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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Green fire fighters put to the test

DSE and Parks Victoria fire fighters are gearing up for the fire season.

CATHY WALKER December 18, 2012 4:04am

Bart Smith from Mansfield and Richie Sandford, from Yarrawonga at the Winton Wetlands training day


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Against the backdrop of thousands of dead trees protruding from the water, the bright red fire tankers and a sea of people in lurid green overalls were a colourful addition to the shores of Winton Wetlands last week.

Happily there was no fire adding to the colour. The scene was a training day for DSE and Parks Victoria seasonal and permanent firefighters as well as their office staff, many of whom also fight fires.

DSE Benalla field services officer Ben Cook said while nothing entirely prepared firefighters for their first real fire, their training was extensive and days such as Winton gave the project firefighters the opportunity to meet their permanent colleagues and pick up some tips from them.

‘‘You learn from the people around you; fortunately we’ve got a lot of experienced guys and girls and you can learn a lot from them,’’ Mr Cook said.

As groups of men and women in green rotated from one exercise to the next, Mr Cook stayed with Benalla tanker 215, the vehicle for each group to practice putting out a tree fire and then deal with an entrapment or burnover.

‘‘Don’t forget to say when you make your mayday call ‘for training purposes only’,’’ he reminded each group, which elicited a few smiles.

Mr Cook said what he liked about the job was that every day was different.

‘‘You never know what to expect.’’

Mr Cook’s biggest experience in his five-year career was four weeks spent working on the Narbethong fires from the day after Black Saturday.

Spending a week or more sleeping on a footy oval, he said, really drove home the need to know your team-mates and get on with them.

Supervising the whole exercise at Winton was Goulburn Fire District operations manager Scott Edwards, who said the training day was all about teamwork as well as keeping up-to-date.

‘‘There is constant innovation within the firefighting field, and it is important that we share new developments — especially those designed to improve safety,’’ Mr Edwards said.

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