(left to right): Jake Kociancic and Commander Justin Dally with Acting Deputy Chief Glenn Pröbstl
The District 12 Leadership Team and a Hilldene Fire Brigade member have won the Excellence in Interagency or Group Cooperation Award in the 2022 Spirit of CFA Awards.
On 6 December 2020 CFA crews attended a fire at the primary school at the Department of Defence military base in Puckapunyal. The incident was complex because of the location and the number of agencies involved. CFA, Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), Military Police, Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, State Emergency Service (SES), Defence Command and contracted fire services operated by Ventia were all on scene helping to combat the school fire.
District 12 Leadership Team and Hilldene Fire Brigade members in particular were heavily involved in the incident, and thanks to a high level of teamwork and interoperability they were able to save a large portion of the building.
Before the incident occurred, during all stages of the incident and during the recovery stages, the District 12 Leadership Team and Hilldene brigade actively engaged with a range of agencies. CFA members identified that an incident at this site would be complex so a great deal of work went into developing a memorandum of understanding between CFA and the Department of Defence for the Puckapunyal Military Area (PMA). There was a lot of engagement to familiarise the neighbouring brigade, Hilldene, with the site, its processes and personnel.
Throughout the incident, the strong working relationships between the agencies involved, particularly CFA members, Ventia Fire Rescue, Victoria Police, Defence and on-site personnel, significantly contributed to the successful outcome. These relationships were maintained throughout the COVID-19 restrictions and enabled members to work together effectively and efficiently by knowing each other’s roles.
The multi-agency approach worked well within the emergency management team, where there were representatives from Victoria Police, Defence, Department of Education, CFA, FRV, Ventia Fire Rescue, SES and Ambulance Victoria. There is a strong level of trust between CFA and other key stakeholders.
Following the incident, District 12 and Hilldene brigade members actively sought assistance from CFA's Lessons Management Centre (LMC) about how to conduct an after-action review (AAR). This review outlines what went well during the incident and what could have been done better. They worked closely with the LMC and other agencies including Defence and Ventia Fire Rescue to share lessons and contribute to the review. The AAR identified that the strong relationships between all agencies was a significant factor in the successful outcome.
Hilldene brigade 2nd Lieutenant Jake Kociancic is one of the team who won the award. He is also a full-time Defence member and lives on the PMA. He was the incident controller at this fire and played a central role in the firefight.
“The MOU states that CFA will assume incident control of any Class 1 emergency when invited onto the PMA to assist with an emergency event that exceeds the capacity of the Defence resources to control,” Jake said. “It was clear from the outset that CFA was going to end up being the control agency for this incident, so my team and I had to engage with many key stakeholders to get the job done.
“I was lucky to be incident controller that day. A lot of work had been done by the District 12 Ops team and group management team prior to the event. Everything worked very well.
“At a group level, we conduct pre-summer training mostly focused on grass and scrub fire response. Local knowledge and rapid provision of detailed information is also important. The PMA is quite remote in some aspects, so early escalation and effective passage of information is key to a successful firefight.
“It’s a very complex world out here and building and maintaining positive relationships can be very challenging. Districts 02, 22 and 12 all have an input into the memorandum of understanding with Defence. Defence firefighting assets are very capable but limited. CFA simply has access to more resources.”
The winners of this award are District 12 Commander Justin Dally, Hilldene brigade 2nd Lieutenant Jake Kociancic and District 12 ACFO Rob Van Dorsser.