And as 33 sector commanders discovered at a training day on 19 April, the job becomes harder when you factor in the steep slopes and environmental challenges presented by an alpine environment.
The training at Mirimbah at the base of Mt Buller focused on the safe and efficient use of plant machinery such as graders and dozers.
Corey Payne and Ben Kipping – both specialists from Mansfield company Alpine Civil – led the group through various exercises designed to update and hone the skills of already experienced participants.
Andrew Payne-Croston, a senior training adviser who facilitated the course, said CFA was fortunate to be able to draw on their experience.
“These guys are experienced operators on the fireground and used to dealing with this environment.
“I’ve seen people from out of the area come in and say, ‘you can’t take a dozer down that hill’. And nine times out of 10 these local guys will turn around and say that it is actually possible,” said Andrew.
The sector commanders who participated in the training are upper level volunteers with an average of 20 years’ experience at CFA, having worked their way up through the volunteer ranks.
“In my view this is one of the most important field positions at a major job. They are a key lynchpin who oversee up to five strike teams in a sector while keeping up the flow of information back to Operations,” he said.
“I’d describe them as the “thinkers and managers, of the volunteer ranks”, said Andrew.
“As well as looking after their troops they are responsible for the community and what action to take if lives or properties were under threat.
“The Sector Commanders we had on the Alpine course have an average of 20 years in CFA as volunteers, and have worked their way up through the system.
“This course was part of our ongoing skills maintenance program, especially now that we’ve had a few quiet seasons it is even more important to make our training sharp, challenging, motivating snapshots.
“We also took them through a challenge scenario where they had to protect an isolated high risk community, a sawmill settlement with many non-permanent residents and no local CFA.”
Photos by Andrew Payne-Croston.