— With AAP.
A firefighter has died battling a blaze in Omeo in Victoria’s alpine region, bringing the state’s death toll this bushfire season to four.
The firefighter has been identified as Bill Slade, 60. He died on Saturday by a falling tree as he fought the fires around the East Gippsland town area.
The married father of two from Wonthaggi has been remembered as one of the longest serving, most experienced and fittest firefighters. Slade had 40 years of firefighting experience and had worked on major fire incidents in the past, including the Ash Wednesday bushfires.
“This is a significant loss for the Forest Fire Management Victoria family and the community as a whole,” FFMV boss Chris Hardman said on Sunday morning.
Slade was on a taskforce working at the fire’s edge at Anglers Rest.
“Although we do have enormous experience in identifying hazardous trees, sometimes these tree failures can’t be predicted,” Mr Hardman said.
“It would have been a traumatic experience for everybody on that taskforce.”
Slade’s 40 years service was recognised in a presentation by Parks Victoria chief Matt Jackson in November.
Jackson said it was a privilege to honour Mr Slade’s career and recognise the legacy he has left, as both a firefighter and a mentor to the community – a legacy which will continue for years to come.
“Bill was a much loved colleague, friend and member of the Wonthaggi community. He’ll be sorely missed by Parks Victoria,” he said.
The firefighter’s death will be investigated by Victoria Police, who will prepare a report for the coroner.
It is with great sadness that we confirm that a Forest Fire Management Victoria firefighter from Parks Victoria has been involved in an incident while working on a fire in the Omeo area resulting in a fatality. Family and fellow emergency personnel are being informed. pic.twitter.com/Fa9rYg1ffK
— Chris Hardman (@FFMVic_Chief) January 11, 2020