Fire tower boosts local brigades

January 10, 2022 BY

CFA commanders and volunteer Winchelsea firefighters welcome the new Mount Gellibrand fire tower. Photo: SUPPLIED

A CRUCIAL Otways fire-spotting tower has finished construction in time for the peak bushfire season.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) finished a $375,000 upgrade to its Mount Gellibrand fire tower by installing a new six-tonne cabin on top of the structure.

The new tower replaces an old watchhouse that authorities deemed unsafe last year.

Local firefighters use the tower, which is about 20 kilometres west of Winchelsea, on days of high fire danger for smoke sightings to detect fires at nearby grasslands and the Otways.

Winchelsea CFA group officer Mark Brown said the new tower was a significant boost for local brigades to help them respond to risky blazes early to protect their communities.

“We’re back and better than we were before, because the new fire tower that’s gone up is more modern and has all the bells and whistles on it, which is going to lead to a much better experience for the operator and the guys on the ground,” he said.

“It’s really been a team effort with a lot of local brigades coming together. We’ve also had a lot of incredible support coming from the CFA…  they’ve bent over backwards to make this happen.”

The new fire tower has incorporated feedback from volunteer firefighters, and includes air conditioning and new furniture to ease stress operators during the region’s most dangerous bushfire days.

CFA Deputy Chief Officer South West Rohan Luke said the new tower would ensure traditional fire detection methods would continue safely for years to come.

“We’re excited to provide our fire spotters with a safer and more reliable structure to continue contributing to CFA’s fire preparedness activities,” he said.

“We installed new footings and a base in the past few weeks and completed the structure with the addition of the cabin.”

“The health and safety of our people is our highest priority and this tower has been built with improved structural integrity to deal with rapid wind gusts and other severe weather.”

State authorities condemned the existing fire tower after deeming it unsafe for use in 2020, before the CFA agreed to fund a replacement following a swell of community opposition.

The tower had a temporary fix ahead of last summer’s bushfire season, when it was activated twice, before this year’s permanent brand-new addition.

CFA said the fire-spotting tower would complement other activities to detect fires including drone technology and community vigilance.

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