Firefighters and surf livesavers join forces

Wye River’s community volunteers are ready to help the town on high-risk bushfire days.

WYE River firefighters and surf lifesavers who joined forces for a bushfire project want other coastal towns to do the same.

The Wye River Community Volunteers project trains residents and tourists to help organise the town during high-risk bushfire days, including managing traffic along the Great Ocean Road, administering first-aid and ensuring people remain calm.

The project uses Wye River Surf Lifesaving Club as its base, where lifesavers would oversee people seeking refuge from a bushfire.

The State Government has awarded the project with a Fire Awareness Excellence Award, including a $5000 grant.

Wye River Country Fire Authority lieutenant and program co-ordinator Peter Mitchell said it made sense for lifesavers and firefighters to work together to prepare towns for bushfires.

“We believe our project is capable of becoming a model for other communities to assist their CFA brigades and it may be the first combined approach between a CFA brigade and a surf lifesaving club to protect a community,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Our plan is based on the realisation that communities such as ours need to take responsibility for themselves,” he said.

“We recognise the fact that in the event of a bushfire we may not receive external help

for up to three days. Our situation is exacerbated by the influx of 5000 holidaymakers over summer, but in the problem we found the solution.”

Mr Mitchell said the idea for the project came about after the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.

“It was then that the surf lifesaving club came to the CFA and said if we had a catastrophic fire event in Wye River, how could we help you?

“We realised it was the perfect union, because on fire days you get a lot of people coming to the fire station asking how they can help, but it’s not in an organised way,” he said.

“So it would be much better to take those people away from CFA stations and put them in the hands of the surf lifesavers, that way they can still help out while the CFA goes and fights the fires.

“And there are people in the community who have a wide range of skills, we have doctors and school teachers, nurses, vets, and they can all play a critical role during a bushfire.”

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