….. both of which were basic to the forestry story some decades ago. Some of us can relate to either or both; whether stuffing straw into hessian paillasses at the School of Forestry and ex- prisoner-of-war camps, or at the Macedon nursery learning the basics of nursery practice, including the placing of crock from broken pots into new pots before putting in soil for seedlings.
In 1955, Mark Stump records "Our campsite on the crest of the ridge became quite strung out as each man selected a tree to provide stability from the downslope side. One could lie "along the slope" or preferably "across the slope" in reasonable comfort as long as there was a decent sized tree to rest against, thus ensuring you would still be there at daylight."
As smoke billows on the horizon and the ‘call to duty’ messages fly its ‘action stations’ for forest firefighters. Through long hot summers crews remain prepared and ready to meet the challenge of stopping a developing inferno before forests are lost, and rural properties face destruction. A fire may run its course for several days, or sometimes for weeks or months. Fire crews and their support staff will need to be fed and provided with sleeping quarters and ablutions facilities, often in some of the most remote parts of the State.
This is an account of the many changes that have been introduced in Victoria to provide improved conditions for fire crews at base camps. Many of the changes were incremental in nature, but in 2000 the Department of Sustainability and Environment, with OHS in mind, directed a team to investigate current trends for providing meals and accommodation for fire crews and, as a consequence, a modular and containerised system was introduced, as you will see in each section of the article.
This article gives an insight on some of the activities at Connors Plains during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
In the first week of January 1957, Darren Gribble and I, having completed our first year of studies at the Victorian School of Forestry, Creswick, boarded a train in Melbourne for Heyfield. Later that day we were greeted at the Forest Office in Heyfield by Val Cleary, the DFO before being driven to Connors Plains, north of Heyfield, by Ken Nichols.
At Connors Plains there was a substantial FCV camp with 50 or so road construction personnel as well as Foresters and Forest Foremen. The camp had a large mess hall and staff quarters as well as numerous Stanley huts for the workers.
A eucalypt seed is a truly remarkable thing. In most eucalypt species, an individual seed is around the size of a grain of sand. And yet the Genus includes, among its ranks, the tallest flowering plants on Earth, with individual trees well over 100 metres in height being recorded.
In the late 1700s/early 1800s, newcomers to the continent, that would come to be known as Australia, encountered flora and fauna that were unknown to ‘science’. First peoples who, over millennia, had built-up a detailed knowledge of the ecosystems they lived among, and moved between, saw their expertise largely ignored by the rush of new arrivals who were driven, initially at least, by survival in a seemingly hostile environment, and later by gold-fever.
For tens of thousands of years humans, and the natural environment, co-existed in relative harmony in the area now known as south-eastern Australia. From 1788 however, sustained migration, sponsored by the British, commenced.
The discovery of gold, in the 1850s, was to result in a literal stampede of humanity, from across the Globe. Among other things it was to be a brutal time for the environment, and particularly for the area’s forests and woodlands, as the skeletal British-based bureaucracy struggled to adapt.
In 1882, one of Victoria’s first foresters in the then British Colony was appointed, to supervise the Ballarat-Creswick State Forest. Over the next couple of decades this remarkable individual, and truly committed public servant, John La Gerche, battled to deal with what he termed ‘…the great (forest) slaughter…’ and its aftermath and, in so doing, became a great example to those who, to this day, follow in his footsteps.