Volunteers from our neighbours, Allans Flat, Kiewa, Bonegilla, Wodonga, Wodonga West and Wodonga Headquarters brigades, as well as District 24 Operations Officer Mark Owens, supported Baranduda volunteers to burn approximately 1.7 km of heavily treed, very dry, high fuel load roadside.
This was the first of 10 areas targeted for fuel reduction burns for the bushland and grasslands that surround the built-up area of Baranduda on a five to ten year rotation. The primary aim of the program is to reduce the fuel load to increase the chance of defending Baranduda and its residents against bushfire attack.
Following a briefing in the familiar SMEACS format, and final crew assignments, the burn started at 6.45am in almost perfect weather conditions – the temperature was around 21oC, relative humidity was 70% and there was no wind.
Overall the burn was a great success, with 1.7 km of the planned 1.8 km section completed and completed very well. In the end, only the weather stopped us when the temperature reached our prescribed limit.
We were extremely well resourced thanks to the support of our neighbouring brigades, with 6 tankers, 5 slip-on units, an FOV and an FCV – it’s a good list that was kept well occupied for the duration. Resources included:
- Baranduda tanker
- Kiewa tanker
- Allans Flat tanker
- Bonegilla tanker
- Wodonga pumper-tanker
- Wodonga West concept tanker
- Baranduda slip-on
- Kiewa slip-on
- Allans Flat slip-on
- Two private slip-on units from Baranduda
- Wodonga FOV
- Wodonga Group FCV
Geographically, the burn area was split into 4 sectors of approximately equal length of 400 to 500m, with most of the burn area between 10 to 20m wide. Resources were split between 2 Task Forces, each having 3 tankers, 2 slip-ons, an ignition crew and a rotating rake-hoe crew. The Group FCV was used as the command vehicle with the FOV providing communications and weather forecast support. Each Task Force was run independently, with each having responsibility for preparation, ignition, extinguishing, blackout and monitoring of their assigned sector.
Baranduda Captain (Paul Allwood) and Baranduda 1st and 2nd Lieutenants (Mark Goldsworthy and Pat Barnes) took on the Incident Controller and Task Force Leader roles with fantastic support, mentoring and training provided by more experienced Group volunteers Alex Todd (Wodonga 1st Lieutenant) and Phil Browne (Bonegilla 1st Lieutenant and Wodonga Group DGO) and District 24 Operations Officer Mark Owens. To have this experienced back-up, in addition to the huge amount of experience on the crews, was a bonus that we at Baranduda appreciated greatly.
In addition to a wet line along edges of the burn area where required, a major key to the success of the burn was the preparation put in by our rake-hoe crews on each Task Force - they worked tirelessly to be 50 to 100m ahead of the fire, clearing a 300mm ring around the base of all trees. This allowed three fire-lighters to work together, one lighting around the trees, closely followed by one on each side lighting the edges – the result was a very clean burn with almost no bark ignition through the entire area- a terrific result considering the large number of trees through the 1.7 km that was burnt. This work ensured that extinguishing, blacking out and patrolling was as easy as possible on both people and water.
While we would have preferred to achieve some bark reduction on some of the trees to further enhance the value of the burn, weather conditions and timing made this impractical. The removal of 20 plus years of ground fuels was the primary focus, to minimise the potential for ignitions from the roadway. Further work to reduce the bark fuel load is planned for a time when weather conditions are more suitable.
As blacking out operations drew to a close, crews were progressively rotated back through Baranduda Fire Station for a well-earned BBQ lunch, prior to being released to return to their own stations by around 2pm.
Finally, you can drive alongside the burnt area today and easily see the fantastic result - what you cannot see is the enormous amount of work that was put in behind the scenes over an 18-month period by Hume Region Vegetation Management Officer Phil Browne. Phil looked after the negotiations with Vicroads, DSE and City of Wodonga to arrange the necessary inspections, permits, traffic management and the formal planning documentation that were all required to enable the burn to proceed. This is most definitely something that many of us busy volunteers have struggled with over the past several years as the “red tape” to be negotiated has appeared to increase significantly.
A few before, during and after photos are attached below. Thanks to our photographers, Maddie Arnold & Phil Browne (Hume Region).
PS: One small item that was also appreciated was the 28mm of rain that fell overnight after the burn – if we work out a way of getting this into the plan before the burn we will let you know.