Leave early and live

Yarrawonga Chronicle - - On The Land -

Only one in 10 Vic­to­ri­ans liv­ing in ar­eas at high risk of bush­fire say they would ‘leave early’ on days of high fire dan­ger, a CFA sur­vey has re­vealed as Vic­to­ria braces for a few hot and windy days.

That’s the low­est pro­por­tion in the past seven years of the CFA’s Bush­fire Com­mu­nity Sur­vey, un­der­taken an­nu­ally since 2009-10, which recorded a peak of 15 per cent in 2012.

How­ever, the num­ber of peo­ple who said they would ‘stay and de­fend’ also dropped 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%), 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 (7%) said they would wait for po­lice, fire or emer­gency ser­vices to tell them what to do on the day.

Deputy Chief Of­fi­cer Stephanie Ro­tarangi said those who waited too long to leave, or were not ad­e­quately pre­pared to de­fend their prop­erty, could be risk­ing their lives and those of fire­fight­ers.

“Leav­ing early is the safest op­tion to pro­tect your­self and your fam­ily and it means leav­ing the area be­fore a fire starts – not when you can see flames or smell smoke,” Dr Ro­tarangi said.

“Leav­ing early means avoid­ing panic, be­ing trapped, mak­ing the wrong choices and risk­ing se­ri­ous in­jury or death.

“Vic­to­ria’s en­vi­ron­ment and cli­mate means we live in one of the most fire prone re­gions in the world, there­fore the only way that you can guar­an­tee your safety dur­ing a bush­fire is not be­ing in it.

“Wait­ing to leave means a drive that nor­mally takes a few min­utes could take hours, or you may not be able to get out at all.”

Dr Ro­tarangi warned Vic­to­ri­ans not to be com­pla­cent de­spite re­cent rain­fall across much of Vic­to­ria.

“Some ar­eas of the state, par­tic­u­larly in Gipp­s­land, are ex­tremely dry and will need many weeks of above-av­er­age rain be­fore drought­stressed plants start to re­cover,” she said.

“While the re­cent rain has made fuel less flammable in the short term, the cur­rent weather out­look in­di­cates a re­turn to dry con­di­tions and el­e­vated fire risk.

“This sea­son still has the po­ten­tial to be in line with Vic­to­ria’s dri­est fire sea­sons. It’s not a ques­tion of if there will be bush­fires this sea­son, it’s a ques­tion of when and where.

“You may feel that we say the same thing ev­ery year, and to an ex­tent we do. That’s be­cause in a place like Vic­to­ria, we need to con­tin­u­ally be pre­pared for the worst.

“When grass or scrub fire strikes, it will travel at a tremen­dous speed and be dif­fi­cult to con­trol, so prepa­ra­tion is the key.”

Dr Ro­tarangi said that on hot, dry and windy days, such as those fore­cast for Thurs­day and Fri­day, fires can start and spread quickly.

She urged Vic­to­ri­ans to learn what the Fire Dan­ger Rat­ings mean and use them as trig­gers to take ac­tion to keep them­selves and loved ones safe.

“Talk to your house­hold, fam­ily or neigh­bours about your bush­fire sur­vival plan and check Fire Dan­ger Rat­ings daily so you know when to leave,” she said.

“The CFA web­site has more in­for­ma­tion and will help you use the Fire Dan­ger Rat­ing to know when con­di­tions are dan­ger­ous enough to put your bush­fire sur­vival plan in to ac­tion.

“It’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to make the best pos­si­ble de­ci­sion for your fam­ily based on the cur­rent Fire Dan­ger Rat­ings and of­fi­cial warn­ings for your area.

“It’s ex­tremely im­por­tant that peo­ple spend some time get­ting to un­der­stand the Fire Dan­ger Rat­ings and how to use them to keep them­selves safe.”

Fire Dan­ger Rat­ings – what you need to know

• The Fire Dan­ger Rat­ing tells you how dan­ger­ous a fire would be if one started. The higher the rat­ing the more dan­ger­ous the con­di­tions. • Make sure you know what fire weather district you’re in, and check the Fire Dan­ger Rat­ing and To­tal Fire Ban for that district ev­ery day over sum­mer.

• If the Fire Dan­ger Rat­ing is Code Red or Ex­treme, you could be risk­ing your life if you wait and see.

• Rat­ings are fore­cast us­ing Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy data, based on weather and other en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions such as fuel load. Pro­vid­ing this in­for­ma­tion in ad­vance en­ables peo­ple to pre­pare for any sig­nif­i­cant fore­cast of fire weather.

• Fire dan­ger rat­ings are dis­played on 85 au­to­mated and around 300 static signs across Vic­to­ria.

• To check the Fire Dan­ger Rat­ing visit www. emer­gency.vic.gov.au, check the VicEmer­gency app or phone the VicEmer­gency Hot­line on 1800 226 226.

• Down­load the VicEmer­gency app now so you know how it works well be­fore you need to use it. For ex­am­ple, you can set up tailored watch zones for the area where you live, go on hol­i­day or to mon­i­tor what is hap­pen­ing where friends and fam­ily are lo­cated.

Code Red – what you need to know

• A Fire Dan­ger Rat­ing of ‘Code Red’ is the

high­est level of rat­ing in Vic­to­ria.

• It clearly iden­ti­fies to the com­mu­nity, emer

gency man­age­ment agen­cies, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, and other key ser­vice providers the po­ten­tial for the worst pos­si­ble bush­fire con­di­tions.

• A Code Red Fire Dan­ger Rat­ing is rare and

ex­tremely se­ri­ous.

• It is de­ter­mined the day prior to al­low schools, na­tional parks and other fa­cil­i­ties to pre­pare to close or sus­pend ser­vices.

• A Code Red Fire Dan­ger Rat­ing means that

if a fire were to start:

• It could be un­con­trol­lable, un­pre­dictable and

fast mov­ing

• Fire ser­vices will find it dif­fi­cult to put out • There’s a high like­li­hood that peo­ple in the

path of a fire will be killed or se­ri­ously in­jured • Many homes are likely to be de­stroyed – even

the best pre­pared homes won’t be safe.

• If you are in a high-risk area, the only way to stay safe is to leave the night be­fore or the morn­ing of a Code Red day.

• Talk to every­one you live with about your plans for a Code Red day so you all know what to do.

• Don’t rely on get­ting a warn­ing if a fire starts. It’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to know when to leave. If a fire dan­ger rat­ing of re­vere, ex­treme or code red is pre­dicted, tune in to ABC lo­cal ra­dio, com­mer­cial and des­ig­nated com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tions or Sky News TV, phone the VicEmer­gency Hot­line on 1800 226 226, visit www. emer­gency.vic.gov.au, down­load the VicEmer­gency app and fol­low VicEmer­gency Twit­ter and Face­book for more in­for­ma­tion.

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