by Allan Layton, former CFA Group Officer, Alexandra Fire Brigades Group
AS the fire season staggers to a close, it was noted by Thornton farmer Rob Elliott that this district had been spared from Total Fire Ban (TFB) declaration. He then pondered when was the last time Murrindindi Shire (or it’s predecessor Alexandra and Yea Shires) had gone through a fire season without a TFB? The answer Rob, is nearly 30 years ago.
To go back to the formation of the Country Fire Authority in 1945, initially TFBs in Victoria had to be declared statewide. It didn’t matter where you were, it was either TFB or not. From the 1945/46 fire season onwards we were then all affected by TFBs in most fire seasons with the exception of the 1949/50 and the 1955/56 seasons.
The statewide declaration system lasted till 1985 when there was a change to the manner in which TFBs were called.
The ‘whole of state’ concept while simple, had the disadvantage that at times a TFB might be called as some parts were in dire weather, yet many other parts weren’t, which created inconvenience to some. Worse than that though was that perhaps a TFB was not declared as most of the state was OK, yet some areas might be bad, and would benefit from a TFB.
As a result, the decision was made to split the state into five geographic districts based on a variety of factors, including centres of population, fuel types and fuel loads and typical weather patterns.
This allowed for a TFB to be called in any single district, or combinations of, or for all five (ie. the whole state). The Alexandra and Yea Shires were sited within the North-Eastern TFB district.
From the 1985/86 season on there are only three occasions when Alexandra and Yea Shires did not have TFBs. We missed out during 1988/89 season when the only areas to have TFBs were North-Western and South-Western; in 1992/93 when there were no TFBs anywhere in the state; and then again in 1993/94 season when there was only one TFB in the state, in the North-West.
It was in 1994 that shire amalgamations happened, and the Murrindindi Shire was formed. Much later (November 3, 2010) the number of TFB areas was further increased (from five to nine) along with some boundary changes to better align with Bureau of Meteorology weather forecast regions, and government administrative boundaries (ie. shires, etc). Since that time the Murrindindi Shire has been in the North Central TFB district. And we have still had TFBs in every season since.
So the full answer to Mr Elliott’s question: Murrindindi Shire has had a TFB at least once in every fire season since 1993/94, until now. And further, since 1945/46 season we have only been spared in five seasons in total.