Lack of fire un­der­stand­ing a prob­lem

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Patrick Tansey

Only one in 10 Vic­to­ri­ans liv­ing in ar­eas at high risk of bush­fire would leave early on days of high fire dan­ger, a CFA sur­vey re­vealed as the state braces for a po­ten­tially busy fire sea­son.

It was the low­est pro­por­tion in the past seven years of the CFA’s bush­fire com­mu­nity sur­vey, done each year since 2009-10, which recorded a peak of 15 per cent in 2012.

Co­bram Fire Bri­gade cap­tain Adrian Hilder found it sur­pris­ing so many peo­ple would choose not to leave early, but said a lack of un­der­stand­ing in fire dan­ger was a key prob­lem.

‘‘I think in many cases, peo­ple just don’t re­alise the dan­gers un­til it’s too late, which is why the sta­tis­tics read like they do,’’ he said.

‘‘You can’t out­run fire on a bad day; it’s as sim­ple as that.

‘‘What we sug­gest to peo­ple that live on the river frontage near bush­land or grass­land, if a fire does start, we sug­gest you im­me­di­ately re­treat three streets back from the frontage of the bush or grass­land.’’

Mr Hilder said while he could un­der­stand why peo­ple felt the need to stay and de­fend their prop­erty, in most in­stances it was not nec­es­sary thanks to im­me­di­ate help from the sky.

‘‘When­ever we get a pager for a grass fire there’s a he­li­copter au­to­mat­i­cally dis­patched, so my mes­sage to peo­ple would be to let the emer­gency ser­vices do the de­fend­ing,’’ he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey, the amount of peo­ple who would ac­tu­ally stay and fight a fire at their home had de­creased from last year.

That num­ber low­ered to 13 per cent only a year af­ter it recorded a high of 17 per cent.

In­stead, a third of re­spon­dents said they would leave as soon as they knew a fire was threat­en­ing their town or sub­urb (33 per cent), while a quar­ter said they would do as much as pos­si­ble to pro­tect their prop­erty but leave if they felt threat­ened by the fire.

An­other 10 per cent said they would wait to see what the fire was like be­fore de­cid­ing whether to stay or leave, while some (seven per cent) said they would wait for po­lice, fire or emer­gency ser­vices to tell them what to do on the day.

Mr Hilder said a key com­po­nent to be­ing fire smart and fire ready was mon­i­tor­ing the con­di­tions each day.

‘‘It’s pretty easy to look up nowa­days. There’s an app on smart­phones called Weather­zone, which will tell you the fire dan­ger rat­ing for the day and for the next day. It also pays to keep an eye on the CFA web­site and the VicEmer­gency app,’’ he said.

Mr Hilder said if there was one par­tic­u­lar thing res­i­dents could do to be safe, it was to be de­ci­sive in their de­ci­sion­mak­ing.

‘‘If you know it’s go­ing to be a bad day . . . be­fore any­thing hap­pens, de­cide what you’re go­ing to do, don’t hes­i­tate.’’

Take care: Only 1 in 10 Vic­to­ri­ans liv­ing in ar­eas at high risk of bush­fire say they would leave early on days of high fire dan­ger.

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