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Asset protection for forest brigade

Protecting life is paramount for any firefighter and so it is for the blue overall-clad firies who turn out on the white trucks for Benalla-based HVP Plantations.

CATHY WALKER December 17, 2013 4:06am

District forester, David Horsburgh.


Protecting life is paramount for any firefighter and so it is for the blue overall-clad firies who turn out on the white trucks for Benalla-based HVP Plantations.

But as HVP Plantations district forester David Horsburgh said during a combined exercise last week with DEPI, Parks Victoria and CFA at Broken Creek, he and his colleagues had an even bigger vested interest: to protect the 24000ha of trees that paid their wages.

‘‘It’s a huge thing for us and we spend a lot of money every year,’’ Mr Horsburgh said.

He said while co-operation and interaction during fire events between the yellow, green and blue uniforms was excellent, the HVP Plantation firefighters and strategists ‘‘make our decisions for the best of our assets’’.

 

‘‘Depending on what and where the fire event is, we have different roles. For example at the Barjarg fire we went (into) the hard (terrain) areas of the fires,’’ Mr Horsburgh said.

HVP Plantations crews are part of CFA and registered as Forest Industry Brigades. At Benalla there are five fire-season members for four months during fire season as well as three full-timers who man the company’s own tankers and slip-ons.

Like some of the state-of-the-art equipment CFA demonstrated at Benalla, the HVP tankers have burn-over protection with a rear tank of water Mr Horsburgh said was generally reserved for saving the teams’ own lives if it came to that.

Personally he said his worst experience was in 2003 at Buffalo when the team he was with was trapped, surrounded by fire.

‘‘It was 37 hours before they could fly us out,’’ he said, recalling the helicopter ride as the only positive part of the incident.

Mr Horsburgh has progressed to his present job — as, he said, had many of his colleagues — working with the former DSE, then Victorian Plantation Co to the fully privately owned HVP Plantations.

Locally it has plantations at Warrenbayne, Strathewen and Toombullup (near Tatong) but, Mr Horsburgh said, was one of Australia’s biggest softwood companies.

He said the company was very much a part of the communities it which it grew trees, both as an employer and in economic benefit.

On Tuesday, DEPI Goulburn Fire District operations manager Scott Edwards said the seasonal outlook pointed to a hot, dry summer and it was disappointing that among the 17 fires agencies had already fought, there had been a number deliberately lit.

Mr Horsburgh said while public education was definitely improving, there would always be idiots out there.

‘‘They are getting the message now. But (in the plantations) we still get a lot of vandalism and silly things.’’

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