Forest Fire Management Victoria firefighting recruits are being put through their paces this week at a training camp in Licola, 50 kilometres north of Heyfield.

Assistant Chief Fire officer, Chris Stephenson said: “This year, we have our usual 174 Project Firefighters, (PFFs), plus an additional 35 for this season, boosting our total to 209 forest firefighters for Gippsland.”

“There are also 17 new Forest Fire Operations roles across the region.”

“During the week-long camp, the PFFs will cover topics including emergency management procedures, safety and survival techniques, fire suppression techniques and planned burning.”

“The comprehensive training course ensures our teams are trained to the highest levels in fighting fires and reducing bushfire risk.”

“The mix of classroom theory and field-based activities helps prepare our staff for the demands of the fire ground and the varied role of a firefighter. They will also get to meet and work alongside experienced firefighters and gain an understanding of what it’s like on the fire line.”

“At the completion of the camps, the PFFs will return to their work centres to undertake additional training and accreditation, including four-wheel driving and dangerous tree management.”

“They will then assist our permanent crews to undertake priority works including fire suppression, planned burning, track clearing and slashing.”

“They will also be available for deployment both within the Gippsland region and across the state, depending on the severity of the season.”

“All our staff have an emergency response role as well as their usual job. This can be anything from a firefighter, to catering officer, planning officer, public information officer, incident controller, operations officer, staging area manager, airbase manager and many more - we all have a part to play when it comes to any emergency incident.”

“In Gippsland, we have four fixed-wing bombers in place due to the recent bushfires, plus a light helicopter. There will be another two helicopters based at Heyfield and the Latrobe Valley airbase and another fixed-wing reconnaissance aircraft at Latrobe Valley.”

“And on the ground we have 88 specialist firefighting 4WD vehicles (or ultralight tankers), 14 dozers and 15 heavy tankers ready to support our crews in fire management and suppression.”