Mobile Support Crews
Athol Hodgson (bio)
This is a precis of the complete article, which can be found here.
Four members of the Heyfield Mobile Support Crew have provided recollections of their time with the Crew.
In the mid 1960's, Ted Gill, then Chief, Division of Forest Protection with the FCV, introduced the concept of Mobile Support Crews (MSC). These Crews were based on the temporary employment of University students, and they were to provide a few specially trained firefighting crews to support Forest District resources when needed.
Each MSC had fifteen to eighteen students and was self-contained, with vehicles, radios, camping and firefighting equipment, including chainsaws, rakehoes and axes. Depending on where it was based the MSC may have included a camp cook.
The training of these Crews addressed topics and activities such as forest fire behaviour, firefighting techniques, weather forecasts and interpretation, map reading, chainsaw and axe safety, first-aid and four-wheel driving.
Each Crew had an experienced crew leader, sometimes from a Forest District or the National Parks Service. The location of MSC's was determined after consideration of the state-wide forest fire risk and the availability at the time of Forest District, and later Regional, fire-fighting resources.
MSC's were variously based at or within the Benalla, Bruthen, Broadford, Heyfield and Stawell Forest Districts, or later in the subsequent Bairnsdale, Benalla, Horsham and Traralgon/Central Gippsland Regions of Conservation, Forest and Lands. Although operating from a particular District or Region, MSC's were available for assignment to fires anyway across the State based on fire suppression priorities.
MSC's were often assigned to remote, and difficult to access, forested country, and could be away overnight or longer constructing, by hand, control lines in areas where bulldozers could not be used, or were not immediately available.
When not required for fire-fighting, MSC's undertook many other forest management tasks including seed collection, planting for regeneration programs, road and track maintenance and construction and maintenance of forest recreation infrastructure.
The 1989/90 fire season was the last when MSC's, as initially formed, were deployed, but the concept is still used even though the term MSC is not widely used.