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MFB response to Black Saturday

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11 Feb 2009
The unprecedented severe fire weather on Saturday 7 February 2009 resulted in significant wildfires across Victoria. Lightning strikes late Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning contributed to the devastation.

Prime Minister Rudd visited Yea this morning and is seen here thanking MFB firefighters for their efforts. Pictures: Ian Hunter 2009

The fires resulted in a significant loss of life and assets across the state. Details from each fire are still to be confirmed, however the total area burnt on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 February is in excess of 340,000 ha.

The total loss of life is now confirmed at more than 100 people, a number which is, sadly, expected to rise. At this stage more than 750 houses have been confirmed lost, with more losses expected as access to the affected areas returns.

Role of MFB in current crisis

Unfortunately the tragedy continues, with fires still burning and the difficult task of recovery and identifying the true extent of the losses is now being undertaken.

From today the role of the MFB will now be focused on recovery. We are moving from supporting the CFA and DSE with firefighting resources to recovery; with our teams completing Rapid Impact Assessments and Fire Investigation and Analysis at various affected areas.

While we are focused on helping with the recovery effort in every way we can, we will continue to focus on servicing the Metropolitan Fire District which is our prime responsibility.

Firefighters from the MFB have played an important role in the current crisis, sending strike teams to bushfire ravaged areas to assist the CFA and DSE, and providing back up crews to CFA stations.

The total number of MFB incidents in the Metropolitan Fire District (MFD) on Saturday totalled 433 - an extremely high number.

There was an increase in non-structure fires and incidents, attributed to a higher number of grass and scrub fires, due to strong winds knocking down trees and power lines. MFB crews managed to prevent any fires in the MFD from becoming major.

We also have five MFB trucks that will remain stationed at CFA stations (acting as back ups) in Dandenong, Frankston, Hallam, Springvale and Patterson River.

As the workload decreased in the MFD with the passing of the cool change on Saturday night, additional resources were made available to the CFA.

Summary (As at Monday 9 February 2009)
The bushfires are not yet over. With a large number of fires still active, MFB resources will continue to be utilised and stretched (most likely for the coming week) to continue assisting our CFA and DSE colleagues where possible.

We will continue to provide back up for CFA stations, send strike teams and rapid impact assessment teams as required and assist with Disaster Victim Identification.

MFB Strike teams

Saturday

Two strike teams, consisting of five trucks each, were sent to the Drouin and Kilmore areas on Saturday to help with the firefighting effort.

A smaller strike team, consisting of two trucks was sent to Kangaroo Ground on escort duties.

Sunday

On Sunday, four strike teams were sent to:

Kinglake, Yea, Loy Yang power station in Traralgon and Whittlesea (five trucks per team). While the smaller strike team at Kangaroo Ground returned from the previous day.

Monday

There are MFB strike teams assisting the CFA in the following areas:

  • One strike team in Yea (they may be redirected to Marysville for rapid impact assessment duties)
  • One strike team in Whittlesea.

Fire Investigation Analysis strike teams, consisting of three vehicles and eight people were deployed on Monday to different locations to help determine the causes of the fires.

Tuesday

  • 1 x strike team in Healesville (5 appliances)
  • 1 x strike team was in Whittlesea area (5 appliances), now re-located to Black Spur
  • 2 x MFB officers conducting Fire Investigation & Analysis with Victoria Police forensic chemists in Marysville
  • 6 x MFB officers (3 teams) conducting Rapid Impact Assessment in Kilmore
  • 10 x MFB officers Urban Search and Rescue working with Victoria Police DVI
  • Step ups to CFA stations concluded last night (Monday) 18.00.

Rapid Impact Assessment team deployment

Three rapid impact assessment teams (six MFB officers) were sent to scenes following a request from the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner (OESC) on Sunday morning. Officers were recalled (they were off duty) and left shortly after lunch.

The MFB is assisting the OESC with a pilot program initiated by the state government called - Rapid Impact Assessment. Officers are sent out into the field once the emergency dangers have passed to gather information and verify what community assets and property have been damaged and to what extent. They may also be involved in assisting Police with the task of Disaster Victim Identification (DVI).

MFB officers then relay this information back to the OESC coordinator, and will be used to identify the needs for communities, so recovery and relief agencies can act promptly with immediate and financial support.

We are expecting the number of Rapid Impact Assessment teams deployed to grow throughout this week.

Support / counselling

The current bushfire crisis has impacted not only those directly affected, but family and friends across the state or in metropolitan Melbourne as well.

If you’re providing support for loved ones or are impacted by this tragedy, please see advice provided by DHS on how to cope with the stress of bushfires: http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/emergency/current-events/bushfire/looking-after-yourself

Reference points

To keep yourself informed, find loved ones or to make donations:

  • ABC 774 radio – Listen for updated weather and fire news in local areas across Victoria
  • Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) - 1800 240 667 (general bushfire information and safety messages)
  • CFA website – For details on fires in CFA areas www.cfa.vic.gov.au
  • Victorian Bushfire Emergency Appeal – 1800 811 700 (financial donations only)
  • Salvation Army – 13 725 867 (goods, clothing, food donations)
  • Australian Red Cross – 1800 727 077 (if you would like to find out about family and friends in affected areas)
  • Emergency Management - Coping with Stress Website: http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/emergency/current-events/bushfire/looking-after-yourself

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