Learning lessons

The Sampson Flat bushfire was a huge incident involving hundreds of firefighters and other emergency service personnel and support staff.

The logistics of such an event are complex and vast.

Those who co-ordinated and led and those who followed no doubt gave their all.

But after every major event it is considered good practice to hold a debrief, to examine what happened and what worked well and what could have been done better.

The lessons learned from disasters such as Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday make everyone safer.

The two Lenswood/Forest Range CFS volunteers who have spoken out publicly regarding their concerns about the resources around Kersbrook on the first day of the Sampson Flat fire want to make their community safer.

The fact that they have widened their voice beyond an internal complaint suggests they don’t want their concerns to be swept under the carpet.

There will be those who will say the complaint smacks of sour grapes – that they and others from CFS Region 1 were unhappy about being left out of a major incident on Region 2 turf.

However, that doesn’t wash here because they didn’t miss out.

Having been told their brigade wasn’t needed, Captain Carey Schultz and firefighter David Kumnick went to the fire anyway to help some grateful friends and, much later in the night, went back to join a CFS strike team which was eventually deployed.

What they saw on their initial foray was many houses in the path of the fire unprotected by appliances which, they say, might not have been the case if all the nearest available, resources – rural 4WD fire trucks manned by rural firefighters familiar with the area – had been sent sooner.

The word from the CFS is that the area was adequately resourced and that they needed to leave firefighters south of the fire  “just in case” because of the projected path of the front.

That is a valid point but it is one rejected by the two volunteers who say the CFS had the manpower and the trucks to send help in a faster time, and still have reserves leftover to protect their own backyard.

It can only be hoped that a full debrief will examine this complaint (and others) and more lessons will be learned.