As I write this month’s column, large sections of the state are dealing with flooding after the severe storms two weeks ago.
The severity of the resultant flooding through the Port Phillip, Loddon Mallee and Hume regions has seen the State Control Centre and a number of Incident Management Teams stood up.
I have been working in the State Control Centre as Chief Fire Officer and a State Response Controller and have seen first-hand how our Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) personnel and members of all our partner agencies have worked tirelessly to help communities.
At times like these, it is often necessary to think outside the box to come up with solutions to situations not encountered before. The setting up of the Bendigo Emergency Relief Centre Base Camp (pictured below) was one such solution - to provide emergency accommodation - for which FFMVic can be immensely proud.
It has been a wonder of logistical management by all involved. In under 12 hours, our base camp, usually home to firefighters during campaign bushfires, was transported from our Altona depot and set up inside the pavilion at the Bendigo Showgrounds. It meant the first flood-affected residents from Rochester and surrounding areas had a safe place to sleep when they evacuated.
As well as tents, beds and bedding to sleep in, amenities provided included showers, a laundry service, three play areas for the young ones, a kitchen that prepared three meals and snacks a day for everyone, and areas for all kinds of pets including two horses, a lizard, a bird, six cats and 11 dogs at one point!
Our crews have spent days alongside our multi-agency partners Victorian State Emergency Services (VICSES), Country Fire Authority (CFA), Victoria Police and Australia Defence Force to fill more than 200,000 sandbags and build a 3km levee in Echuca to bolster protection about the township.
It has been humbling to hear and read the community’s appreciation of all the help provided by all the emergency and support agencies.
Keeping Victorians safe is the highest priority for FFMVic and we will continue to work closely with the VICSES, CFA, FRV, Victoria Police and other agencies when the need arises.
As a result of the floods, many of our state forest vehicle, bike, walking tracks and recreation sites may be temporarily closed or partially closed with access restrictions. Our crews are currently assessing what damage has been done and repairs will start as soon as it is safe to do so. To keep up to date with information about forest, track and road closures, visit https://ffm.vic.gov.au/forest-and-road-closures
I encourage you to take care and only travel to any of the affected areas if it is absolutely necessary. And definitely don’t drive through flood waters!
Chief Fire Officer
FFMVic crews deployed to Shepparton October 2022
Image: The onsite laundry manned by FFMVic crew.
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