Into the valley of death

October 24, 2017

ROCHESTER firefighter Travis Harris is in the US as part of an international contingent flown in to help local emergency services combat the apocalyptic bushfires laying waste to huge slices of California.

Based in Shepparton, Travis is part of a team of 34 Victorian emergency management personnel that departed on Wednesday for a 21-day deployment to California.

The crew includes 20 frontline troops, 12 divisional commanders and two senior liaison officers.

Seven are members of CFA and the rest are from Forest Fire Management – which includes the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Parks Victoria members.

Victoria’s emergency management commissioner, Craig Lapsley, said California had requested support from Victoria for the northern California fires that have already caused significant death, destruction and community displacement.

‘‘Our thoughts are with those who have experienced loss,’’ he said.

“While Victoria is also coming into summer, the Victorian firefighting crews have been sourced from areas across the state and this has been carefully co-ordinated and considered to ensure that this small but important deployment does not impact on Victoria’s response capability running up to summer.’’

The seven firefighters from the CFA’s south west, north east and south east regions will join deputy chief officer Gavin Freeman, who left last week.

CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said it was important we supported each other and our international colleagues when needed.

“We’re proud to be able to provide support during these devastating fires,” Mr Warrington said.

“Victoria is no stranger to the terrible effects of bushfires and the destruction they cause.

“Our thoughts are with those Americans who have lost their properties and most importantly their loved ones.

“We are coming into our own fire season, and I can assure Victorians our firefighting services are ready and able to provide the highest level of service to the community.

“The skills of our CFA firefighters are internationally recognised and I have no doubt these firefighters will play a vital role in helping to get these wildfires under control.

“I have no doubt that this experience will benefit our firefighters, our fire services and ultimately the communities they serve.

“I’d like to acknowledge the work done at every level to co-ordinate this initiative and I wish all Australian personnel a safe deployment.’’

Victoria has a strong and ongoing relationship with California, in particular CalOES and CalFire. An agreement to support this has been in place with the Californian Governor’s Office of Emergency Services since July 2015.

This partnership allows the exchange of personnel, resources, knowledge, skill and mutual support in the event of an emergency.

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