Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Firefighters at the ready

Country Fire Authority incident control centre will be operated in Shepparton until Wednesday due to the heatwave.

ASHLEIGH WILLIAMSON January 5, 2013 4:20am

Incident controller Phil Hawkey is overseeing an incident control centre until Wednesday.

Country Fire Authority staff expect to fill the Shepparton incident control centre until at least Wednesday because of the heatwave.

Incident controller Phil Hawkey is part of a team of eight staff who yesterday started a four-day shift at the centre.

Mr Hawkey said the centre had four awareness levels — A, B, C and D — with A being the most severe.

He said the centre was only at level C yesterday morning.

‘‘We have skeleton crew in place ready to go and we can draw on other people if we need them during the day,’’ he said.

‘‘We monitor the fire danger index and that’s a calculation based on weather conditions, drought factor and curing.

‘‘As that (rating) increases, our awareness increases and we become a bit more nervous.’’

Incident control centre teams also include a radio operator and officers of aircraft, public information, operations and situations.

Mr Hawkey said CFA staff always had to be prepared because a fire could start at any time.

‘‘As soon as we get a fire, we have to then start predicting the potential of that fire — where it’s going to go and what resources we need,’’ he said.

Mr Hawkey said grass fires had kept Goulburn Valley firefighters busy this week.

Two water helicopters and 21 CFA tankers and four-wheel drives with slip-on tanks attended a fire in hilly land near Violet Town on New Year’s Eve afternoon.

The fire burnt 65ha of the Long Gully Rd property before crews controlled it after three hours.

Mr Hawkey said dislodged brake drums caused three small grass fires within about 100m beside the Hume Fwy near Violet Town yesterday.

He said luckily VicRoads had slashed grass beside the freeway and the fires had limited fuel to become bigger.

‘‘The brake drums would have been glowing red when they fell off the vehicle,’’ he said.

‘‘The guys are certainly alert.’’

Mr Hawkey advised people to be aware of fire ratings and warnings in the Goulburn Valley, especially travellers unfamiliar with the area.

Visit for fire information and warnings across Victoria.

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