By Claire Ottaviano
A COOL head and calm demeanour got volunteers managing communications and crews out in the field during the Wooroloo bushfire through the toughest conditions the Perth Hills had ever seen.
While bushfire brigade firefighters were on the frontline protecting lives and property, another group of volunteers operating Mundaring’s Incident Control Vehicle (ICV) were behind them, playing an essential role in the management of the fire and the crews’ safety.
Equipped with radios, the ICV is the main link with firefighters on the ground, and also the link with the State Operations Centre which dispatches fire trucks and other resources to fight the fire.
Darling Range Bush Fire Brigade captain Rod Reed said the decision to call-out the ICV to help manage any bushfire is always a judgement call depending on the conditions.
“With the Wooroloo fire on February 1, as soon as we heard it was a grass fire, given the conditions, I called to turn-out the ICV,” he said.
“We knew it was going to be bad with that kind of wind and as dry as it was.
“The metrics that came out of it, the heat and wind intensity were the kind of things we heard about over east in the 2019 Black Summer of Bushfires, they’re the kind of fires you cannot fight.”
Under immense pressure the team manning the vehicle use computer systems to display the location of every vehicle on the fire ground and a mapping system displaying the fire shape.
“Those first two days were critical, and I was really pleased with how our people responded,” Mr Reed said.
“It’s frantic and you’ve got to own it because you have to get the messages right, people’s lives are at risk.
“That’s probably the most difficult part of the job, maintaining calm and control.
“At times there was a lot of pressure, we had a vehicle burn-over, we were losing fire hoses, we knew animals were dying, that was all going on, but you wouldn’t let that affect your performance.
“All the things we train for as one-offs, so you’re not surprised were all happening.”
In the first seven days of the fire, which remained an active fire ground for more than a month, 26 ICV volunteers worked 825 hours across 21 shifts.
The brigade is always looking for more volunteers with a wide range of skill sets.
The ICV provides an opportunity for volunteers to contribute who are unable to be directly involved in frontline firefighting.
Those interested can call 0439 578 443 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Governor-General visits Perth Hills
AUSTRALIA’S Governor-General David Hurley delivered a message from the Queen to the February 1 bushfire impacted communities of Wooroloo and Gidgegannup last month.
The Governor-General toured the City of Swan’s Gidgegannup community on April 20 and the Shire of Mundaring’s Wooroloo community on April 21 and met with local residents and volunteer firefighters as well as organisations helping with recovery efforts including the Country Women’s Association, Red Cross, BlazeAid, and Disaster Relief Australia.
Passing on a message from his recent conversation with Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor-General told those present, “she thinks of you and hopes your recovery runs smoothly”.
“I can’t put myself in your shoes,” he said.
“But all I can say is, we are here for you, both in an emotional sense and a community sense.
“And certainly the assets of the nation [are available] to assist people to get through in these difficult times.”
He paid special acknowledgement to volunteer bush firefighters.
“The country could not be where it is today without your support and the hard work you have done,” he said.
“To the thousands of people who have travelled back and forth across the country helping each other out in different states, our heartfelt thanks.”
Shire president John Daw extended gratitude to the Governor-General and Her Excellency Mrs Hurley for showing support and empathy and standing alongside the community.
“In the midst of such trauma and loss, the very best of people often shines through,” he said.
Cr Daw thanked community members – whose homes, properties, businesses and livelihoods were destroyed or impacted – for attending to share their stories.
City of Swan mayor Kevin Bailey said it was a pleasure to host the honoured guests.
“A highlight of the visit was Mrs Hurley leading a sing-along version of ‘you are my sunshine,’ which is a staple she uses to boost morale,” he said.
“Their Excellencies also presented keepsakes to volunteers and residents in recognition of their strength and gallant efforts in helping to rebuild their community.”