A year on: Reflecting on ‘extraordinary’ firefighting efforts

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Orroral Valley Fire. Photo: Judy Scorpecci.

WHEN the Orroral Valley fire first tore through the Namadgi National Park a year ago today (January 27), it was met by an “extraordinary effort” from first responders, said Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman.

Earlier today, reflecting on the fire that burnt more than 86,000 hectares of the park, Mr Gentleman lauded the response of various emergency service agencies, government agencies and volunteers, saying they collectively displayed resilience, determination and teamwork to help keep people’s lives, property and the environment safe.

The blaze, which was accidentally started by a Defence helicopter’s landing light, was classified as “out-of-control” for 13 days and raged about 50km from southern Canberra suburbs before it was extinguished on February 27.

ACT Emergency Services Agency commissioner Georgeina Whelan also used the one-year anniversary to praise the more than 2100 personnel that had been deployed to support firefighting efforts interstate before the ACT was faced with its own emergencies with the Orroral Valley fire and the “freak” hailstorm. 

“All services involved should be incredibly proud of their efforts. Your commitment and resilience to keeping the community safe has not gone unnoticed,” said Ms Whelan, who went on to reflect on “lessons learned”, saying the ESA has since focused on enhancing emergency capabilities, collective training, preparedness and personnel, as well as planning and incident management strategies.

As for ACT Parks and Conservation rangers, they’re still “working hard” on the recovery of Namadgi, with parts of the park still closed due to the impact on infrastructure, said branch manager Daniel Iglesias.

But – some good news – the vegetation in Namadgi National Park is recovering well, he said. 

“A lot of trees have survived and are re-sprouting, and we are actively monitoring the recovery of fish and other aquatic plants and animals,” he said. 

The one-year anniversary of the fire comes almost a week after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed images, which were taken by the Australian Department of Defence shortly after the fire began.

The FOI revealed that the Defence crew on the MRH-90 helicopter were conducting aerial reconnaissance and ground clearance, and did not report the location of the blaze until 45 minutes after the fire started. 

Ms Whelan said she was not fully aware of the circumstances behind the fire at the time.

Defence force flew away from ‘accidental’ fire in the ACT

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