Fire dan­ger warning

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Patrick Tansey

A re­cent road­side fire in Koonoomoo has left the Co­bram Fire Bri­gade with plenty to pon­der head­ing into what is ex­pected to be a long and po­ten­tially treach­er­ous fire sea­son.

‘‘It was very in­ter­est­ing to see how quickly it was burn­ing. It’s left us a bit wor­ried this year,’’ Co­bram Fire Bri­gade cap­tain Adrian Hilder said.

‘‘When we got there we were re­ally sur­prised how well it was burn­ing, so that’s given us an in­di­ca­tion that there is a fair bit of fuel load­ing in the area from pre­vi­ous years.’’

Mr Hilder said wit­ness­ing the blaze had re­in­forced to him how im­por­tant it was that res­i­dents did the right thing when it came to fire safety this fire sea­son.

‘‘This up­com­ing fire sea­son we are re­ally drum­ming on for peo­ple here to do the right thing again,’’ he said.

‘‘Last year’s fire sea­son was pretty good, peo­ple did what they are sup­posed to do in terms of fol­low­ing the cor­rect pro­ce­dures when burn­ing off. It was more af­ter the fire sea­son peo­ple be­came a bit more neg­li­gent.’’

Mr Hilder said that while the bri­gade hated see­ing it hap­pen, res­i­dents could be charged un­der the Sum­mary Of­fences Act any time of the year if found to be neg­li­gent with fire safety.

He said po­lice would take a zero tol­er­ance view when it came to burn­ing off with­out a per­mit.

While the Co­bram re­gion has made it through the past two fire sea­sons rel­a­tively un­scathed, cur­rent con­di­tions sug­gest this fire sea­son could be an en­tirely dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion for fire crews.

‘‘Ev­ery­one knows we’ve had very lit­tle rain and that it is very dry, which has us a lit­tle wor­ried,’’ Mr Hilder said.

The loom­ing fire sea­son is pre­dicted to start up to six weeks ear­lier than ex­pected, but Mr Hilder be­lieves the way con­di­tions are trending sug­gests the fire sea­son is al­ready upon us.

‘‘I be­lieve it’s start­ing now,’’ he said.

‘‘The warmer days, the wind, and just with the growth and dry­ness of the grass at the mo­ment means it’s not very far away at all.’’

Mr Hilder said af­ter look­ing at long-range fore­casts and see­ing no de­cent rain­fall, com­bined with the pre­dic­tion of a hot and dry sum­mer, the fire sea­son would most likely be longer than usual.

He en­cour­aged res­i­dents to start pre­par­ing early.

That in­cludes clean­ing up their premises, wa­ter­ing the grass around the ar­eas they may be guttering and prun­ing trees.

‘‘One thing we re­ally want to get out there this year is the size of our fire trucks. We need to be able to get in your gate­way,’’ Mr Hilder said.

He said it was also im­per­a­tive that peo­ple reg­u­larly check the fire dan­ger rat­ing each day.

‘‘A lot of our fires ac­tu­ally start on days that aren’t To­tal Fire Bans be­cause peo­ple seem to be more re­laxed com­pared to when it is a To­tal Fire Ban day,’’ he said.

The Co­bram bri­gade has been busy try­ing to re­main one step ahead of the game and will ramp up fire prepa­ra­tions in the com­ing weeks.

‘‘Within the next two weeks there’s go­ing to be a few of us here at the bri­gade that will be go­ing out to dif­fer­ent places across the Co­bram area to do some fuel load­ings and cal­cu­late for­ward rate of spread so if we do get a fire, we’ve got an idea of what to ex­pect,’’ Mr Hilder said.

‘‘It will help us work out the ton­nage of grass that’s there and it will give us an in­di­ca­tion of how far it will travel, how fast, and then you bal­ance those things against a bit of wind and things like that.’’

This year the bri­gade will be work­ing closely with For­rest Fire Man­age­ment Vic­to­ria as well as all the other emergency ser­vices which helps cre­ate a safer com­mu­nity.

The Co­bram bri­gade has about 17 ac­tive mem­bers and Mr Hilder would love to see that num­ber rise.

‘‘We are re­ally on the look­out for any­one in the com­mu­nity that wants to come and join us. We want some ded­i­cated peo­ple to come along,’’ he said.

‘‘There are many roles. You don’t have to go to cer­tain fires if you don’t want to be­cause at the end of the day we are just vol­un­teers here.’’

He said vol­un­teer­ing pre­sented many ben­e­fits.

‘‘It’s great be­cause you get to meet some fan­tas­tic peo­ple from all over Vic­to­ria and in­ter­state and you get to do some fan­tas­tic things and pick up life skills that will also help you in the work­force,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a good fam­ily-ori­ented bri­gade here.’’

❝Ev­ery­one knows we’ve had very lit­tle rain and that it is very dry, which has us a lit­tle wor­ried.❞ Co­bram Fire Bri­gade cap­tain Adrian Hilder

Busy times ahead: Co­bram Fire Bri­gade cap­tain Adrian Hilder is gear­ing up for a po­ten­tially treach­er­ous fire sea­son due to ex­tremely dry con­di­tions.

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