It was a proud moment to see Victorian forestry firefighters recognised nationally for keeping communities safe, Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Forest Products Association (VFPA) Deb Kerr said today.
Last week, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) recognised forestry employees across the state for their contributions during the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires. The CFA awards ceremonies honoured forest industry brigade firefighters with national emergency and long service medals.
“Not many people know how many forestry firefighters there are. In Victoria alone, 800 people employed in the forestry sector are members of a Forest Industry Brigade. They work alongside the CFA on the frontline and implement fire prevention measures. They protect communities and thousands of hectares of land in Victoria each year in addition to their normal roles. It’s wonderful that they received the same recognition as their volunteer and professional counterparts”, Deb Kerr said.
As we face an ever-increasing threat of wildfires, the value of forestry firefighters becomes obvious. Most fires impacting plantations start externally. One-third of Victoria is public forests, so it is critically important that the Government focuses on prevention measures. Numerous commissions of inquiry support this. We have seen a significant build-up of fuel load because of the recent La Niña weather phenomenon. As our weather moves back to El Niño, the focus needs to be on prevention. One of the measures to take is cultural burning – practised by Traditional Owners for thousands of years. The latest research by the University of the Sunshine Coast reaffirms the value of cultural burning for our ecosystem.
“But when the worst happens, our forestry firefighters will not hesitate to use their expertise and equipment to preserve our natural resources. They also help to prevent devastating economic losses by protecting homes, businesses, and infrastructure in rural communities. It’s great to see the CFA acknowledging their efforts,” Deb Kerr concluded.