Black Saturday bushfires asset protection – Gavin Parker – EMP5

The scale and intensity of the Black Saturday bushfires that occurred on 7 February 2009 had not occurred before in Australia’s history. During this episode, Senior Station Officer Gavin Parker from the CFA shares his experience on this day. In particular, he discusses how he and his crew worked to protect a vital communications tower.

Gavin and his crew faced many challenges during the Black Saturday bushfires. He has documented the event in a presentation and a selection of the slides are shown below. If you would like a full copy of the slides, he can be contacted via email at

Gavin Parker Bushfire
Senior Station Officer Gavin Paker

Victoria’s State Strategic Control Priorities

While they did not exist in 2009, Victoria’s State Emergency Management Priorities place particular emphasis on the protection of critical infrastructure. Indeed, the state strategic priorities which underpin the planning and operational decisions when managing the response to emergencies include the “protection of critical infrastructure and community assets that support community resilience”.

The Churchill Black Saturday bushfires

Churchill is about 160 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The Churchill Black Saturday bushfires started at about 13:32 on 7 February 2009, 3 kilometres south-east of the Churchill fire station.

The Call

Not long after the fire commenced Senior Station Officer Gavin Parker and his crew were responded to the fire. The red dot to the left of the image below shows the approximate location where the fire started.

Churchill Fire Slide #
On route to the reported bushfire at Churchill.

On Scene

Senior Station Officer Gavin Parker’s crew were the third fire truck to reach the fire. Shortly after arriving they were formed into a strike team. Strike Teams are defined as a set number of resources of the same type. They are usually made up of five resources of the same type such as vehicles, crews, earth moving machinery etc.

Churchill Fire Slide 4
Photo taken on arrival at Glendonald Road

Asset protection

Almost as soon as crew arrived they were tasked with asset protection. Gavin’s team was assigned to protect a communications tower circled in green below.

Churchill Fire Slide 10
Map showing communication tower location

Creating defendable space in bushfires

A critical aspect of ensuring crew safety and asset protection was creating a defendable space.

Churchill Fire Slide 10
Permission requested to backburn.


Churchill Fire Slide 37
Tower compound after the fire

Preparing for the fire front to arrive

Churchill Fire Slide 11
Creating a safe area by conducting strategic burning


Churchill Fire Slide 36
Burning out sequence

Sheltering from radiant and convective heat and monitoring for ember attack

Radiant heat is the biggest killer in bushfires. Gavin’s crew used the building to protect them from radiant heat. They continued to monitor the situation and put out fires in and around the building.

Churchill Fire Slide 23
After the fire front passes crews monitor and extinguish fires in and around the building


Churchill Fire Slide 24
The wind change

Ask your questions or share your feedback

Connect with me