What a challenging summer we have had to date! Locally, it has been a reasonably quiet fire season to date, however it is often in March and April that we get a bit busier. It is a credit to all members of our community that the fire calls we have had have been smaller jobs – unattended campfires, suspected smoke sightings and burn offs during the Fire Danger Period. Remember, if you are concerned, call 000 and report it. We would much rather be called out to investigate what may be a false alarm. If there is a fire, it is much easier to deal with it when it is small. In relation to the Fire Danger Period, please remember that you may NOT burn off during this time unless you have applied for, and been issued with, a permit by CFA District 27 HQ in Morwell. If you burn off during the FDP and we are called to attend, we must notify the Police and you should expect a visit from them. It is an offence to burn off without a permit during the FDP.
Whilst we have had a relatively quiet fire season to date locally, that certainly has not been the case for East Gippsland and around the country. So many communities impacted, such large areas burnt. For many of us in Boolarra, the recent events around the country may have brought back memories of our own difficult times in 2009. If this is the case for you, please seek assistance from any of the many support organisations (Lifeline, BeyondBlue and others) to support you.
In relation to the recent fires across the country, I am incredibly proud of the level of support Boolarra Fire Brigade has been able to provide in terms of crews into many of the affected areas. Commencing late last year, we had three people over two deployments go to New South Wales, and a number of other members who put their hands up if further deployments interstate were required. When the fires in East Gippsland commenced, we had a number of people on various Strike Teams into Buchan, Bruthen, Sarsfield, and Tambo Crossing. That was followed by crews deployed into Mallacoota (by Chinook helicopter, no less), Swift’s Creek, and Bendoc. Again, we had more members putting their hands up to go and work on Strike Teams as needed. We had members driving replacement crews to Staging Areas in East Gippsland and then returning home. Locally, we had members manning the Boolarra Station when the Hot Day Response was activated and members working in the Local Command Facility at Churchill on those same days. Our first Lieutenant, Simon, has been on multiple deployments across East Gippsland in his work with Parks Victoria. Throughout the summer, we have had members continually putting their daily lives on hold to step up and protect not just our community, but communities across two states. Our Brigade members are have put in an excellent effort to date and I greatly appreciate all they do.
Midway through this year, the Fire Services Reform will occur, creating a new organisation called Fire Rescue Victoria. This will be made up of CFA and MFB career firefighters who will provide a 24/7 response across Melbourne and the larger regional areas, including Morwell, Moe and Traralgon. CFA will become a fully volunteer organization. There is a lot of work underway behind the scenes to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible for both organisations. What is important for our community to know is that we will continue to do what we have always done to keep our community safe, and we will continue to work closely with career firefighters in Morwell, Moe and Traralgon – again, as we have always done. No doubt, there will be discussion and debate in the media – there usually is – but, at the end of the day, we are all focused on the same thing. Keeping communities safe.
On a lighter note, throughout December the Brigade delivered Santa to the Christmas celebrations of a number of community groups. It is always fun to see the faces of the kids light up when he arrives in the Big Red Truck. Of course, we conducted our annual Santa Lolly Run around Boolarra on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure who enjoys this more – the kids or our members! Many thanks to all members who commit to these during a busy time of year.
In the wider community, we were glad to be able to help the pub out by providing breakfast for the people who attended the Confusion Rally in January. It was great to chat to those who attended as we whipped up eggs and bacon, and to admire their bikes. So many who were at the Rally commented on our beautiful community and friendly people, and are planning to visit again. This is good for our town.
The annual Australia Day Breakfast hosted by Boolarra Community Development Group was well attended, as always, and we would like to express our thanks to them for ‘handing the bucket around’ for our Brigade. We would also like to thank all those who donated to the Brigade via bucket. BCDG indicated they would match the donations dollar for dollar and we greatly appreciate that generosity, especially as BCDG also support the Brigade through payment of the annual license fee for the BART app we use as a secondary support mechanism as we respond to incidents in our community. The donations will go towards the purchase of fire-ground equipment.
Once again, we were at the Boolarra Folk Festival, cooking up a storm of sausages and onion, and egg and bacon. This year was mad – we did not stop all day and had to do a couple of emergency ‘supply top-up’ runs. This is our major fundraiser each year and we also take the opportunity to provide further community education in relation to fire preparedness. As always, thank you to everyone who supported us this year. There certainly seemed to be a great crowd this year and the weather was perfect.
JUNIORS – Given the fire situation across Gippsland over the summer and into February, we decided that we would delay the start of our Junior Brigade until Term 2 this year. We currently have some vacancies so if you have a young person aged 13 – 16 who is interested in joining the Junior Brigade please contact Di Billingsley 0408173637. They meet every second Monday night (the one we don’t have senior training) from 7pm – 8.30pm. We focus on building leadership and teamwork skills as well as basic fire awareness skills. Any interested people are welcome to come along to see if it is something they would be interested in. Start dates will be posted on our Facebook page towards the end of March.