Member Statement - Western Victoria Fires

20 February 2024

Martha HAYLETT (Ripon) (13:43):

Last Tuesday 13 February was a catastrophic day.

They were the worst bushfire conditions since Black Summer, with multiple fires breaking out across western Victoria. In my electorate the grassfires first began in Stockyard Hill near Beaufort. They put the communities of Cross Roads, Lake Goldsmith, Stockyard Hill, Stoneleigh and Beaufort at threat. But thankfully, thanks to our amazing local CFA brigades, the fires were quickly controlled and downgraded. The communities of Pomonal and Dadswells Bridge north-west of Ararat were not so lucky, though. A total of 46 homes were lost, with absolute devastation on the ground. In amongst it all were a sea of CFA volunteers, including men and women from districts 15 and 16, putting the lives of strangers before their own to protect property, livestock and livelihoods.

I want to take this moment to thank these brave volunteers from the bottom of my heart. To the CFA crews from Lexton, Barkly, Beaufort, Glenorchy, Snake Valley, Burnbank, Redbank, Amphitheatre, Ararat, Avoca and beyond: thank you. Every single person in this chamber is in awe of you. To the Eureka group strike team from Ballarat, who faced a burnover while fighting fires but kept going: thank you. And to the crews who battled fires further south in my electorate, from Staffordshire Reef Road to the Ross Creek state forest: thank you.

We see you and we commend your courage, strength and selflessness. Our firefighters work day after day, year after year, to protect our communities.