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Our firefighters rush to East Gippsland

AERIAL ATTACK: Former Yarram identity, Mick Gribble had two aircraft in the air fighting the fires in inaccessible terrain on Sunday.

IT’S been a balancing act for the CFA brigades.

While local equipment and people have been flooding into East Gippsland to help fight the raging fires there, District 9 group officer Greg Carruthers said it was essential there were enough resources maintained here too.

“It’s not necessarily difficult, but the time constraints put on use are. As an example, the Monday before Christmas we had a phone call to ask for 20 trucks to do dayshift and nightshift in East Gippsland for three days,” he said.

“That would have been Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. That would have meant 100 people for a three day deployment.”

In the end, with less than 12 hours notice given, the request had to be denied.

Of course, as everyone now knows, the urgency of having fresh resources in East Gippsland has grown by the day.

“As soon as Boxing Day came and we had another request, we had people up there straight away,” Mr Carruthers said.

As it stood on Monday morning, 21 South Gippsland fire-fighters were arriving at the fire grounds to tackle the conflagration threatening towns and tourists along the Princes Highway.

Tankers had been sent from Berrys Creek, Fish Creek and Ruby. Meanwhile, the Mirboo North brigade had supplied a Field Command Vehicle (FCV).

Crews are running for two days at a time, before reinforcements are again sent in. It’s a massive undertaking. Especially, when you consider that many of the volunteers are leaving their own farms and businesses unattended.

Mr Carruthers has been coordinating local resources from his business in Leongatha. He said he wouldn’t be going to the fire grounds, though he had his equipment on hand, just in case.

Locally, tankers have been strategically placed so they can be employed to fight blazes in South Gippsland at a moment’s notice too.

“In the end, you have to fight the fire that you have. Part of my job is looking after the crew, so if I get asked for another three trucks to go to East Gippsland – which is highly likely – I have to make the decision based on potential local threats,” Mr Carruthers said.

“By about 10am (Monday) we’ll have four brigades ready to respond to any local grass or scrub fire. I’ve got make sure we’ve got the capability here.”

In the end there’s a lot of goodwill between the various CFA groups around the state, Mr Carruthers said. Not to mention that tacit understanding that when the time comes, crews from other places will help you too.

Volunteer fire-fighters from the Tarra Group of fire brigades from around the Yarram district have also rushed to join the fire fight in East Gippsland.

On Sunday, the Tarra Group sent tankers from the Binginwarri, Carrajung and Devon North brigades, and tankers were sent from Longford and Seaspray brigades in the Stratford Group.

Woodside’s Russel Mills led the strike force team, along with Robert Wight and Sally Woods.

The team was charged with patrolling a large back burn to strengthen the southern side of the fire near the Bruthen township.

Bushfires in East Gippsland have been burning since November 21 and have destroyed 50,000 hectares.

“We suspect these fires will burn for some weeks, if not months,” CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said.

Tarra Group also sent fire-fighters to blazes in New South Wales.

     

 

 

 

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=30576

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