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Firefighters answer the call to clear Mallacoota road network

POSTED: 
8 January 2020

A group of eight Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) firefighters answered the call for assistance late on New Year’s Eve to travel to the fire-affected Mallacoota.  

The crew travelled from Melbourne to Bairnsdale at 5am on New Year’s Day where they met with around 20 Country Fire Authority (CFA) firefighters and flew through the thick smoke and into Mallacoota in three helicopters to relieve local firefighters of their duties.  

FFMVic Senior Forest Fire Management Operations Officer and Task Force Leader Andy Beckett said crews were told to bring sleeping gear, chainsaws, fuel and consumables to remain fully self-sufficient during their deployment.  

“We arrived in Mallacoota just after lunch and relieved local firefighters,” Mr Beckett said.  

“The first three days we were able to clear 20 kilometres of hazardous trees on roads within Mallacoota and along the Mallacoota-Genoa Road. 

“We cleared main roads around the town and roads towards the wharf so the Australian Defence Force could access the township from the coast and helped with access to the airport for evacuations.”  

The fourth day of operation saw the crews turn to town protection, crewing CFA tankers during the forecast hot day on Friday in  Mallacoota. Thankfully nothing developed locally. 

Mr Beckett said the entire clearing operation has been done by hand with limited machinery available.  

“We’ve been using chainsaws to cut them down and clear them off the road without machinery,” Mr Beckett said.  

“We were able to have a rest day on day six which will give us time to recoup and get started on some more road clearing.  

“We’ll be hoping to clear the road toward the Princes highway before we move toward Cann River and meet up with other crews working on the major arterials coming from Orbost and the Cann River area."