Fire season on region’s doorstep

PREPEARED: Mil Lel Country Fire Service brigade third lieutenant Kerry McCombe will be among many volunteers ready for this year's fire season which begins in the Lower South East district on December 1. Picture: MOLLY TAYLOR

By Molly Taylor

A SENIOR Country Fire Service officer has urged the Limestone Coast community to act fast and ensure they are prepared for this year’s fire danger season – which starts December 1 – following last year’s devastating bushfires across the nation.

With the mercury forecast to climb into the mid-30s today, CFS regional commander John Probert has urged the region’s residents to update their bushfire plans and check all maintained equipment to prepare for the unknown.

The Upper South East fire danger season started on November 15 with the Lower South East officially launching December 1, but Mr Probert said CFS service volunteers were already doing everything the could to make sure they were prepared.

“All our crews are prepared and ready. We have undertaken maintenance drills and all our fire trucks have been serviced to be ready to get on the road,“ he said.

“Now we are looking at the community to make sure they are prepared, which includes making sure they have their bushfire action plans written and practiced, have identified where they should go if there was to be a catastrophic day and that they have their properties cleaned up ready for the fire season.

“I think last fire season was a wake up call for people, it was the worst year we have ever had.“

Mr Probert put the onus on the community to play its role in preparing for a bushfire event.

“It is not only about the fire services being ready, but as a whole community, we need to take ownership of it. Communities need to work together to increase their resilience,“ he said.

“People should be making sure their water supplies and pumps are working, have removed all the firewood from the side of the house, their properties are cleared up and any fires which they may be burning are well and truly out ahead of the day.

“People shouldn’t be attempting any activities which may pose a risk to the greater community, for example, lighting up fires or going out into the paddock slashing on days where if a fire starts, we are going to have difficulty controlling it.“

Mr Probert said strike teams had already been sent out to fight fires just north of Mount Gambier in recent weeks and were already out on the ground this year.

“I would also assume in the Upper South East earlier specifically, farm fire units are also being organised to assist CFS crews as well,“ he said.

“The outlook for this year is average, but last year was horrendous,“ he said.

“We are very hopeful we won’t have a year like last year, but all we need is a few hot days in a row and a day with a hot strong northerly wind and we can have another Ash Wednesday.

“Even though they are still calling the expected fire season average, we could still have very large fires across the landscape and people need to be quite aware of that.“

Although crews were prepared as possible, Mr Probert said there was a demand for more volunteers, especially in the region’s coastal communities.

“One thing people do need to understand is you do not need to be six-foot-tall and two axe handles across the shoulders to be fire fighter,“ he said.

“Everybody can play their part, it is certainly not gender specific either.“

Mr Probert encouraged residents to consider becoming a volunteer with more information available by contacting the regional office on 8762 7100.