“I lived out the Westend; my parents taught me how to use fire and respect it. When I was 12, that was the first big fire for me where Flinders Chase lit up at West Bay on the 26th January and burned until the 16th of March. I joined the emergency fire service as soon as I could after I left school. This is what it was called back then, then it became the country fire service. I am still a member and have been for nearly 60 years.
We didn’t have radios, we didn’t have big fire trucks, satellites, helicopters and water bombers. We used fire to fight fires.
We didn’t lose one life; we didn’t lose one property or even one vehicle. We didn’t even have to evacuate anyone.
We had knapsacks. We used fire as the main tool and knapsacks just on our backs to control the edges. So, we were like the Aboriginals in the Northern Territory and all-over northern Australia. We just kept fires small by using fire to burn back into the front that was coming. In the 50s and 60s, I became a member of the southwest brigade, and the captain of it. We did a lot of things to keep fires small and jumped on them very quick. But everyone was burning native vegetation around their farms at that time, just little patches. So, we never had big fires, we had small fires. The only big fires were in the parks, but they were controllable because you could light up and burn back towards where the fires were coming from.
Last summer’s fires were a result of no burning for nearly 30 years. We tried to warn people that this is what would happen. It is not just about climate change. Maybe everything is getting hotter and drier and we did experience a very hot, dry year, but it’s because there were only small areas burned in the last thirty years that this happened. So, we gotta go back to the basics. Get rid of the fuel loads, protect the community, protect the native inhabitants of the scrub and then it will be so much easier and so much less devastating on everyone.”