The man behind this plan (shown in the article below) is

Kevin Butler,

the founder & driving force behind BLAZEAID.


Vigilante firefighter league forming across rural Victoria amid fears authorities won’t stop blazes



· AUGUST 28, 2014 9:00PM

Kevin Butler on his Kilmore East farm. He is part of a group of farmers threatening to start their own fire fighting outfit. Picture: Rob Leeson

A VIGILANTE firefighter league is uniting across rural Victoria as farmers declare they are fearful government authorities will do nothing to stop a blaze from wiping out their animals and land this summer.

The state’s Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley has called for unity but the farmers have vowed to plough ahead with their plan after losing faith in the Country Fire Authority.

Rural land holders are spending up to $15,000 each to “armour up” with fire trucks, radios and protective clothing so they can form teams to beat the CFA and police to a threatening blaze before it gets out of control.

Negotiations are underway with sponsors including insurance companies and equipment suppliers.

One man behind the plan, Kevin Butler, said farmers appreciated the work of CFA volunteers, but he is fed up with systemic failures he blames largely on government red tape.

“We’ve gone through so much misery and suffering for several years because of the impotence of the CFA. We’re not backing down,” Mr Butler said.

“We are taking charge of our own destinities because clearly the government, through the CFA, is not looking after country people like they look after people in the city.”

An alarmed Mr Lapsley has been in talks with the Victorian Farmers Federation and angry property owners across the state, with farmer firefighter plans underway across a number of groups in the Grampians, and central and northern districts.

Mr Lapsley warned groups to “be careful” and ensure they are “integrated with and not in competition” with existing emergency responders.

“If we’ve got a gap (in the system) lets walk up to it and address it,” he told the Herald Sun.

“They need to still work with the CFA, don’t go off by themselves — lets work with them.”

Since the Black Saturday Royal Commission, the CFA has declared its top priorities are to protect human life and communicate information to the public.

That means that during some battles, trucks have been on standby near homes and townships, while livestock, paddocks, sheds and fences are left without CFA protection.

Daraweit Guim farmer Tom McDonell lost 9000 sheep during the February Mickleham-Kilmore blaze and said the emotional impact had been traumatic.

Mr McDonell was stopped by authorities from returning to his smouldering property and said the CFA’s failure to also protect farming infrastructure and land had left businesses in a “dire” financial state.

Like many neighbouring families, generations of the McDonells have volunteered with the CFA — but Mr McDonell now believes the future of fire fighting lies with landholders with local knowledge of back roads, wind conditions and fire behaviour.

Mr Butler, who is also the founder of disaster recovery charity Blaze Aid, said he hopes trial groups will be fire ready by this summer.

Their target response time will be five to 20 minutes — which they say will prevent them from being stopped by police road blocks — and they will communicate via a phone tree, social media and radio.

“We are supporting families who have equipment to help neighbours and suppress a fire before it becomes a mega fire,” he said.

The organisers are still in talks with their neighbours and face some opposition.

Some farmers told the Herald Sun they have serious concerns about the insurance risks and believe many questions need to be answered before they will sign on to any league.

Mr Lapsley said he understood the community’s concerns and would direct CFA leaders: “To make sure that they (fire fighters) see it through the farmer’s eyes, that it’s not just the house that needs protecting.”