The Gippsland fires this week gave Victorians an early glimpse of the coming fire season.
Significant grass and bushfires broke out at the weekend, and, by Monday, more than 220 fires were recorded, many the result of reignition of burn-offs in the strong winds and hot weather.
The three main fires were at Briagolong, Rawson and Loch Sport. Emergency alerts were issued across communities in West Gippsland, South Gippsland and East Gippsland.
Hundreds of CFA firefighters tackled the blazes alongside other emergency services, with aerial and heavy plant support.
On Sunday morning, a fire broke out in Briagolong and by Monday it had covered 5600 hectares and was 42km in perimeter.
Briagolong Fire Brigade Captain John Hamment was called on to attend the bushfire on Sunday morning.
The initial call came from the local general store owner, also a Briagolong CFA member, who could see smoke coming from the hills in native forest.
“That’s always been our worst nightmare, to get a fire in that area,” he said.
Captain Hamment, his wife Heather (also a CFA member) and the Briagolong briagde headed to a property threatened by fire.
Access to the property was difficult and the crew had to make their way through fire activity.
“When we got there the shed was on fire and the fire was right around the house. The owner came out and said he woke up and there was fire all around him,” he said.
“All we knew at that stage was the fire was right around the house. We couldn’t determine the size of it until later on when we realised it had come from down the hill somewhere.”
The crew battled the blaze but sadly the mudbrick home could not be saved.
“We thought we had it saved, next minute it was burning again,” he said.
Captain Hamment has been with the CFA since 1964 and Captain of the Briagolong Fire Brigade for 38 years. The brigade has 52 members, 40 operational, and five new members.
He spent the week organising strike teams and food.
“A couple of times I tried to duck home, have a sleep, then two more strike teams came in. Bugger,” he said.
“The whole community effort, not just the fire brigade members. Everyone was prepared to help. The members themselves, even the newer ones, came and helped.”