'Our crew travelled from Melbourne to Bairnsdale at 5am on New Year’s Day where we met with around 20 Country Fire Authority (CFA) firefighters and flew through the thick smoke and into Mallacoota in three helicopters to relieve local firefighters of their duties.
We were told to bring sleeping gear, chainsaws, fuel and consumables to remain fully self-sufficient during the deployment.
The first three days we were able to clear 20km of hazardous trees on roads within Mallacoota and along the Mallacoota-Genoa Road. We used chainsaws to cut down the trees and then worked by hand to clear them off the road without machinery.
We cleared main roads around the town and roads towards the wharf so the Australian Defence Force could access the township from the coast and helped with access to the airport for evacuations.
Our fourth day of operation saw us turn to town protection, crewing CFA tankers during the forecast hot day on Friday in Mallacoota. Thankfully nothing developed locally.
We were able to have a rest day on day six which gave us time to recoup and get started on some more road clearing.
For the second half of the deployment we worked on we worked on roads around NSW and Genoa before we moved to work on reopening roads to inaccessible remote communities like Wallagaraugh, Wangrabell, Wroxham and Maramingo Creek.
There was a spike day during this time which saw us move to bushfire response in the area, working alongside CFA crew and locals.
After the spike day, we got a call to help clear the road that was the last 5km to the border of NSW – which was currently inaccessible. Within an hour we were on location and by Friday afternoon we had successfully cleared all the hazardous trees by hand.
Next followed the appropriate road authority checks and by Monday it was a proud moment to see a large-scale vehicle evacuation from Mallacoota to Eden as a result of the work we had done.
A convoy of 11 CFA trucks, an ambulance and 67 civilian cars with residents who had remained in Mallacoota were able to leave Mallacoota and make it safely and without incident to Eden. This was a significant moment for the residents of Mallacoota as it was the first chance for people to leave by land.
I would like to recognise the enormous effort by everyone involved in this operation. In particular the local crew, IMT members and additional regional resources flown in to assist. It was a huge team effort and continues to be so for many remaining.'
The Orbost ICC Incident Controller has advised that work to clear roads continues, with the final stretch of the road between Orbost and Mallacoota set to be accessible to residents and permit holders before the long weekend.
Page last updated: 07/02/20