Not enough trained staff on Black Saturday, Bushfires Royal Commission told

Not enough trained staff on Black Saturday, Bushfires Royal Commission told

16 November 2009

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Australia– The northeast of Victoria devastated by the Black Saturday bushfires did not have the personnel required to manage such an emergency, the bushfires inquiry has heard.

And fire chiefs were aware the region did not have enough adequately trained staff but did not ask for extra assistance despite the horror forecast in the lead-up to Black Saturday.

A damning picture of the management of the deadliest bushfire on February 7 has so far emerged in evidence given today at the bushfires Royal Commission.

The commission is this week investigating the causes and circumstances of the Kilmore East fire, which killed more than 100 people at Kinglake, Strathewen, St Andrews and other areas north-east of Melbourne.

Country Fire Authority operations manager for the Kilmore region Peter Creak  today told the commission both the local CFA and the Department of Sustainability and Environment were aware not enough trained staff were available to assist in managing firefighting efforts.

When asked by counsel assisting Jack Rush, QC, why he did not ask for extra support, Mr Creak said he knew resources statewide were stretched.

“We had our existing plans in place which had served us well in the past and we also had an awareness of the fact that the rest of the state would be confronted with the conditions that we were confronted with,” he said.

“I had a conversation on the 6th of February with somebody in the resources unit of the Incident Control Centre seeking staff for the Incident Control Centre that was at Traralgon and also for the Incident Control Centre at Bunyip and the indication I got then was that there was very little capacity for the state to provide that support.”

Mr Rush listed the Victorian towns of Alexandra, Benalla, Mansfield, Shepparton Wangaratta, Ovens, Corryong, Tallangatta and Kilmore in just one of the CFA regions as not being adequately prepared on February 7.

Mr Creak agreed, saying, “That’s the case.”

The hearing continues.

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