News & Media

When the Fires Come DVD launch

By: Leith Hillard

Category: Community Safety

  10.52 AM 16 July, 2013

Location: General

Views: 2979

CFA’s Community Development Coordinator of School Education Programs Dawn Hartog was president of the Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House when they received funding in 2010 from the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund.

A working party comprising Black Saturday fire-affected residents was formed and Fine Focus Film and Photography were contracted to put together a film, When the Fires Come, that captured the stories of nine fire-affected participants. 

A journalist interviewed them and what came through were strong messages of radiant heat danger, the need for sprinklers, mental and physical preparedness, knowing the area that you live in, and being aware of your surroundings.

As someone who fought to save her home alongside her husband and fellow Community Fireguard neighbours, Dawn was involved in the working party behind the film's production. Her involvement was not related to her CFA role but because she was a a member of a fire-affected community.

“The film was initially only going to look at the Kinglake Ranges,” says Dawn, “but we quickly saw that it was much more valuable to look at Victoria’s experiences of the day.

“Its purpose was for participants to re-live and process their experiences. It is their stories of survival but it’s only a drop in the ocean of experiences out there from the day.  We hope that other people will learn from these stories and put together a realistic plan for fire safety.”

The DVD goes through the following chapters: preparation and planning; the fire arrives; and after the fire.


Brian Ward from Callignee
Brian and his wife planned to stay. They actively defended and saved their house with the help of a friend. Brian is an ex-forester. He and his wife knew of the fire danger when they moved to Callignee and planned for it.  They have changed some sprinkler locations and plan to stay and defend again if they are both physically and mentally able and feel as prepared as they did on Black Saturday.

Chris Madsen from Callignee
The 15-year resident runs cattle and lost a large amount of fencing on Black Saturday. His family was aware of the fire danger and planned for it. They are part of Community Fireguard group which had a meeting on the Thursday before the fires.  Their fire plan was to stay and actively defend and their house suffered only some outer damage.  They have modified their plan to ensure the children won’t be there if another fire hits but the couple plans to stay and defend.

Graham McErlain from Pheasant Creek
Graham is a builder who has lived in the area for 34 years. His family has always had a fire plan and conducted fire drills and they were well aware of extreme fire conditions on Black Saturday.  They planned to stay and defend and saved their house with the help of family and friends – and with dogs, cats and even a wallaby for company – although some sheds were lost.  If there is a next time, they plan to make preparations, have their bags packed and leave early.

Matthew Charles-Jones from Yackandandah
Matthew and his wife were very aware of the weather leading up to Black Saturday and the conditions on the day. They had previously lived in Marysville and Kinglake so were generally aware of fire danger. Their plan was to leave and they knew where they would go but fortunately the fire did not approach their town. They now have fire protection systems in place as part of their plan. 

Peter Olorenshaw from Callignee
A police officer who has lived in the area for more than 16 years, Peter was very aware of bushfire risk and was involved in previous local fires in the area as an emergency services officer. His plan was to actively defend with his son and that’s what they did … but they lost the house and other buildings as well as vehicles.  The family is now rebuilding at a better location and with better materials.  They will have an English garden and an improved sprinkler system. 

Jenny Bray from Kinglake
Jenny is the local horse vet. Her family was very aware of local fire danger and practised their fire preparations and tested their equipment every year. Her family’s plan was to stay and defend and that’s what they did, saving their house, horses and stables.  They have put enhanced defence mechanisms in place and haven’t changed mind on staying and defending. 

Pat Cowman from Flowerdale
Pat has lived in the area for 40 years and was there in 1982 when fire swept through. She and her husband made improvements to the property after the 2006 fires in the area and planned to stay and defend.  They saved their house although neighbours lost theirs.  Their pump failed on the day but they had lots of other water sources for active defence including sprinklers.  Their English garden helped to save the house.  They have updated their fire plan but would stay and defend again. 

Sue Exell from Haven
Sue has lived in the area for almost 50 years but didn’t have any direct fire experience. They were aware of fire on the day because of the smell of smoke in the area and they activated their basic plan with the help of family and friends.  They now have a more complex plan and have pumps and fire reels in place.

Shelley Croysdale from Kinglake West
Shelley’s family was new to the area. They had a newborn and a basic plan to go and that’s what they did when a phone call on the day alerted them to danger. They grabbed things on the day to take.  Their house was lost in the fire while the family relocated to Yea, after trying to leave via Whittlesea then Yarra Glen. They have now left the area.

“I’m incredibly proud to have been part of this project,” said Dawn, “and to have met the nine participants who generously gave their time and stories to make this resource.”

Copies of the DVD have been distributed to councils across Victoria and to all CFA's community education coordinators. And soon, it will be available on CFA's youtube channel.

Last Updated: 16 July 2013