“CFA will play an increasingly important role as the flood moves from response to recovery,” he said.
“This visit was to see how our people - especially those personally impacted on by the flood - were coping and thank them for the hard work they have put in so far.
“There is still much to be done and we wanted to see first hand how the clean-up effort was going and how CFA was helping.
“The overwhelming thing we took away was that CFA plays an incredibly important role in local communities and that our people do great work even when faced with personal hardships.
“A number of CFA members told me they felt they were not being utilized enough and wanted to help more. This frustration is understandable and I hope and expect we will provide more help over the comings day and weeks. That said, many locals told us that the CFA was playing an important role and lifting moral simply by being there.”
Leaving Essendon Airport at 7am, the CO first arrived in Bendigo when he traveled to Huntly to inspect the operational base camp that can house over 100 emergency service people (mostly CFA) assisting with the flood effort. Work on setting up the impressive operation started on Thursday and was completed by Friday.
After that, there was a stop at the Regional Recovery Support Unit in
At the small, low-laying town of
Captain Ian Boucher showed where the water reached at the CFA station with a brown mud mark showing the height.
The CFA presence around town at Charlton was strong with appliances from a number of regions seen in the streets. The CO was taken to the local station – built in 1931 – that also suffered serious damage from above floor water and had lunch with local members.
He was told of the town experiencing the third flood in as many months and of three members’ cars being damaged after parking at the station. He was able to provide advice about insurance and how CFA can provide support.
“It is clear that a number of Charlton members, including some of their youngest and oldest members, have been very brave and gone above and beyond to help their community,” he said.
“It is also true that some members have been hit hard by these floodwaters with houses and businesses severely damaged and we are working through this together.
“It will be important for them – and all CFA people involved in this emergency response – to hold a full debrief and discuss the good and bad of what has gone on in the past week or so and how to move forward.”
The CO was later taken to inspect the Kerang power station which was an example of the incredible work of CFA members – with other emergency service people – to build a levy and protect local community assets.
“Kerang is pretty much an
The CO also visited the Divisional Command Centre which had been set-up at the local CFA station and the Recovery Centre at the
“It is only from the air that you really get an understanding of the amount of water that has hit Victorian towns like Kerang,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Some properties outside of Kerang are still cut-off and could remain so for days. I will be asking CFA brigades to visit these people and help with the clean-up as soon as possible.”
The fifth and final stop of the day was a well-attended event at the Rochester CFA station (which was also damaged by floodwater).
Speaking to the gathering, the CO praised the work of the local Captain and other brigade members, some of whom told how they have lost everything. He was told of operational concerns during the floods and offered ideas on areas to improve. He also met the young couple who postponed their wedding to help their town recover from the floods.
Mr Ferguson said there are currently 12 CFA strike teams and nine CFA Recovery Assessment teams working in the Loddon Mallee Region from Charleton to Donald and as far north as Kerang.
In and around Swanhill, CFA has been providing support to the joint flood response. This includes providing support at a Municipal Emergency Coordination Centre and Divisional Command level and also through coordination of volunteers and strike teams to assist with preparations and then response.
Across the Grampians and Barwon SouthWest in areas including Alansford, Glenorchy, Horsham, Dimboola, Creswick, Skipton, Dadswells Bridge, Halls Gap, Wytcliffe, Warracknabeal, Beulah and Jeparit local brigades have been leading the clean-up in their areas, supported by surrounding brigades. They are working with Local Government to finalise the clean-up in more rural parts of those areas.
Mr Ferguson thanks all brigade captains and members for their on-going leadership and support.
CFA’S ROLE IN THE RECOVERY EFFORT
Local government is taking a leading role in recovery operations in flood-affected parts of
The Australian Defence Force will be providing Rapid Impact Assessments in flood-affected areas and resources will then be allocated as required.
CFA has been given responsibility to lead the response agencies in the clean-up effort in flood-affected areas. This will include CFA and DSE. MFB staff may also be utilised.
- Up to 250 fire-fighters plus appliances may be called upon. Regions will be asked to provide resources.
- Volunteers will provide the bulk of the resourcing. Some CFA career staff will also be used.
- Guidelines have been put in place that allow for non-CFA volunteers to work with CFA crews using CFA hoses and hand-tools. The CFA Act allows for us to recognise these non-CFA volunteers as “casual volunteers” so they are covered by compensation.
- CFA has developed a support structure for people out in the field. This includes provision of base camp facilities with food, water and welfare support at staging areas. Two staging areas have been set up (including the Huntly training ground) and other sites may be established closer to flood-affected areas.