feature human energy heroes: perth bush fires

Chevron Australia HSE Specialist and volunteer bush fire brigade Deputy Chief Michael Tait responding to bush fire in Avon Valley, 2013. Credit: Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

In February, Chevron Australia announced a $1.2 million donation to the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund in support of bush fire relief and recovery efforts in Perth’s north-east.

We also provided full leave entitlements to our employees volunteering in fire relief efforts and pledged to match all donations made to the fund by our workforce dollar-for-dollar.

An additional $70,000 has since been donated in support of individuals and families who continue to be impacted by the devastating fires.

For Health, Safety and Environment Specialist Michael Tait and Geographic Information Systems Analyst Naeim Babaii, volunteering their time to fire relief has shown the power of Human Energy to solve challenges and bring a community together.

What was your involvement in the recent fire relief efforts?

Michael: as a volunteer bush fire brigade Deputy Chief, I led crews over the first two days of the incident.

Getting the call on day one, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The information available in the first few hours was limited due to the speed at which the fire was moving.

As we arrived at the staging point, we learnt one of the crews had lost a crucial piece of fire-fighting equipment to the blaze, but thankfully escaped without injury. My highest priority in any incident is keeping my crew safe.

Overnight we worked hard to save what we could in the worst hit area, Tilden Park. Falling powerlines and trees meant many roads became inaccessible without warning. We moved quickly between properties to assess the likelihood of saving them, putting out what spot fires we could around homes while trying our best to conserve water.   

In my second shift, our focus was securing the north eastern flank of the fire. This was hilly country with limited road access. Stopping the fire in this area meant it would be contained in days rather than weeks. We experienced fire behaviour I have not seen since devastating fires in WA’s south west a decade ago.

Naeim: I’m responsible for creating fire path prediction models and fire mapping as a volunteer with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

During the recent bush fires, I assisted the Planning team to have near real-time understanding of the extent of the fire and its path, and any people or infrastructure in danger.

These models and maps are critical to safety of the ground crew. They help fire fighters to accurately plan their efforts and safely battle the fire front while providing other responding agencies – such as WA Police and State Emergency Services – with required information to establish evacuation zones and keep the community informed.

The fires occurred during a week of COVID-19 community lockdown across the Perth-metro area, which added more complexity to a very challenging incident.

Chevron Australia HSE Specialist and volunteer bush fire brigade Deputy Chief Michael Tait responding to bush fire in Avon Valley, 2013. Credit: Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

What motivated you to become a volunteer?

Michael: in 2005 while I was returning home from work, there was a fire close by and I noticed some white fire trucks in amongst the red. This was my first introduction to the bush fire service and curiosity eventually led me to sign on as a volunteer.

Over the last sixteen years, I’ve been very proud to serve both on the front line and in an advisory capacity, assisting in the development of new light vehicle fire trucks.

Naeim: there is nothing more rewarding than giving back to the community through volunteering. I’m proud my professional expertise has also assisted the state emergency service during bush fires and other natural disasters, helping to keep my local community safe.

What does Human Energy mean to you?

Michael: There is a lot of diversity among volunteer fire-fighters – our membership is very representative of the whole community, from students to grandparents. For me, Human Energy reflects the importance of every person’s unique contribution, and our ability to face the toughest of challenges when we come together as a collective.

Having seen the ongoing devastation of these most recent fires firsthand, I’m very proud of the way our workforce has used their human energy to support our local community.

Naeim: I think Human Energy comes from people being empowered and inspired to solve complex problems for the benefit of humanity, using our unique skills and abilities to enable a better future for all. Human energy means coming together when our community is in need and lending a helping hand to one another.