Time to get fire-ready

by Various
9th October 2017

SUMMER will be soon upon us and local councils, community associations and the CFA have begun their annual bushfire preparations.

Local CFA volunteers prepare for summer

By TIM KEMM

LOCAL FIRE brigades have ramped up training of new recruits ahead of the upcoming bushfire season this summer.

Brigades from the CFA Maroondah Group met at the Warrandyte Bridge last month to conduct a practical exercise aimed at familiarising recruits with some of the equipment.

The main exercise conducted was drafting, which involves pumping water out of the river into the appliances, where it is then pressurised and pumped out through the hoses to fight the fire (or in the case of this exercise — sprayed back into the river).

“What we do is whack in some drafting lines, and then with our priming pumps we get lift, so we then turn on our main centrifugal pump, and we’ve got water coming into the appliances,” said Bob Dowie, the Maroondah Group Recruits Course Coordinator.

“We can either do a fill and drop, or an appliance can remain there and be used to fill other appliances, or we can conduct a fire fight from here if we have to.

“Later on we’ll be ‘showing’ water, which means we’re just going to fire some water back into the river.”

This technique can be used to pump water out of not just rivers, but also pools, lakes and dams.

For the new recruits it is an important step they have to take to becoming operational firefighters.

These sessions also provide an opportunity for the brigades in the Maroondah group to get to know each other, as these are the people they will be working alongside this summer.

The exercise included trucks from North Warrandyte, South Warrandyte, Chirnside Park, Yarra Glen, Lilydale, Wonga Park and Coldstream. Fire authorities are predicting it to be a long, hot summer and implore local residents to stay on alert at all times.

“We really want people to be prepared as always,” said Warrandyte Brigade member Renee Bisscheroux. “Particularly in this area it is quite dangerous.”

The drafting exercise is just one component of a rigorous, 12 week course that new recruits take in order to thoroughly prepare them for the summer.

Over the next few weeks a whole range of training scenarios will be covered, sometimes it may just involve scoping the lay of the land.

“Area familiarisation is a really big thing for us,” said Ms Bisscheroux.

“While we do have maps to get to fires it’s definitely much more useful if the driver knows where they’re going or know that they can’t get the truck up this road and need to go from a different direction.

“We’ve got maybe two main roads out [of Warrandyte] and if people are trying to get out it’s going to get congested, and we’re also trying to get the trucks in the opposite direction which causes us problems,” she said.

“We’re doing a lot of training based around bushfire scenarios in the area.”

For the new recruits, a sense of responsibility to the community is a significant driving force towards volunteering for the CFA.

“I signed up because I wanted to learn the necessary skills to improve bushfire resilience, prevent bushfire and combat fire so that I can aid my community and those in need,” said Tim Benedict, a new recruit of the South Warrandyte brigade.

“The CFA is a great community organisation with incredible commitment from its volunteers and staff,” he said.

For Tayla Walsh, another South Warrandyte volunteer, it has been a valuable and worthwhile experience.

“It wasn’t until my mum and brother joined a few years ago and I got that exposure to what being a volunteer involves that I decided it was something I really wanted to do,” Ms Walsh said.

“I’ve loved it — it’s definitely been challenging and has tested me both physically and mentally, but both the recruits and the trainers are so supportive, we’ve become a real team.”

With training well and truly underway, Warrandyte residents can rest assured that local brigades will be ready to tackle whatever this summer may bring.

Will you be as safe as houses this summer?

By SANDI MILLER

LIVING IN Warrandyte is a privilege that comes with risk.

Living amongst the bush makes Warrandyte among the places most at risk of bushfire in the world.

To lessen the risk, there are actions that can be taken before the danger period, such as reducing flammable materials around your home, installing water tanks, sprinkler systems and firefighting equipment — and having a fire plan.

The CFA has said the warmer and drier than average weather over recent months, combined with the forecasts for spring, suggest that the fire season is likely to commence earlier than usual and be more active than normal.

So now is the time to ensure your family have a plan in case of bushfire, storm or other emergency events, and one of the most important things to remember when producing your plan is to decide when you trigger your plan.

CFA recommends that a severe fire danger rating or higher should be your trigger to leave — do not wait for an official warning before you leave, as you may not get one — fires can start quickly and threaten homes and lives within minutes.

Your plan should also include a plan of where to evacuate to — hanging out at Eastland might be ok for a couple of hours, but remember you may need to take yourselves, you pets, and your valuables away from Warrandyte for a couple of days if there is an extended heatwave.

The CFA urge residents to understand your risk and plan ahead. Know what to do on hot, dry, windy days and plan for all situations. Let your family and friends know your plan — what are your triggers, where you’ll go and how you will get there.

This year especially, your plan should include strategies to avoid being stuck during the roadworks on Warrandyte Bridge.

Even if you do not have to cross the bridge, the CFA warns if you wait and decide to leave after a fire has started, you risk driving your family through thick smoke, fallen trees and power lines, and face the danger of collisions, being trapped, serious injury or death.

Your fire plan also requires a Plan B, for when you get caught at home by an unexpected event — so your home should be defendable even if your plan is to leave.

Get informed Should the worse happen and your home is threatened, how can you ensure your family and your home are more likely to survive? Get as much information as you can before the fire season is upon us.

Go along to one of the CFA Open Days or attend one of the information sessions being held by local community groups.

The Be Ready Warrandyte Safe as Houses? forum, hosted by the Warrandyte Community Association (WCA) and their partners in Manningham and Nillumbik Councils and the local Emergency Response and Recovery Services, aims to answer this question.

The Safe as Houses? forum will be held at 7pm on Thursday October 26 at the Warrandyte Community Church.

The forum will explore case studies in which a house was or was not lost as a result of a fire. Justin Leonard from the CSIRO will present on different building materials and how they fare against a fire and will also look at a houses’ surroundings to give you an idea as to how best to prepare your property.

The forum will also give an overview of the upcoming fire danger period including communication and access interruptions within the area.

The community will be given the opportunity to ask questions about any of the topics raised in a panel of speakers and local agency representatives following the completion of the presentations.

Residents are encouraged to bring along your personal emergency plan as you may wish to include information that you gain from the evening.

Fire info for Nillumbik landowners

Proactive Landowners Group (PALs) will be conducting a Community Fire Awareness Program on November 19 at the Panton Hill Hall.

PALs is a group from Nillumbik who pride themselves as being “well intentioned, non-aligned landholders” who came together to dispute planning changes in Nillumbik two years ago. PALs are calling for a dismantling of native vegetation clearing regulations to remove the “archaic, draconian and overly-complicated legislation” asserting that “the process must begin afresh” with appropriate consultation.

“It needs to be collaborative process with good intent and good will,” he said.

Spokesperson for the group, Damien Crock, said “the group have come to realise that, since Black Saturday, landholders must bear some responsibility of protecting ` Shire and the State from the threat of bushfire.”

“Nillumbik Shire spreads out to the north of Warrandyte, which is recognized as the most highly populated high-fire danger areas on planet Earth,” he said.

Mr Crock says the Shire is blessed with talent from all walks of life and they have come together in PALs with “the right intent to make effective change”.

He told the Diary that the Bushfires Royal Commission key recommendations were about protecting human life “and our preoccupation is also with human safety.”

The group is therefore holding an information session to discuss fire safety and preparedness in the lead-up to what is likely to be a challenging bushfire season.

“The session can be attended by anyone in and around Nillumbik” to gain valuable information about preparing for the fire season.

The day will include guest speakers such as Neil Marshall who, with more than 50 years’ experience with the CFA, will be speaking on a number of subjects.

There is also information about preparing pets and livestock during bushfire threat.

Horse owners can also learn about the National Equine Database, an invaluable resource in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Council gets ready for fire season

With Fire Action Week kicking off from 13 – 20 October, Councils are working closely with local CFA brigades to identify and reduce bushfire risks on Council land to help improve community safety.

Nillumbik Shire Mayor Cr Peter Clarke said Council is preparing for the summer season with bushfire mitigation plans underway, this includes roadside clearing, slashing and mowing, tree management and native vegetation clearing.

“Council’s fire prevention program also includes ensuring maintenance of fire tracks, power line clearance, removing hazardous trees, clearing road sides, water tank maintenance and environmental works in our 32 reserves,” Cr Clarke said.

“This work is vital for Council to undertake but it will not eliminate our bushfire risk entirely.

“It is important for residents to have a think about their own properties and start to get them ready for summer by conducting regular maintenance of their property, including clearing long grass, timber and wood stores, gutters and drains.”

Fireball funds fire appliance

By SANDI MILLER

THE FIREBALL organising committee handed over the keys to a new slip-on unit to Warrandyte Fire Brigade. Last October’s Fireball, where 350 members of the local community gathered together for a fun-filled night at the Park Hyatt, raised over $70,000, which purchased a LandCruiser ute to replace the brigade’s old vehicle.

The slip-on unit is a four-wheel-drive ute with fire-fighting capability which enables firefighters to get to places traditional tankers would be unable to access.

The previous fourteen-year-old firefighting appliance was involved in a burn-over incident while supporting firefighters in Tasmania.

Warrandyte CFA Captain Adrian Mullens got the call from Tasmania last year saying the vehicle had been involved in a burn-over.

“My heart sank — I didn’t think my ticker could go 500 beats per minute…luckily apart from some scorch damage to the slip-on they were fine, fortunately we had an experienced crew on it, and that is paramount — there is no place for learners on a slip-on because there are only two of you,” he said.

The appliance was refurbished following the incident, however Captain Mullens believed that the 2003 vehicle was no longer providing an acceptable safety standard for fire crews.

“Having all the extra safety features in it, crew safety is something that is always top of the list,” he said.

The firefighting equipment which was replaced following the incident in Tasmania was able to be reused on the new vehicle, although supplementary donations from the Lions Club and Rotary enabled the brigade to fit out the appliance with some ancillary equipment such as winches and crew protection sprinklers.

Captain Mullens said the brigade would not have had the funds if not for the donation from Fireball.

“Fireball has just taken a huge burden off the brigade in relation to raising funds for major ticket items, so we are extremely grateful for the Fireball Committee’s efforts,” he said Jaime Noye from the Fireball Committee said while the idea that the brigades shouldn’t have to fundraise for themselves is a big part of the reason behind Fireball, it is more than that.

“It is a celebration of the firefighters and all they do for us, and last Fireball was at a time when there was a lot of uncertainty, so bringing them all together, it really did help them,” she said.

After the 2014 fires, Julie Quinton, from Quinton’s IGA, identified there was a need for local brigades to have some assistance in relation to major expenditure — trucks, generators, etc. Julie formed the Fireball Committee and then in conjunction with the four local fire captains identified the worthiest recipients — North Warrandyte were top of the list to replace its aging tanker, which was the recipient of the 2014 Fireball, then Warrandyte for this appliance.

Fireball committee member Michelle Lambert said the Fireball is only about raising money for big ticket items.

“People are still contributing from the community to the brigades in other ways,” she said.

For instance, Warrandyte Community Bank contribute $50,000 per year to our local CFAs.

“The bank also gave Fireball a grant and [when the venue was moved] they came in and put on the busses,” continued Ms Lambert.

The Fireball Committee is not resting on its laurels, it is in the process of providing a model for taking Fireball to other communities and is planning for the next Fireball event in 2019.

“When the government has a clearer idea of what the new fire service is going to look like, we can go to the community saying this is it, and this is the shortfall and this is what we are intending to do,” she said.

Warrandyte’s slip-on goes into service this week, ready for the upcoming fire season and will turn out for local incidents and be part of strike teams around the state and potentially around the country.

Taking power underground

By SANDI MILLER

COMMUNITIES in high-risk bushfire areas such as North Warrandyte could benefit from an initiative to bury powerlines, which will significantly reduce the risk to lives and property from bushfires.On February 7, 2009 Victoria suffered the deadliest bushfires in its history.

The subsequent Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission found that uninsulated overhead powerlines were the cause of many of these fires, and recommended the Victorian Government contribute towards the cost of replacing these lines, starting in highest priority areas.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said after viewing the installation of 43km of underground wires recently in Healesville: “the risk this summer is very real and we’re working to ensure Victorians have the best possible protection against bushfires.”

The State Government is calling for applications from all regional Victorians interested in applying to the Powerline Replacement Fund to underground their bare-wire overhead powerlines before applications close in February 2018.

To obtain funding under the scheme, powerlines must meet the following criteria:

• is currently in active use (ie the POEL [Private  Overhead Electric Lines] must not be disconnected) — if the POEL is disconnected, the POEL owner will not be eligible for funding assistance unless the POEL has been reconnected for ongoing active use;

• is overhead and uninsulated (that is a span, or part there-of, is bare wire);

• is located in one of the PRF local government areas listed;

• is located in a High Bushfire Risk Area as designated by the Country Fire Authority.Residents of Nillumbik and Yarra Ranges could be eligible for a grant from the scheme, although property owners interested in taking part should check their eligibility at www.energy.vic.gov.au/electricity/powerline-replacement-fund.

The Manningham council area is not included in the scheme.