Post Season Operational Review 2012-13

Executive summary

Victoria experienced a significant fire season in 2012/13 Fire Danger Period (FDP), in part due to:

  • above average temperatures
  • dry fuel loads, and
  • increased potential for fire activity.

While predicted to be an “average” season, it was obvious by November that grass and bush across Victoria were at risk of fire. 

This changed in January 2013 with heatwave type conditions resulting in the whole of the state experiencing very dry conditions and all grass and bushland ready for fires to be intense. 

These conditions resulted in fires which were intense, fast moving, and ran through the night. Total Fire Bans were declared in all or parts of the state on 16 days between 1 December 2012 and 31 March 2013. Initial attack was a key factor to success and included the extensive use of firefighting aircraft to support ground crews who performed exceptionally well.

Firefighters from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) (formerly the Department of Sustainability and Environment), CFA and Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) responded to more than 4,400 bush and grass fires between December and March. Of these 24 were classified as significant including those at:

  • Chepstowe
  • Aberfeldy
  • Harrietville
  • Donnybrook
  • Dereel, and
  • in the Grampians.

As in previous years an operational review was completed, the primary purpose of which, was to identify and validate existing operational policy, processes and practices applied during this period and identify opportunities for continuous improvement associated specifically with the management of bushfire.

Review activities took on an additional role to simply gathering observations from the season for use by fire agencies as part of our continuous improvement activities.

While still focusing on prevention, response and recovery issues, in particular the pre-season briefing themes, the collection of observations relating to the efficacy of actions initiated following the VBRC was identified as critical to inform the evidence provided to the Bushfire Royal Commission Implementation Monitor (BRCIM).

The following 10 key themes were identified for review:

  • predictive services and products
  • integrated initial attack
  • transfer of control
  • bushfire safety policy (particularly warnings and advice)
  • evacuation
  • Incident Team readiness
  • traffic management points
  • interoperability
  • back burning approval
  • other key observations and findings.

A range of debriefing and survey activities designed to capture observations from our people operating at every level of fire, and the input of our emergency management partners were used and coordinated by a multiagency review group representing the Fire Services Commissioner, CFA, DEPI, MFB and VICSES. 

Those issues outlined in this report are an aggregated picture of key issues. Many others identified at local and regional level are the subject of continuous improvement at these levels. 

The information collected through this review process supports other evidence that significant improvements in a range of key areas associated with the management of bushfire have been and continue to be made in Victoria.

In addition to a summary of each of the key themes within the body of this report, 46 key common issues were identified from observations and these issues and continuous improvement actions are detailed in the downloadable document below. 

This review has also identified a number of opportunities for further improvement and in most cases activities have commenced to address these issues ahead of the 2013/14 FDP through targeted projects, briefings or exercises. Those not specifically addressed have been analysed and assigned to responsible parties for future consideration to build on the knowledge gained through the review process. 

This review has been a collaborative activity involving the Victorian fire services and our emergency management partners and it is appropriate to recognise everyone in these agencies involved in coordinating and participating in the review as the information gained through this activity is critical to our ongoing improvement for the benefit of the Victorian community.

Download the full review



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