No time to relax… brigade remains ready

February 29th, 2024No time to relax… brigade remains ready

It may have been a comparatively mild summer fire season out Hepburn-Daylesford way so far ... but it’s not over yet. “February and March are always our worst months,” Hepburn CFA brigade captain Barry Yanner said, chatting presciently to The Local about a week before the major fire broke out in the Beaufort area last Thursday.

It may have been a comparatively mild summer fire season out Hepburn-Daylesford way so far … but it’s not over yet.

That’s the informed opinion of long-serving local volunteer CFA firey Barry Yanner, captain of the Hepburn Fire Brigade.

Barry for one certainly isn’t relaxing just yet. He reckons things are looking pretty dry out Hepburn way and surrounds and says February and March are not times to become complacent.

“February and March are always our worst months,” he said, chatting presciently to The Local about a week before the major fire incident broke out in the wider Beaufort area last Thursday.

“The forest (in the Hepburn area) has dried out now and the grass is drying out. On Mount Franklin it’s as dry as a chip.”

Admittedly this season to date has been fairly low key, but the local brigade that will celebrate its 80th anniversary later this year, has been called upon on multiple occasions nevertheless.

These have included two recent callouts to lightening strike events earlier this month, and a concerning number of callouts also to assist at the scene of motor vehicle accidents.

“We’re not a rescue brigade like Daylesford is, but we do attend motor vehicle accidents and do assist with things like traffic control and first aid if required,” Barry says.

“The thing I’m noticing is that we’re getting called out to a lot more motor vehicle accidents these days. We’ve been to six already just in the first month for 2024, and out of those six, three of them were reasonably serious and one was a fatal (at Denver).

“There’s just so much traffic on the roads these days and the state of the roads doesn’t help.”

Across at Daylesford,  brigade captain there, Glenn Webster also believes current road conditions are a factor in the recent uptick in motor vehicle accidents that the local brigades have attended. He also says having a rescue unit adds a lot of pressure, and a lot of training takes place. 

“Last month the brigade turned out to six serious car accidents, far more than usual,” he said. 

“We have had a particularly busy year due to potholes in the road that have caused some driver distraction.” 

Members from both the Hepburn and Daylesford brigades recently met with CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan to highlight the importance of road crash rescue brigades and the vital work they do in the community.The CFA has 21 road crash rescue brigades state-wide, Daylesford among them.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of road crashes and fatalities in Victoria,” CO Heffernan said. 

He said he wanted to meet up with the two local brigades to share his gratitude for the hard work and dedication they perform for the community.  

“I also wanted to recognise the horrific accident that happened in the town (on November 5) that touched so many in the community,” he said. 

“The members have been doing it tough. It’s an opportunity for me to come along and say thank you on behalf of the community and also listen to them and continue to support them in their recovery.” 

As the Hepburn Brigade now looks forward to celebrating its 80th year of serving the community later this year, Barry says members of the public are always welcome to simply roll up to any of the brigade’s regular training sessions that take place on the first Sunday of each month from 10am to 12 noon.

“Anyone can join in with our training sessions every Sunday and we meet here (at the Hepburn Fire Station),” he says.

“This time of year we’re mainly focused on suppression of bushfire and grassfires. In winter we focus more on structure fires.”

The Hepburn brigade has about 30 members who range in age from 16 to 78. The eldest is Barry’s uncle, Mick Yanner who’s been with the brigade for an impressive 65 years, while the youngest is Daylesford Secondary College year 11 student Linkin Hughes, 16, who’s hoping to eventually become a career firey.

“I joined the CFA as a volunteer at Glenlyon in 2019 when I was 11,” says Linkin who has recently qualified to turnout on the tanker to incidents.

“It’s probably the community commitment,” Linkin says when asked what it is that keeps him motivated to be a volunteer CFA firey.

“I like the hands-on tasks,” he adds. “You learn a lot from it, including from the online challenges.”Acquiring first aid skills including CPR training is part of the training, along with learning how to use appliances like the new tanker that the brigade received last year.

For the eldest member of the brigade, Mick, having notched up 65 years of CFA service for his community is a source of pride, as is seeing three generations of the Yanner family be part of the brigade.

Today, Mick’s grandsons Mitchell, 17, Brayden, 19 and Kyle, 21 are also volunteer members of the local brigade, as is their father Neville (Mick’s son).

Looking back over his own considerable time with the CFA, Mick – who’s received life membership and a 60 year service medal for his decades of dedication – chuckles as he recalls some of the changes he’s witnessed over those 60-plus years.

Today both of the Hepburn brigade’s tankers are equipped with defibrillators. But it wasn’t always the way.

“Years ago the trucks didn’t even have a first aid kit,” Mick says. “You were lucky to find a bandaid.”

Reflecting on the big changes that have occurred since those early days, Barry says something special is being planned to celebrate the big 80th anniversary that ticks over on December 9 this year.

“We’re going to do something. It’s quite a milestone,” he says.

In the meantime he’s encouraging anyone interested in joining up as a volunteer member to get along to one of the brigade’s regular training days.

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