Extreme conditions for strike teams in the north-east over new year

Kiewa Fire Brigade members joined one of many strike teams battling extreme conditions on 30 and 31 December in the north-east. Captain Aaron Wallace was involved with the strike team and talked about the nights' events.


Photo Credit: Kiewa Fire Brigade

“These conditions were unprecedented. In my 25-plus years with CFA I've never seen anything like it. This fire generated its own weather,” Aaron said.

Eight members of Kiewa Fire Brigade joined firefighters from Allans Flat, Beechworth, Stanley and Wooragee on Strike Team 2455.

“The conditions were extremely destructive. They lifted our tanker up  on two wheels as if it was nothing."

Firefighters battled extreme conditions in the Walwa area for more than 18 hours.

“We continued to defend the property, however once the fire had lifted the entire roof off we knew it was too late.

“Unfortunately we lost the property but were able to get all our members out. There was some damage to the tanker and we had to call an ambulance due to fire-related injuries to one of our members. That’s the first time I’ve ever had to push the emergency button on the radio; something I hope I never have to do again.

“Anything the fire wanted to take, it did. It turned trees to sticks. You have to expect the unexpected; the situation can change so quickly. 

Photo Credit: Kiewa Fire Brigade

“We took cover anywhere we could. Being outside the tanker when it hit made it impossible to get back into the tanker. Once the fire passed and conditions eased, we regrouped and made our way back into the tanker. The crew administered first-aid to our injured member as we made our way to meet the ambulance in Walwa.”

Members took a 10-minute break for a quick drink and then continued to defend.

“CFA is being more proactive to find opportunities to inform residence about these fires and their fire plan. It’s so important to be aware and informed in these times.

“People think that they can stay and defend, but a garden hose and footy shorts aren’t going to help you with fires like these.

“It’s going to take communities years to recover but I know CFA members are putting in 110 per cent. Most members from strike team 2455 have been back out on the fireground many times since this day and continue the fight giving 110%.”

Victoria is one of the most fire-prone areas in the world. Understanding your level of risk is the first step in knowing what to do before and during a fire. Visit the CFA website for more information about how to plan and prepare.

Author: Holly Penketh