How brigades prepare for the tourism season

Member News image Lorne Fire Brigade members


During summer the population of some small towns can grow to ten times or more their normal size. Here’s how three brigades deal with the increased fire risk.


Bright Fire Brigade

Nestled in the heart of north-east Victoria, Bright has a huge surge of tourists during the summer months. Its population can increase from about 3,000 to more than 20,000 overnight as visitors pour in.

“Visitors are drawn to the picturesque landscapes and engaging events and festivals that the area has to offer,” Bright Fire Brigade Captain Brad Drennan said.

However, the vibrant energy and influx of tourists coexists with summer fire risks.

“Our region faces challenges such as dry weather, dense vegetation and occasionally extreme temperatures. These factors create a potent mix that demands vigilance and preparedness.”

To tackle these risks head on, Bright brigade focuses on building strong partnerships with local community groups, Alpine Shire Council, local emergency services agencies and Forest Fire Management Victoria. It also collaborates with Hancock Victoria Plantations to circulate community safety information to the local community and visitors.

“We have a good partnership with the Bright Chamber of Commerce and have a presence at their monthly market in town, 'Make It, Bake It, Grow It',” Brad said. “This gives us an opportunity to interact with and educate both locals and tourists about summer fire safety, the bushfire risks in the area, what the various community sirens mean, the new Australian Fire Danger Rating System, and the importance of planning and preparing.”

“There’s only one road in and one road out of Bright, so it’s really important that visitors are aware and plan accordingly.

“We also visit the caravan parks over summer to ensure they have the current AFDRS displayed.

“Ensuring the safety of our community, including the tourist population who enjoy our town, is our top priority. Our collaboration with our partners amplifies our efforts, making our town resilient and safe, even in the face of summer fire risks.

“We continue to work tirelessly, hand in hand with the community and emergency services. We stand steadfast to ensure Bright remains not just a beautiful destination, but also a safe holiday destination for all.”

Lorne Fire Brigade

Lorne, a popular seaside town on the south-west coast, grows from about 1,300 to more than 15,000 during summer. Lorne Fire Brigade Captain Lee Hollmer and District 7 Commander Wayne Aylmer take a proactive approach to the increased risk and carry out a range of initiatives every year to help ensure everyone stays safe.

“In our busy summer period the town hosts the Pier to Pub swimming race in mid-January and that can add an extra 4,000 to 5,000 visitors on top of the 15,000,” Lee said.

From Boxing Day to the middle of January Lorne brigade receives additional support from volunteer structural firefighters from up to 12 brigades in the south west. These volunteers arrive in the early morning and leave in the evening. They respond to incidents along the coast, but their primary role is to support Lorne brigade during the busy period.

“Every day during this period, we get four or five volunteers and an additional pumper. It’s a massive boost to our brigade and relieves our crews who need to run businesses or work in hospitality.”

District 7 set up the summer crewing initiative after the Wye River fire in 2015 to give local firefighters respite. Initially, career CFA firefighters supported Lorne, and then after Fire Services Reform it switched to support from volunteers.

“Potentially, members could leave CFA if we ask too much of them. This summer crewing initiative supports Lorne brigade and makes it more sustainable,” Wayne said.

“Other volunteers assisting us with the majority of structural incidents allows us to support Lorne SES and neighbouring brigades with rescues and car accidents on the Great Ocean Road,” Lee said. “It also means on Total Fire Ban days we can work with FFMVic to check on campgrounds and illegal campfires in the Otways, and support our group with strike team requirements.

“We regularly drive through caravan parks to make sure there’s enough room for a fire truck and we visit them on days when the Fire Danger Rating is high.

“We also support the PAVS [Property Advice Visit Service] team which sets up in different parts of the town to engage tourists. We talk to real estate businesses and give them fire safety information and we also use social media to pass on safety advice.”

If you’re interested in being part of the Lorne summer crew email

Yarrawonga Fire Brigade

Situated on the Murray River, Yarrawonga normally has a population of about 8,500 but there’s been extensive growth in tourism in the past 10 years as people enjoy the climate, boating, fishing, golf and forest walks.

“I reckon the population between here and Cobram goes up to about 20,000 in summer,” Yarrawonga Fire Brigade Captain Cade Phillips said. “It gets that busy on campsites it’s almost as if people are camping on top of each other."

Before the fire season Cade visits bush areas with Parks Victoria staff to assess fuel loads.

“The river backs onto farmland, so we practise our skills to protect assets,” Cade said. “People have to be wary when they are near the riverbanks because of the high fuel loads.”

Cade is pleased that most tourists behave responsibly and know the fire risks.

“They are aware of what’s happened in the past and they are proactive rather than reactive. But in the summer, we still get four or five turnouts a week to unattended campfires or grass and scrub fires that can spread quickly.

“We’re usually pretty quick to respond to an incident, and some campers help by starting to put out the fire. Although most people do the right thing, there are people who light fires in dangerous places and some people drive their four-wheel drives through long grass.”

The brigade has 20 operational members, a heavy tanker and a light tanker, and they usually have no problem getting a full crew out to incidents.

This year, the brigade attended the Yarrawonga-Mulwala Agricultural Show at the beginning of October to pass on fire safety messages. As well as taking a truck, the brigade borrowed the district’s information trailer which contains CFA’s fire safety leaflets.


  • Member News imageBright Fire Brigade members
  • Member News image Yarrawonga Fire Brigade. Courtesy of Yarrawonga Chronicle
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