Lack of fire understanding a problem
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.