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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1117

Mr WOOD (La Trobe) (11:25): On Saturday, 16 November, I had the great pleasure of attending the Ferntree Gully CFA's annual dinner and presentations. The CFA at Upper Ferntree Gully has a fantastic history, going back to 1926. I look at them as being the keepers of the watch. They have the very important role of protecting the base of the Dandenong Ranges from bushfire. There are many members of the upper gully brigade who have served for many years. On the night of 16 November we had the great pleasure of awarding some of them for their service record: Tracey Jenner, five years service; Andrew Ritchie, 10 years service; Rod Simpson, 15 years service; Craig Waters, 15 years service; Mark Goodchild, 25 years service; Captain Peter Smith, 40 years service; and Garry Lee, 45 years service, which is a truly amazing commitment. I thank all the CFA volunteers for their fantastic efforts and assistance.

On the night, Captain Peter Smith reminded us that every time there is a bushfire or the CFA volunteers are called out these days it is most likely that they are going to put themselves in harm's way. I go back to the days of Ash Wednesday, back in 1983—my father was a member of the Sassafras-Ferny Creek CFA—I recall going home on the school bus that day. These days you would not be going home on the school bus if there were a fire, but in those days you did. I looked across from upper gully and could see the plumes of smoke. It was like a nuclear cloud was coming out of Belgrave South. At the same time, there were other fires in Cockatoo. At night we would go home, but my father was not there for days on end because he was out fighting the fires.

Something I mentioned in my maiden speech highlights the dangers involved for CFA volunteers. Two days before Ash Wednesday Captain John Minett from Narre Warren crew was named firefighter of the year. He went out with his crew of six from Narre Warren and with six members of the Panton Hill crew to Upper Beaconsfield. Sadly, a fire storm engulfed both trucks. The bodies of the 12 CFA volunteers were found huddled together. That really highlights the dangers for CFA volunteers, who put themselves in harm's way each year.

On the upper gully presentation night we also honoured a number of members who received the National Emergency Medal for their service during the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. They are: David Bull, David Clark, Fourth Lieutenant Mark Goodchild, Nathan Greaves, Aaron Jelbart, Tracey Jenner, Peter Jetson, Robert Koevets, Dean Lankester, Garry Lee, Michael Pulford, Captain Peter Smith, Craig Waters, David Willoughby, Scott Brown, Trevor Coglan and Andrew Ritchie. I say to them: you did a fantastic job on Black Saturday.

I must congratulate also the organiser of the night, Gillian Heisey: you did a fantastic job. Again, I thank all of the volunteers in the CFA throughout my electorate. There are so many CFA volunteers. I thank especially the upper gully crew, who with neighbouring CFA crews stopped the fire at Quarry Road, which is at the base of the Dandenong Ranges. At the same time there was a fire at Narre Warren. If those two fires had taken off, the Dandenong Ranges would have been devastated, like Marysville and other places in Victoria.

My thoughts are with all the volunteers as they go out to fight fires in this fire season. We have already seen what has happened up in New South Wales. Also, our thoughts are with the family members, who hear the pagers go off, knowing that their loved ones will be going out and putting themselves in harm's way to protect Victorians and, in my case, the people of the Dandenong Ranges.

Question agreed to.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 11:30