SIGHTSEERS – some wearing shorts, t-shirts and thongs – were an unwelcome distraction for firefighters battling a blaze near a vacant property on the corner of Forest Drive and Hearn Road, Saturday 1 December.
The fire was near the camp at the Joseph Harris Scout Park – an area rated extreme in a Mornington Peninsula Shire Council assessment of bushfire prone areas on the peninsula.
Captain Travis Hutchins said the Mt Martha brigade was called to a “large column of smoke” about 5.30pm. Access was difficult for the larger vehicles and the brigade responded with several ultra-light tankers and other appliances.
“Due to the terrain, vegetation and the wind, air support was requested which included an Erickson air crane,” Captain Hutchins said.
“The air crane drew water from the bay and delivered it to the head of the fire. Crews took three hours to bring the blaze under control and Mt Martha crews did not leave the site until 1.30am.”
Captain Hutchins said the poorly attired sightseers, oblivious to the danger, had put themselves at risk on two fronts: shorts, t-shirts and thongs will not give adequate protection in a bushfire, while the air crane can carry up to 9000 litres – nine tonnes – of water.
“What would have happened to any of these inquisitive locals if they had been caught under the deluge from the helicopter?” Captain Hutchins said.
“Firefighters are distracted from the job of fighting a fire when they have to protect spectators taking photographs. People put themselves at an extreme risk by walking into bushland when an active fire is occurring.”
Captain Hutchins said the brigade recently doorknocked houses in the area to encourage residents to draw up a bushfire plan.
“Those interested in volunteering can contact the brigade via our Facebook page or call at the station, at 6 Latrobe Drive, Mt Martha, any Sunday morning,” he said.