FIRE services are preparing for the 2019-20 fire season, but residents are also urged to prepare.
Firefighters and other front line emergency service personnel met in Ballarat on Monday morning for a briefing ahead of the fire season.
After a number of major fires in the past year - at Buninyong, Hepburn, Bunkers Hill and Mount Clear - dozens of representatives from all sectors of emergency management including firefighters, police, paramedics and Forest Fire Management Victoria attended to discuss the overall strategy going into the upcoming fire season.
With the fire danger period expected to be declared around early to mid December, Forest Fire Management Victoria's Grampians Deputy Chief Fire Officer Tony English said the briefing was a way for emergency services to mentally prepare for the season, which is forecast to be "normal".
"Everybody with a key role in emergency management is here. This brings everyone together and provides everybody with the same information so we are all on the same playing field," he said.
"It's all about preparing for the potential of a large or a significant fire in the region."
With continuously dry conditions for consecutive years resulting in above-normal bushfire conditions, fire restrictions have been in place in some parts of Gippsland since September.
Country Fire Authority District 15 Acting Operations Officer Chris Bigham said the conditions in the Ballarat region were vastly different at the moment - the landscape is still lush and green after heavy rainfall throughout winter and so there is moisture in the soil, but this meant there would be exponential growth in grasslands and forests as the weather continues to warm. As growth occurs, the sun will dry it out, meaning it could fuel a fire.
Mr Bigham said this was a normal seasonal cycle but urged residents to prepare as the season advances.
This is another fire season that we are preparing for but there is an equal responsibility on the landholders. They have a responsibility to be prepared as well, as much as we do.Country Fire Authority District 15 Acting Operations Officer Chris Bigham
Residents are urged to have a fire plan in place, ensure long grass is cut and fuel loads are removed from properties and to keep up-to-date with continuously changing conditions in the landscape around them.
For crews, Mr English said preparation for the season meant ensuring crews were physically fit and that all equipment, whether four-wheel drive vehicles, tankers or aircraft, was serviced and ready for the season.
At the briefing, some discussions centred on lessons learned in previous seasons and what could be done to continue to improve safety and efficiency.
Mr English said one of the major lessons from last season was vigilance around crew safety.
"We had a number of incidents with vehicles last season, with vehicle accidents on fire grounds, which is really down to not just training but also people having good supervision and good awareness of the situations people are in. So we will emphasise that again this year - that it's about being safe," he said.
Mr Bigham said with the amount of growth expected, the CFA would continue to focus on "the weight of attack" - deploying appropriate resources early to ensure firefighters have the best opportunity to bring fires under control and prevent them from growing.
Another major focus will be on internal and inter-agency communications to ensure the most efficient emergency response.
Cooperation of aircraft and ground crews has become a critical way to fight fires, with 50 air craft - water bombing aircraft, air supervision and air intelligence-gathering aircraft - available statewide for the 2019-20 season.
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