This was followed up on 9 November by a pre-season briefing in Kyneton for all interested members. The proceedings were interrupted by a thunderous storm that required some members to beat a hasty retreat to their fire trucks for emergency response.
Kyneton Group Officer John Pearce attended both events and also coordinated the storm response. He met up with about 40 other crew leaders and future leaders in Castlemaine to board the bus for a Sunday drive.
“We looked at the season ahead,” says John, “but it was also a time to talk about tactics. We started off with what you could call theory and then headed out to the bush to look at old fires. The discussion was around the fuels and the tactics.
“The fire under consideration was the 1985 fire that started in Avoca and burned past Maryborough to Carisbrook. I was involved in that fire myself. It was Robert Ipsen’s first fire as a group officer and he did a presentation on it.”
The group looked at the eucalypt scrub with grassland southwest of Maryborough. DSE had completed a planned burn in some of the bushland, giving members the chance to see the types of vegetation and grow-back along with the degree of curing.
“The bush wasn’t as dense as the Macedon Ranges,” continues John. “It’s totally different to what I’m used to. It showed me that we’re cosy back in Kyneton where it’s all green. That doesn’t mean we won’t be called next week to support a brigade where the vegetation is ready to burn.
“As Group Officer, I’m saying, ‘Be ready!’”
A highlight of the tour was a presentation at Carisbrook Fire Station by their Captain Ian Boucher. He talked about the town’s flood emergency earlier this year with many brigade members still dealing with the destruction.
“Ian had a chance to talk about the good things,” says John. “I think Mark [Gilmore] wanted the crew leaders to see Mission Command in action. The floods rose quickly and there wasn’t always comms available. We heard about ways the brigade showed initiative. People had to make their own decisions and not wait for instructions from on high.”
Kyneton pre-season briefing
Approximately 140 members turned up to the information night in Kyneton. Regional Commander Mike Wassing and Operations Manager Mark Gilmore raised their voices to be heard over the storm.
Areas covered included a review of last year, priorities for this season, how Incident Controllers should act, incident naming, transfer of control, setting incident objectives, joint standard operating procedures, information flow during incidents, issuing of warnings and Neighbourhood Safer Places.
Another significant theme was alternative grassfire tactics: if you can attack the head of the fire from the black, then do it!
“One strange thing,” says John, “was that, I had to issue a red flag warning of our own to everyone in attendance. Powerlines were down right outside our venue in the path of the carpark exit.
“Three brigades from Kyneton Group were called out and stayed out until midnight. I retreated to set up the Group headquarter. We took our brigades off VicFire and did our communications back through Kyneton Group. It took a lot of pressure off VicFire.”
And the final word on the two pre-season briefings? “There was an emphasis placed on leadership and the permission to act,” says John. “It’s important that people don’t stand back if they’ve got an action to take and can’t communicate up the line.”