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Maryknoll Fire Brigade Captain Peta Waterhouse knows all too well that residents have to be ready for an early fire season.
Two years ago on 6 October 2015 the Maryknoll Brigade lead a concerted effort of 180 CFA volunteers to save the town from a quickly spreading fire.
The fire hit on the first Total Fire Ban day of the season.
“As a group we were prepared with strike teams ready to go if something happened, but because it was early in the season we didn’t actually expect it,” Ms Waterhouse said.
Ms Waterhouse is a teacher and was on lunch yard duty when she noticed the winds pick up.
Then, during her last class for the day, her pager went off.
“When it’s in Maryknoll your heart starts beating,” Ms Waterhouse said.
“It was too close for comfort.”
The brigade had two trucks ready to go. The first went to the paged fire address and Ms Waterhouse took the second to a vantage point.
“When we came up to the vantage point it turned out to be the head of the fire,” she said.
She promptly cancelled school buses and called for extra support from Nar Nar Goon and Tynong brigades.
“We had four trucks but, obviously, that wasn’t going to be enough so we got more trucks on the road, plus air support,” Ms Waterhouse said.
“It’s quite bushy in the area and right on the edge of town so we wanted to attack it quickly. With the wind pushing, it was going to go through the town and we had to stop it before it got there.”
The grass at the time was quite green but the fire spread quickly, especially in the trees.
Twenty-nine brigades, 180 volunteers and 42 fire trucks from outer metro Melbourne fought the blaze.
They were aided by a wind change.
“The wind change pushed the fire back onto itself,” Ms Waterhouse said.
“If it had been an hour later a few of the houses in Maryknoll might not have survived.”
Despite it being early October, the captain said the 2017-18 fire season was already starting to heat up.
“At this stage, things are drying out very quickly and it looks like it’s going to be an early and busy fire season,” she said.
To prepare, the volunteer brigade has been undertaking regular summer pre-training and is encouraging property owners to clear their properties for the season.
“This is the busiest time for getting our skills up,” Ms Waterhouse said.
“The trucks are always ready to go and so are we, but we make sure everything is in top working condition ready to go at this time of year.”
The volunteer brigade is hosting a free pizza night and bushfire information session at the Maryknoll Fire Station, 6 Koolbirra Road, Maryknoll, from 6.30pm on Friday 27 October to assist local residents preparing for the fire season.

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