NIGHT vision flights and the absence of firefighting sky crane aircraft Elvis in the region will be among several changes the Country Fire Authority is piloting for the bushfire season.
Chief officer Steve Warrington said the authority would be trialling night vision flights in the region this season at a lunch at Laharum on Wednesday.
He said the flights aimed to spot lightning fires that were ignited overnight, rather than having to wait until daylight. Mr Warrington said firefighting aircraft Elvis would not service the Grampians this season.
He said the authority would instead use a priority dispatch program.
Under the scheme, smaller aircraft that need less preparation will be automatically dispatched at the same time as firefighters are called to fight a bushfire.
“We are putting aircraft over the top of fires, often before a firetruck gets there,” he said.
“It’s speed verses weight of attack.
“We’re taking out Elvis and putting in other aircraft that can lift off deck straight away.”
Mr Warrington said he understood the decision was controversial.
“It peeves firefighters off. The reality is they don’t like it when someone drops water on them while they’re working,” he said.
“We’ve done this for a couple of years now.
“The science tells us it helps our ability to extinguish a fire quickly, before the trucks even get on it or at least hold it off.”
Mr Warrington said Elvis could be brought from his new home in Essendon back to the region if needed.
“People like seeing the big orange aircraft,” he said.
“But if we can stop a fire by having a priority dispatch program, we’re going to.”
Mr Warrington said the Wimmera and wider western Victoria were the authority’s main concern as the bushfire season approached.
“There’s been prolific growth,” he said.
“Forests aren’t too bad.
“The big issue will be grass, especially in the western part of the state – from Ballarat right through to the South Australian border.”
Mr Warrington said residents needed to take responsibility for their own safety and be prepared.
“We do the best we can goodness knows, but the community needs to accept responsibility to save their own lives,” he said.
“Often it’s the decision you make that determines the outcome.”