Learning from experience – Mt Duneed farm rescue

Each issue of Brigade magazine contains a ‘Learning from experience’ section which includes case studies of major incidents researched by Fire & Emergency Management.

A case study is an explanatory story based on a real-life incident that looks at what happened and why it happened. The aim is for people to learn from the case study so they improve their decision making in time-critical situations.

Each case study gives an overview of the incident containing all the important facts and a list of lessons identified. These lessons will help CFA members in a similar situation to make good decisions. 

Industrial rescue, Mt Duneed


A farmer was fighting for his life after he was found trapped by his legs in a hay baler. CFA brigades were called to the industrial accident in Mount Duneed at 6.45pm on 29 November 2016. It appeared that the farmer had been trapped for some time. CFA, Ambulance Victoria, SES and Victoria Police freed the man from the hay baler after three hours.


The work ethic and professionalism shown by CFA members on the day was second to none. The response involved volunteers from Connewarre and Torquay brigades along with career firefighters from Geelong City.

The volunteers provided fire protection to the crews on scene along with assisting Ambulance Victoria with access to the scene. The access work involved cutting a fence and using rake-hoes to clear a path so the ambulance could reach the air ambulance.

The crew leaders showed strong leadership and ensured the focus stayed on the task at hand. The leaders also helped manage the welfare of their members from a critical incident stress (CIS) perspective and this greatly assisted Incident Controller and Operations Officer Mark Sinkinson.

Geelong City’s career firefighters used their high level of skill, training and experience to develop a plan, including contingencies to extricate the farmer. Leading Firefighter Tom Waterson, who was the rescue commander (operations officer), did a fantastic job along with the rest of his crew. He ensured safety was paramount and all decisions and processes were approved by him. Tom liaised closely with SES and Ambulance Victoria commanders to ensure all agencies’ concerns were addressed and that the plan was well understood.

From a rescue perspective, the crews were fortunate to have a heavy machinery mechanic at the scene who had been working on machinery at a neighbouring property. His expertise made the decision-making process a lot easier, knowing what each piece of the machinery did and how it worked before the crews began deconstructing the machine to remove the farmer.

Lessons identified

The following contributed to the positive outcome.

  • Having a multi-agency response to this incident was crucial, as was having a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities. Everyone on scene recognised the seriousness and complexity of the incident and they worked collaboratively.
  • Using AIIMS ensured all incident personnel worked towards one set of objectives. The incident controller, in conjunction with the emergency management team, determined the desired outcome of the incident which was well communicated to all involved.
  • The early activation of CIS was paramount to provide appropriate psychological support to all personnel at the incident to prevent or alleviate the effects of stress and trauma.
  • The early escalation of additional heavy rescue resources.
  • Seeking advice from a specialist about the mechanics of the machinery before attempting to extricate the farmer.


This incident was a team effort across four emergency services: Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, SES and CFA career staff and volunteers. It was a difficult rescue and quite a delicate procedure to extricate the man, who unfortunately died in hospital. The cooperation and collaboration between all the agencies was outstanding, working as one to manage a complex incident.

Author: CFA News