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Operation VIC FIRE ASSIST

PLEASE NOTE: The text and links contained on this page refer to a past operation. It is provided for archive purposes only. Current Operations are listed on the Global Operations webpage.

Defence’s contribution to the Victorian bushfire relief effort has now concluded.   The Joint Task Force (JTF) ended operations on Tuesday 31 March, after seven weeks in support of the Victorian government. 

The Defence contribution peaked at around 850 personnel per day in mid February; with the majority of Defence assets concluding operations on Saturday 14 March.

The ADF assistance provided an ‘immediate framework’ of support until more appropriate, long-term options became available.

Under the transition to recovery and reconstruction, emergency services originally provided by the ADF were transitioned to local solutions, such as councils, state government agencies and commercial contractors. This transfer of responsibility was phased in over a number of weeks and communicated clearly to the local communities.

Two Navy dentists will continue to provide forensic support to the Victorian State Coroner until mid 2009.

Tasks undertaken by Defence

Major General John Cantwell was appointed as the interim head of the Victorian Bushfire Recovery and Reconstruction Authority (VBRRA). He, along with a small team of military staff helped establish the Authority until the former Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon assumed the lead role. Major General Cantwell will continue to assist the VBRRA as required by Ms Nixon.

Defence provided emergency sleeping arrangements for fire affected families and emergency workers in Yea, Warragul, Marysville and Kinglake. Emergency workers were also accommodated at Defence establishments Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base East Sale, Simpson Barracks, Watsonia and the Puckapunyal Military Area.

Defence provided major support to the Kinglake Relief Centre through the provision of kitchen facilities, health and sanitation support, as well as water distribution and rubbish disposal.

Defence established Community Support Hubs (CSH) at Strathewen, Flowerdale, Narbethong, St Andrews, Pheasant Creek, Alexandra and Buxton.  These were used by various agencies as a central location to provide emergency services and advice to the communities.

Joint Task Force 662 troops were involved in two search phases:

As part of the “Rapid Impact Assessment” in the first fortnight after the bushfires, troops searched approximately 120 square kilometres of fire damaged areas, which included around 1300 houses.  This included the townships of Kinglake, Flowerdale, Hazeldene, Marysville, St Andrews, Yarra Glen and Traralgon.

As part of the “reasonable search” phase, Joint Task Force 662 teams conducted thorough and methodical searches of 817 premises in Marysville, Strathewen, Castella, Toolangi, Chum Creek, Dixon’s Creek and Steeles Creek.

The Engineer Support Group, including seven heavy plant machines and two chainsaw sections, constructed more than 75 kilometres of fire breaks and cleared 35 kilometres of roads. They also helped clear unsafe trees from the affected communities.

Specialist engineers assisted police with hazardous search tasks, including training searchers in safe procedures.

A RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft provided aerial imagery of bush fire affected areas during the first two weeks of the fires.

Two Royal Australian Navy (RAN) A109 helicopters provided rapid movement of personnel around the region.

A wide range of other Defence logistic support was provided to the relief effort to enhance the supply of aid into the area.  Medical and counselling teams to support Joint Task Force personnel and residents in some of the affected communities were also deployed by Defence.

Two Navy dentists will continue to provide forensic support to the Victorian State Coroner until mid 2009.

Further information
Members of the public or ADF members seeking further information can refer to the following sources: