Australia — THOUSANDS of dollars of firefighting equipment was lost or stolen from fire authorities during Victoria’s two biggest bushfires.
More than $64,000 of fire equipment went missing from the former Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Country Fire Authority during the Great Divide and Black Saturday bushfires.
These fires involved thousands of firefighters and took weeks to extinguish.
With Victoria on the cusp of another serious bushfire season, facing high temperatures and low rainfall, Freedom of Information documents obtained by The Weekly Times show $41,938 worth of equipment was lost or stolen from the DSE (now the Department of Environment and Primary Industries) during the Great Divide Fires in the 2006-07 bushfire season.
The Great Divide Fires burnt more than 1,154,000ha, including 33 houses and were contained after burning for 59 days.
The DSE and other networked emergency organisations, including Parks Victoria, deployed about 2270 staff to battle the fires.
The FOI documents show the most valuable equipment to go missing from the Port Phillip, North East and Gippsland regions during the Great Divide Fires included a laptop computer worth, $5100, reported as lost and two laptops worth $4388, each listed as stolen.
A GPS worth $3900 was also lost and a level auto, a piece of surveying equipment worth $2000, was stolen.
Chainsaws and GPSs were also among the items stolen or missing from DSE Port Phillip and North East regions during the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009.
About $22,000 worth of equipment was lost or stolen during the Black Saturday bushfires, which killed 173 people and burned through 430,000ha.
More than 2800 DSE and networked emergency organisations fought the fires.
The CFA reported $6910 worth of equipment, including cameras and radios, lost or stolen during the Great Divide Fires and a $2193 radio lost or missing during the Black Saturday bushfires.
Former DSE firefighters told The Weekly Times it was easy to lose track of equipment in the chaos of battling large blazes.
A DEPI spokesman said the department kept track of all firefighting equipment that was deemed an asset.
“The assets involved in fighting a campaign fire can be worth many millions of dollars,” he said.
“Security sign-in is required at all offices and Incident Control Centres – either using a log book or electronic pass.
“Any equipment that is stolen is reported to the police and DEPI investigates if any assets are lost or damaged.”
The Land and Fire Management budget for this season is $338.7 million, down 4 per cent on the previous season because of fire equipment purchased to help with increased burning targets.