CFA volunteers and career staff from many communities including Bemm River, Briagolong, Lakes Entrance, Newry, Paynesville, Sale, Stratford, Tinamba, Traralgon, Yallourn and Yarram have worked hard to help their communities and support SES.
“Our crews worked tirelessly through the late hours of Monday 4 and into early Tuesday morning. There was some outstanding work done in Traralgon to assist residents out of flooded areas around Traralgon Creek and into the relief centre that was set up,” said District 10 Operations Manager Allan Rankin.
“Many of our crews went straight in to warn local residents directly. There was a lot of doorknocking work going on and it was quite effective.
“Our people are well versed in where the flood waters generally go in their communities and what precautions need to be taken. They were well prepared and we didn’t experience any significant issues, which is a credit to all involved.
“Local crews at Newry assisted their community with information as well as sandbagging. They kept a close watch on water levels and provided good information back, which was then forwarded up to the Incident Control Centre in Bairnsdale and greatly assisted with preparations.
“Brigades from the Avon group were also out sandbagging, monitoring local river heights, assisting where water was over the road and managing the traffic. They know the areas that are susceptible to flooding and were able to work well with the local SES unit. Their efforts were first class.
“In Tinamba the CFA crew was heavily involved in assisting with sandbagging the town, as they always are. While their current fire station took some water in the motor room the new station didn’t get wet which was a great relief.
“It really confirmed that the new station is built on the highest spot around and is flood-proof, for this event anyway, so it will be good when the brigade relocates in the next few weeks.”
Tinamba First Lieutenant Chris Speedie first got the call-up at 11pm on Monday night and it wasn’t long before he was out doorknocking homes with Captain Mark Whitehurst from Newry brigade.
“Things are looking good now. The water level was probably around an inch lower than the big flood in 2007. We’ve never seen clean floodwater like this, which makes the tidy up a lot easier − usually you end up with a heap of mud,” Chris said.
Five or six houses were affected by the floods in Tinamba – Chris’s was one of them.
“My house flooded while I was out helping everyone else. It wasn’t too bad though. It came in the back and squished up through the floor boards a little bit.
“Everyone on the ground worked really well. The local council did an excellent job once the Municipal Emergency Coordination Centre got up and running and anything we needed was done straight away.
“We had crews come in from Heyfield, Glenmaggie, Cowwarr, Seeton and Coongulla to help clean up and they did a really good job. Tinamba and Newry always work really well together – they’re quick to step in and give each other a hand.”
At the time of writing the Tinamba brigade, as well as many others, were preparing for further incidents and managing their fatigue. Chris had only managed to get five and a half hours sleep over four days.
“We’ve got a few members away working and we’re at the point where a lot of the older people aren’t able to do as much now. We had a debrief with SES last night and have changed the way we run things.
“Instead of two or three people looking after whole incidents we’ll make sure we can get extra people – and cutdown to 12-hour shifts through the day or night so we can all get more sleep.”
According to Operations Manager Allan Rankin there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“The recovery effort and activity will continue for some time – for some communities it will take longer than others. Fences and some farm infrastructure will need to be rebuilt and there’s productive farmland that needs to be assessed and rehabilitated. Things aren’t back to normal yet.
“While flood isn’t something we’ve spent a lot of time training our people for in Gippsland, CFA crews yet again rose to the challenge of being able to support their communities and SES in another time of need.”