Veteran Firefighter Dies While Battling Victorian Bushfire

A man killed by a falling tree while battling a blaze in the state's alpine region was a 40-year veteran firefighter.

Bill Slade, 60, was fighting fires with Parks Victoria at Omeo when he died on Saturday.

The married father of two from Wonthaggi has been remembered as one of the longest serving, most experienced and fittest firefighters.

"This is a significant loss for the Forest Fire Management Victoria family and the community as a whole," FFMV boss Chris Hardman said Sunday morning.

Bill Slade, 60, was helping to contain a fire near Omeo when he was killed by a falling tree. Image: State Control Centre

Slade was on a taskforce working at the fire's edge.

"Although we do have enormous experience in identifying hazardous trees, sometimes these tree failures can't be predicted," Hardman said.

"It would have been a traumatic experience for everybody on that taskforce."

Slade had worked on major fire incidents in the past including the Ash Wednesday bushfires.

His 40 years service was recognised in a presentation in November.

Slade's death follows the death of fellow FFMV firefighter Mat Kavanagh, 43, who died on duty when his vehicle crashed on the Goulburn Valley Highway on January 3.

Hardman said despite the deaths firefighters would continue to be deployed.

"We have to be out there ... it's a long time before the risks around these fires are over," he said.

They'll be out in the field until late February or March, or possibly beyond.

"I think we need to be really clear unless we get really significant rains ... 100-150mm of rain we're going to be in this for the long haul," he said.

Emergency Management Victoria Commissioner Andrew Crisp said "benign conditions" are forecast in coming days, including thunderstorms expected to bring rain.

Victoria Police and Worksafe are investigating Slade's death.



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Members of the NSW Rural Fire Service have formed a guard of honour to farewell Andrew O'Dwyer, a Sydney firefighter killed while protecting communities from a bushfire last month.

While an emergency warning remains in place for a fire near Mount Hotham, the state of disaster declared for the regions has ended.

Milder conditions are forecast for the next week to 10 days, meaning attention can turn to getting the upper hand on the more than 20 fires still burning.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said relieving exhausted emergency services workers was also a priority.

"People are very fatigued, that is the case with communities but also the case with our emergency service personnel, they are very exhausted and we need to be able to rotate in and out people," she told reporters on Saturday.

"We have got a chance to do that whilst we are also still doing a lot of the planning, a lot of the work that we can do to try and minimise the future impact of these fires."

More than 1.3 million hectares have been razed since November 21, while 286 homes and 400 other buildings have been damaged.