Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 2 2009 Contents 23
everal Defence employees
comprised part of the acT
Task force rotations to the
Victorian fires, either as
Rural fire service (Rfs) or
state emergency service
Volunteers Lieutenant Commander Lewis Gaha,
Benjamin Bryant and Eamon Parker participated in
the first two tanker crew rotations (three days each)
deployed on to the fire line at the Beechworth/
Myrtleford fire complex in north-east Victoria.
The teams were housed at Latrobe Uni
campus at Beechworth and ‘hot-bedded’ between
night and day shifts. The accommodation was
comfortable, even if it was part of an old asylum
for the insane.
The ACT Task Force worked in the Beechworth
area, covering the townships of Steel Creek and
Stanley, where it undertook a variety of activities
including blacking-out, back-burning, building/
consolidating containment lines, property
protection, chasing break-aways from the fire front
and township protection.
While there was the usual ‘hurry up and wait’
aspect, once deployed, the units rotated through
the work and there was plenty of activity for all the
The ACT crews worked with two CFA strike
teams, two NSW RFS strike teams, one NSW
Parks strike team and a variety of heavy plant,
under the control of divisional commanders who
were Victorian Department of Sustainability and
Environment (DSE) teams.
Unfortunately due to the thick smoke, aircraft
were not available to help attack the fire. The task
force worked extremely well, especially because
SES volunteers such as Vicki Munslow and Graeme
Billet provided great logistics, mechanical and
communications support. They were also supported
by the local community, Red Cross, Victorian SES
with the best fed and accommodated task force
they had ever been on.
RFS volunteers Lieutenant Colonel Paul
Murphy, David Neumann, David Horner, 2nd
Lieutenant Nicholas Gover, and LCDR Lewis Gaha,
as well as SES volunteer Don Roach, participated
in the third and fourth tanker crew rotations in
the Alexandra area, covering the townships of
Marysville, Cambarville and Tagerty where they
undertook similar fire and support activities.
Defence also supported RFS volunteers
Benjamin Bryant and James Brown as part of a
specialist Remote Area Firefighting Team (RAFT)
initially deployed to the Mitta Mitta Snowy Creek
Fire, 50km south of Tallagatta in Northern Victoria.
Although the RAFT worked for three hours
blacking out 30m into a bulldozer line on steep
terrain using hand tools, they redeployed to
Alexandra on short notice and filled an urgent crew
gap on DSE slip-on units at the Kilmore East –
Murrindindi Complex North Fire the following day.
They burnt out portions of the Big River Sector,
east of Marysville, consolidated the fire line and
partially prevented further progression into the
Melbourne water catchments.
The following day they were tasked to the
Rubicon Sector, east of Tagerty, hiked 1.5km up
to the fire line (500m rise in elevation from the
valley floor), cut a 700m rakehoe line from the
hydro pipeline to a river, felled concerning trees
and flaming stags, burnt back into the fire front and
hiked back out in order to protect a hydro power
station below. They directed a fixed wing aircraft
dropping fire retardant powder and two water-
bombing helicopters to assist fire suppression.
The Victorian emergency services greatly
appreciated the ACT deployment achievements,
which would not have been possible without
employers, including Defence, releasing volunteers
to respond to this state emergency.
Sadly, one member of the third rotation of the
ACT Task Force, Senior Firefighter Qualified David
Balfour of the ACT Fire Brigade, was tragically
killed when a tree fell on him. David is survived
by his wife and three children and remains in the
thoughts of all volunteers and the community.
All in the line of duty
By Benjamin Bryant
The Defence Coordination Centre
has been busy compiling Defence’s
contribution to the Bushfire Message
Book – a hard copy record of support
made up of thousands of pages from all
parts of Australia.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd invited
people to contribute to the Book as part
of his address on the National Day of
Mourning on Sunday 22 February.
“For those whose lives have been
forever changed by this tragedy, this will
stand as a lasting record of the nation’s
support and sympathy, and our resolve
to help them rebuild their lives and their
communities,” Mr Rudd said.
The book will be released in the
Bushfire Message Book
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