TRIAL BY FIRESynopsisTrial by Firefollows the Macedon Group of volunteer firebrigades as they struggles to deal with Australia’s worstbushfire season for over twenty years. The Macedon Groupis responsible for the towns of Woodend, Gisborne andMacedon, and the twenty thousand people who live there aswell as the two hundred square kilometres of small farms,rural hamlets and dry eucalypt forest which surround them.The Brigades are entirely voluntary and before the fireseason starts they have to train their new members, runraffles to raise money for fire-fighting equipment and tryto educate the new settlers from the city. Andrew Wilson-Annan has only recently arrived fromScotland and he signs up with the Woodend brigade at acommunity education meeting. His wife Julie, who is fourmonths pregnant, has to face the critical decision facedby all country people, to stay or go if a fire comes theirway.Nicole Healy runs the training sessions which Andrew hassigned up for. Nicole is only twenty and comes from afirefighting family. She is one of the first to volunteerwhen lightening strikes start massive fires in the northeast of the state. Co-ordinating the Macedon Group volunteers is the job ofTony Wade. Tony has given up his truck driving job for thesummer so that he can concentrate on his work for the CFA.It’s a good thing he did because he’s kept very busytrying to stitch together a crew of four every other day. With about a quarter of the group up in the North East thetwenty fifth of January was a big day. The temperaturereached 44 degrees by ten o’clock in the morning and thewind was gusting to twenty knots from the north. All thatwas needed was the smallest spark and the Melbourne toBendigo train provided it. Two fires started on therailway line near Gisborne as the morning train passedthrough. Within minutes they were tearing across thegrassland toward houses just north of the town. Minuteslater three more fires started near Woodend. Because itwas a total fire ban day the Macedon group crews were allstanding by and they were able to stop the fires beforethey got out of control. As they say in the business itwas a good save.
The North east fires took eight weeks to control and burntover a million hectares of bush and farmland. The MacedonGroup like all the brigades in Victoria played their partin saving many communities and towns along the way.Trial by Fireprovides an insight into the workings ofAustralia’s volunteer fire fighting brigades. It capturesthe humour, the adrenalin and the comraderie that makesAustralia’s country fire services unique. HistoryAustralia, perhaps more than any other country in theworld, has been shaped by fire. Not only has fire shapedthe landscape, the flora and the history of Australia, ithas also shaped the national psyche. DefinitiveAustralian characteristics of mate-ship, practicality andthe underdog spirit have all been forged in the crucibleof bushfire.
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- Fall '16
- Jeff Miller