Nillumbik Mayor Michael Young said he was happy to pledge his support to the firefighters involved in rescue operations in Eltham and surrounding suburbs, the Diamond Valley Leader reported.
“I commend the CFA volunteers for their actions under such circumstances when lives are at stake and quick decisions needed to be made,” Cr Young said.
The CFA has stood down a member from driving and not ruled out punishing the four-man crew after the footage raised questions about the authority’s safety procedures.The video, shot by a bystander, shows a Research CFA crew ignoring the State Emergency Service’s advice not to drive through floodwaters.
The vehicle motors through an Eltham street before slowly disappearing beneath the murky waters, with bystanders crying out in amazement.
Two firefighters then appear at the back of the vehicle, while the cabin is flooded with at least two firefighters inside.
When the truck re-emerges, water and debris spill from the cabin doors.
Research Fire Brigade Capt Neville Stewart, who was not driving the truck, said the incident happened so quickly.
“We weren’t expecting it and then we just had to keep going, we couldn’t stop it,” he said.
The CFA’s northwest metropolitan region acting operations manager, Tony O’Day, said the driver was one of the most experienced in the brigade.
“It’s an error of judgment,” Mr O’Day said.
“Once they started driving through the water, they were committed and made a decision to keep driving rather than stop.
“It’s certainly not standard behavior. We don’t encourage it.”
The crew got itself in deep trouble when it misjudged a signpost and sized up the water incorrectly.
Mr O’Day said people were always told not to drive through floodwaters because of the dangers, and the firefighters should have known better.
He said the crew regretted the decision. “They are fairly shaken,” Mr O’Day said.
SES State Commander Tim Wiebusch said it was up to the CFA to comment on its own safety policy.