Fire strike team at Shepparton Airport

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The dangers of fighting fire is ever present when doing so in the field at ground level, for a team of extremely fit young men working with Forest Fire Management at the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning, (DELWP) their job is magnified several times by the need to travel by helicopter to new fires, generally located in remote and accessible forest points throughout the state and then rappel down a rope from up to 100 metres above the ground.

On the ground their mission is to address the fire with rakehoes, back burning or other portable specialised fire fighting equipment that can be lowered to the ground before the can develop and spread while the helicopter above can drop water onto the centre of the fire.

Armed with chainsaws, they can cut a pad for a helicopter to land or they will have to walk until they can find an open space that the helicopter can land. The work is very physical and dangerous while the working locations often prohibit larger machines and the ability to be easily retrieved is complicated by the limited access.

The rappel crew of seven, along with the pilot make up the sharp edge of Victoria’s firefighting crews, the daily stuff they would and should make movies out of.  DELWP has four, seven man crews operating around Victoria and is fully operational in this period of fire fighting.

These crews work in partnership with other emergency agencies to prevent and suppress bushfires in Victoria’s national parks and state forests. Forest Fire Management crews also support the CFA to fight fires on private land.

Goulburn Valley Aero Club has been assisting these strike teams with backup facilities and logistical support for the last ten years.