The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Safety a joint effort


An ‘alarming’ number of Victorians living in high-risk bushfire areas say they would stay at their properties until they felt threatened by a bushfire, or would wait for an official warning, a Country Fire Authority survey has shown.

CFA’S annual Bushfire Community Survey, undertaken since 2009-10, showed 30.9 percent of respondent­s would wait for emergency authoritie­s to tell them what to do, while 28.6 percent would stay until they felt threatened and 13.8 percent would stay and defend their property.

Victoria has experience­d many damaging fire seasons in recent memory – such as the February 2009 bushfires and the 2019-20 fires.

CFA chief officer Jason Heffernan said he was concerned not enough people were heeding the CFA’S advice and preparing themselves for the fire season.

He said it was concerning to know about half of all Victorians in high-risk bushfire areas were risking their lives if a bushfire was to occur.

“Victoria has had quieter fire seasons the past few years but now is not the time for the community to become complacent,” Mr Heffernan said.

“While our firefighte­rs are always well prepared, your safety during fire season is a shared responsibi­lity, so it’s vital that you understand your local risks and take actions to prepare your family and property.

“We’ve seen in the recent release of the spring seasonal outlook that weather patterns are changing and we are expecting warmer and drier conditions across the state leading up to summer.

“Fires spread quickly and they threaten lives and properties.

“The community needs to be prepared and they need to know their triggers to act.

“Please don’t rely on one source of informatio­n, utilise the multiple channels available to you. Use common sense and protect yourself and your loved ones.”

The Australasi­an Fire Authoritie­s Council’s seasonal bushfire outlook for spring, released in August, outlined fire risk in the coming months was expected to be ‘normal’ across most parts of Victoria.

Higher risk

The developmen­t of an El Niño weather pattern would contribute to higher fire risk in some parts of Victoria this season compared to the past three years.

“Now is the time to sit down with your family or household and make sure you have a bushfire survival plan. Practice this plan and be ready,” Mr Heffernan said.

“On hot, dry and windy days, don’t drive into or through high-risk areas. Plan an alternate route or postpone your travel if possible. Continue to monitor conditions every day.”

The survey also showed 44.4 percent of respondent­s believe the CFA is responsibl­e for protecting them during a bushfire, and 43.8 percent say CFA is responsibl­e for protecting their home.

“We simply can’t get a truck to every house during a major bushfire. Fire safety is a joint effort and the community needs to also take on this responsibi­lity when living in a bushfire prone area,” Mr Heffernan said.

“Our promise is to continue with our mission to protect lives and property and we are lucky to have some of the best firefighte­rs in the world to do this.”

Mr Heffernan said people should know where to find the best informatio­n to stay safe – and encouraged people to never rely on just one source of informatio­n.

Victoria’s integrated warning system includes the Vicemergen­cy website, app and social media channels, Vicemergen­cy Hotline 1800 226 226, emergency broadcaste­rs including ACE Radio and ABC radio, Sky News TV and select community radio stations.

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