By Evelyn Leckie
As fires raged across Victoria last week, thieves targeted Hilldene Fire Station, stealing equipment and causing damage that will cost the brigade up to $3000.
The break-in, which occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning, was noticed by a volunteer who drove past the Seymour-Tooborac Road station and stopped after seeing the station’s side door swinging open in the wind.
Second Lieutenant Chad Guinther said the theft had angered brigade volunteers.
“It’s a kick in the teeth, especially in light of the fires that are burning across the nation,” Mr Guinther said.
“Our brigade members are upset and the community is upset.”
Mr Guinther said police were investigating the theft.
The theft forced the brigade’s appliances temporarily offline while police attended the crime scene.
The brigade is now fully operational and prepared to respond to a fire.
People are asked to all Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 to assist police with the investigation.
Meanwhile, a significant number of CFA and police members from across the Mitchell Shire have travelled to assist fire-affected communities in East Gippsland and north-east Victoria.
Two police officers from Wallan, First Constables Tim Curtis and Aman Rangi were deployed on New Year’s Day to assist with public safety and traffic control in Corryong.
Acting Inspector Ross Britain, at Seymour police, confirmed several officers from his station were also deployed to the Corryong area to assist with the bushfire crisis.
“Members from Mitchell Police have travelled to the north-east end of Victoria to assist with the fires – performing a range of duties, assisting with evacuations and traffic management during these emergency events,” Inspector Britain said.
“We’re supporting the local services in the affected areas and will continue to until they can be managed. Officers will be rotated through the area and there will be further support from metro officers as well.”
Mr Guinther said CFA members from District 12 had travelled to assist communities.
“Right now we’re fortunate to have the man-power to send firefighters to the area, we have a number in the brigade that are currently assisting. We’re fortunate the bushfires haven’t impacted our area,” he said.
On Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of disaster for Victoria, and urged residents in a large section of East Gippsland and north-east Victoria to leave immediately.
So far, more than 1.1 million hectares have burnt across Victoria, destroying more than 110 homes and 220 outbuildings.
As of yesterday, there were 31 fires still burning and four people remained unnaccounted for in bushfire-affected East Gippsland.
Mitchell Shire Council has also been asked by Towong Shire Council for assistance from its emergency management team.
Mayor David Lowe said council staff had responded positively to assist during response and recovery operations.
“As with past emergencies in our shire, we are showing that spirit of help and support we received during a significant time of need,” he said.
“Our senior management team is working work through logistics so that we know our staff will be safe should they be required and that we have adequate resources in our shire should an emergency arise.
“While it is important we provide support wherever possible to our neighbours and we are also mindful of the needs of our shire across summer.
“We have faced some challenging weather conditions to start the New Year, I implore you to ensure your personal survival plans have been updated and please take care.”