaves to the branches, to the roots.
“It’s the worst wind event that the area has ever seen and everything that has come down has to be cleaned away.
“That’s something that people are finding it difficult to get their heads around.
Stuart said the storm highlighted CFA volunteers are willing to help the community and our partner agencies whenever they are needed.
“We’re an all emergencies service, and we’re ready to respond 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”