FOSTER CFA member Rachel Vanin, who travelled to Western Australia eight days ago as part of the Gippsland contingent of CFA members and DELWP personnel, returned safely to Victoria on Sunday night after helping with firefighting efforts in the state’s south west.
Tired and pleased to be back in Foster, Rachel spoke to The Mirror on Monday at the Foster CFA station.
Aside from travelling from state to state, Rachel explained that a fair amount of time was also spent travelling from Perth to the fire zone and then each day from her accommodation to where she and others were needed to carry out back-burning and blacking out, ensuring that no fuel remained should the fire return.
The first two days, Rachel explained, were spent in becoming familiar with the state’s communications, equipment, mapping techniques and fire trucks – all of which vary considerably from that of the Country Fire Authority of Victoria.
Once training was completed, 12 hour shifts were required on the ground where, although not at the front, still presented major challenges.
“Temperatures were very high and some days were very windy which didn’t help the situation,” Rachel said.
It was rather intense, she said, but she and others took comfort in the care provided for them while in Western Australia.
While the temperatures were extremely hot and the days very long, each shift would see 40 minutes or so of travel back to base, where she and other CFA and DELWP personnel would finally eat and sleep.
While Rachel was seconded, four Gippsland firefighters narrowly escaped serious injury when a large Kauri pine fell on the truck, with two sustaining minor injuries when they were thrown off the truck. The other two and driver were uninjured.
“That type of accident presents just one of the many risks involved in fire-fighting,” said Foster CFA captain David Jones.
“Thankfully, those firefighters have also returned home safely and we have Rachel back with us,” Captain Jones said.
“She’s done a fantastic job and we are extremely proud of her,” said 2nd Lieutenant Kaylene Jones.
“It was a good experience,” Rachel said, but one that is now over as she returns home to be greeted by her family, her partner and her much-loved dogs.