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Firefighter Bill Slade, 60, has died while battling a blaze in Omeo, Victoria.

— With AAP.

A firefighter has died battling a blaze in Omeo in Victoria’s alpine region, bringing the state’s death toll this bushfire season to four.

The firefighter has been identified as Bill Slade, 60. He died on Saturday by a falling tree as he fought the fires around the East Gippsland town area.

The married father of two from Wonthaggi has been remembered as one of the longest serving, most experienced and fittest firefighters. Slade had 40 years of firefighting experience and had worked on major fire incidents in the past, including the Ash Wednesday bushfires.

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

Slade was on a taskforce working at the fire’s edge at Anglers Rest.

“Although we do have enormous experience in identifying hazardous trees, sometimes these tree failures can’t be predicted,” Mr Hardman said.

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

Slade’s 40 years service was recognised in a presentation by Parks Victoria chief Matt Jackson in November.

Jackson said it was a privilege to honour Mr Slade’s career and recognise the legacy he has left, as both a firefighter and a mentor to the community – a legacy which will continue for years to come.

“Bill was a much loved colleague, friend and member of the Wonthaggi community. He’ll be sorely missed by Parks Victoria,” he said.

The firefighter’s death will be investigated by Victoria Police, who will prepare a report for the coroner.

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It comes after another Forest Fires Management worker Mat Kavanagh, 43, died on duty when his vehicle crashed on the Goulburn Valley Highway on January 3.

Mick Roberts from Buchan and Maramingo Creek man Fred Becker were also killed in the fires at East Gippsland on New Year’s Day.

In wake of the trauma caused by the devastating bushfires across the nation, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged a $76 million mental-health package to help firefighters and residents who have been affected by these unprecedented wildfires.

Current bushfire conditions

While conditions have now eased, Mr Crisp warned there was a “long way to go” before the state’s fire season was over.

“It is great to have some respite now, so we can reset and refocus in terms of our operational activities and what we can do to support community, but we will have more hot weather,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“We are planning through until the end of March.”

Cooler temperatures and rainfall eased conditions on Saturday after Friday’s strong southwesterly whipped up fires in the alpine and East Gippsland regions.

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.”

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

Across the country this bushfire season, more than 20 people have died and more than 2,000 homes have been lost.

Read Mamamia’s comprehensive guide to how you can help in the wake of Australia’s bushfires.


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