On this day 10 years ago, thousands of firefighters were battling to contain Victoria’s most deadly bushfires.
It took 79 days for the Beechworth-Mudgegonga fire of 2009 to be declared safe, and Beechworth rural fire brigade captain Bruce Forrest was among the 113 CFA members who worked to contain it.
“I remember seeing it roaring across the hill from where it started, heading towards Mudgegonga,” he said.
“It was off and racing before we even got there because of the conditions.
“We spent the night trying to stop it spreading to Beechworth and Murmungee.”
Beechworth urban fire brigade first lieutenant Tracy McVea was observing as a resident then.
“People were standing around because we had a radio going and a generator at our newsagency,” she said.
“People are usually a lot happier when they’re informed, and with the VicEmergency app today, it’s easier to keep up to date.”
A royal commission was held after Black Saturday and its recommendations included that CFA training exercises and communications be reviewed, and that more extensive community education be undertaken.
Mr Forrest, who has been with the Beechworth rural brigade for more than 45 years, said co-ordination between agencies was now better than ever.
“There’s more interaction between the CFA and Forest Fire Management Victoria,” he said.
CFA District 24 operations manager Paul King, who attended the state commemoration of Black Saturday on Monday, echoed the importance of the partnership between the agencies.
“We’re working really well together,” he said.
“Emergency services have more clear priorities to work within that include safety of our responders, community and our most vulnerable people.”
Mr King said while the commission had pointed out room for improvement in the ‘stay or go’ advice of the time, the messaging stayed consistent.
“The full statement was ‘stay and defend a well-prepared property, or leave and leave early’, and if you take the full context, my view is it wasn’t as sinister as it was portrayed,” he said.
“Having said that, in extreme events – and luckily they don’t come around too often – the ‘stay or go’ message is not appropriate because even well-prepared properties wouldn’t survive.
“We’re warning people about the likelihood of an emergency, and giving information during it so people can make decisions about their own safety.
“When we talk about ‘extreme’ fire danger, we’re talking about extreme difficulty for suppression.
“We’re not going to be able to put fires out on those days.”