Memorial to remember fallen firefighters

December 9, 2023 BY

Acknowledgement: A memorial honouring the five Geelong West volunteers who died during the Linton bushfire was unveiled at the brigade’s station on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy. Photo: SUPPLIED

WITH the Linton bushfire now twenty-five years passed, members of the Geelong West Fire Brigade unveiled a memorial over the weekend to commemorate the firefighters who died as a result of the incident.

The plaque was revealed following a commemorative service on Saturday at the Linton Memorial Fountain which saw hundreds in attendance to mark the anniversary.

CFA Deputy Chief Officer Rohan Luke was present at the ceremony and said it was important to remember lost firefighters and their contribution to the organisation.

“My thoughts are always with the families of the fallen firefighters and our CFA members, especially those who were at the incident that day, 25 years ago,” he said.

“We will never forget the sacrifice those firefighters made and we will honour their legacy by continuing to improve our training, equipment, and practices.

“CFA will always strive to further develop its skills and processes to avoid a devastating incident like this happening again.”

The names of Geelong West firefighters Chris Evans, Jason Thomas, Stuart Davidson, Matthew Armstrong, and Garry Vredeveldt, all of whom lost their lives during the Linton bushfire, are listed on the plaque.

Taking place on Wednesday 2 December 1998, the Linton bushfire swept across more than 600 hectares with a sharp evening wind change trapping the Geelong West team in their tanker.

The incident was the catalyst for change across the CFA’s training requirements, with a coronial inquest leading to a mandate of minimum skills for volunteers and awareness of truck burn over procedures.

Geelong West Fire Brigade Captain Paul Cockerill said the plaque will serve as a reminder on the importance of safety training for firefighters.

“The new memorial is just one way we can continue to honour our brigade heroes for generations to come,” he said.

“We don’t want their story to be forgotten, I want future members to learn from it and understand the importance of safety and training so hopefully we never have a tragedy like this again.

“I’m proud of the new memorial and I want to thank the brigade for funding this important addition to our station.”