By LUKE VOOGT
SEVERAL volunteer firefighters from Ocean Grove travelled to the Otways this summer to help fight bushfires that devastated the region.
First Lieutenant Steve Gibbs led a team of fire-fighters who travelled to Lorne, Wye River and Kennett River to reinforce houses against the oncoming blaze.
Steve remembers patrolling through the eerily deserted Wye River Caravan Park on 29 December.
“What would normally be a bustling caravan park was empty, as the whole town had been evacuated,” he said.
“The beach was deserted too.”
Steve said it was relief that police had already conducted doorknocks and evacuated the area.
He saw few people other than emergency services and praised the planning which prevented loss of life.
“It’s down to the planning by CFA, council and the community themselves,” he said.
“While there was a lot of financial loss, it certainly reduced the chance of it being worse.”
On 6 January Steve and a team of fire-fighters conducted ground observation in the burnt areas, seeing the devastation first-hand.
“It was very sobering to see what had once been a pristine area,” he said.
“Even as a fire-fighter it reinforces that message that fire is out there – you can prevent and control it, but it’s a force we all have to respect.”
Steve was also happy for the chance to “give back” by patrolling Kennett River Caravan Park, which he has visited since he was young.
Fortunately, the fires did not reach the caravan park.