The agenda items for the roundtable all focused on the January fires. DEPI, CFA, Parks and Local government perspectives were all discussed.
January 15 was the 3rd day of temperatures above 400 C and thunderstorms had been predicted so all available crews and plant were in full readiness to deal with fires from lightening strikes. The thunderstorms started in the late afternoon. Predictions for 16th were for extreme weather conditions and although 10 aircraft and the aircrane were attacking several fires by 10 am in the morning, they were not having a great impact because of the already extreme weather conditions. Two fires in the southern Grampians and one of the northern fires were put out by ground crews but a couple of the northern ones in more remote locations were unable to be put out and it was unsafe to drop crews in to fight them. Fires in the Mallee and other areas across the state meant that limited resources were available to help us. The two northern fires joined up and rapidly spread. With Friday 17th predicted to be close to a code red day and the Phoenix model showing the fire could reach Halls Gap by Friday night, Parks staff spent Thursday visiting camp grounds to evacuate people and Halls Gap people were advised to evacuate. Fortunately the wind change predicted for Friday came early and the fire did not reach Halls Gap. Weather conditions over the weekend eased and a lot of back burning and work was done to contain the fire by the 20th. It took several weeks for crews to mop up and declare the fire out, in this time we had more severe fire warning days and events which brought crowds to Halls Gap, causing worrying times for fire managers.
Dave Roberts outlined the asset losses and recovery plans as described in the Advisory Group article. Some key points Graeme Parkes mentioned in his summing up of our meeting were:-
- Landscape fires seem to becoming a common occurrence
The importance of local knowledge and community centres e.g Brimpaen
Collaboration between organisations has become stronger but there is always room for improvement
Need for collaboration between public and private landholders on fuel management.
3 major fire events in past 8 years is it something that is changing or do we need to change.