The former parliamentary member for Ballarat and mayor of Sebastopol borough Paul Jenkins says the current disastrous fires in the state's east bring to mind his experiences fighting fires in the 1980s.
Mr Jenkins, a Country Fire Authority member and captain at Sebastopol for some 30 years, says crews from Ballarat and district were flown by RAAF C130 'Hercules' to Mallacoota to fight the fires in the same area as the fires burning today.
However Mr Jenkins says the kit and technology used by the crew members of those early fire response teams (now known as 'strike teams') left a lot to be desired when compared with modern equipment.
"We were given a pair of overalls and a helmet, that was it," Mr Jenkins says.
"No goggles. We used Rega knapsacks and wet hessian beaters on handles."
Mr Jenkins says the way Victoria has dealt with the crisis is a great credit to the lesson learned from the 2009 fires.
"The system has been there since then and the way they've handled this, strike team-wise, they have done really well. I was talking to some of the boys at Sebastopol and their pumper is is up there somewhere - in the back of nowhere - doing asset protection.
"We we were one of the first strike teams to ever go out of our area when we were formed. They weren't called strike teams then, I can't recall exactly what we were called."
Mr Jenkins refers to a map of the fire he fought in 1980 that he has kept. It shows the fire and firefighting lines near the tiny town of Wangarabell, north-east of Mallacoota near the NSW-Victoria border.
"They sent us up the Cann Valley Highway to burn firebreaks. This was in August 1980.
Mr Jenkins says the firefighting tactics of today had its origins in the work of CSIRO scientist A.G. McArthur , who invented the Forest Fire Danger Meter in 1967.
Still used by CSIRO, the meter 'brought together the results of over 800 experimental fires and wildfire observations into an easy-to-use system to determine the fire danger in forested areas of Australia.'
"You'd dial in the humidity and the wind and the rest of it, and it would tell you how much the fire was going to spread. It was the greatest thing in its day. Now of course we have computers and such, but then we used the McArthur fire meter. Everybody had them in their fire trucks."
Starting as a volunteer at Sebastopol, Paul Jenkins became a lieutenant and then a captain with the brigade, which has over 150 years of service in Ballarat. He also represented the area on the regional council of the CFA and served on the CFA board.
"Oh it was fairly basic back then," Mr Jenkins says.
"There was an assistant chief officer named Arthur McFann, and he said you'd better get some trucks together and see if you can go over. So there was a heap of trucks form districts 15 and 16 - Ballarat and Colac now - and they all assembled.
"When the changeover came through, we all flew over there in the Hercules aircraft, which was completely new; it had never been done with a strike team before. That was October 1980, and the start of strike teams."
As it remains today, the premier at the time of the 1980 fires, Rupert Hamer, made a request to the federal government for the use of the RAAF as am adjunct to the state's firefighting efforts.
"After that they got the RAAF to come down there with their helicopters and they were choppering crews up and back because the roads there... well the Cann Valley Highway was only a gravel road. In fact one night the crew staying at the Cann River pub decided they wanted some oysters. So they choppered them over to Eden.
"So we learned a lot from those experiences, even the catering. Back then it was done in an old army kitchen the Forestry Commission was using, and old army cook was there cooking us steaks with the ladies from the CWA. We slept on the wooden floor of the little school. Talk about basic!"
The CFA was established in April 1945 as a result of the outcome of the Royal Commission in the Black Friday bushfires of 1939, combining many country and rural fire brigades into one body.
Many years later, Paul Jenkins recalls the firefighters were still using World War II surplus gear, including radios.
"I was an apprentice electrician in the early 50s and I put in some power points into the regional officer's office - he had converted his laundry into his office. His name was Harry Olburn and - I can still see them - he had two big old army wireless sets. That was his contact. They were just starting to get some of that old army stuff.
"Out at Lake Bolac and the Westmere group of brigades, they were the first ones to use radio. And they were pooh-poohed by head office - 'Oh radio's no good, you won't need that.' They were using old field telephones too: they'd clip a wire on the fenceline and put a stake in the ground, wind her up and the blokes in the next group along could talk to you."
One of the last changes to come from the 1980s was the recognition of the value of aircraft in firefighting. Paul Jenkins says the CFA budget at the time for aircraft was around $7 million, which was spent on about 10 or 12 cropdusters around the state. He went and observed the use of firefighting aircraft in the US, and returned with plans to introduce bombers and similar fixed-wing and helicopter strategies.
But, says Paul Jenkins, the Americans had a lot to learn from us, too.
"They had all the equipment, planes flying over dropping retardant and all the local prisoners go out with their guards and lay hose, all of that. And I said 'Two cockies in an Austin tanker would put this out.' I mean, they never had tankers over there; they just used pumpers and plumbers and hoselayers, and use milk tankers to bring water up."