Courtesy Beechworth Fire Brigade
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 CFA survey revealed.
CFA’s annual Bushfire Community Survey, undertaken since 2009-10, showed 30.9 per cent would wait for emergency authorities to tell them what to do, 28.6 per cent would stay until they felt threatened and 13.8 per cent 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, and with the prediction of a warmer spring and earlier start to this year’s season, CFA is concerned that not enough people are preparing themselves for fire season and heeding CFA’s advice.
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said it’s concerning knowing around half of Victorians in high-risk bushfire areas are risking their lives if a bushfire was to occur.
“Victoria has had quieter fire seasons the last few years but now is not the time for the community to become complacent,” CO Heffernan said.
“And 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’re 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, use the multiple channels available to you. Use common sense and protect yourself and your loved ones.”
The AFAC Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for Spring released on 23 August outlined that fire risk in the coming months is expected to be normal across most parts of Victoria.
The predicted development of an El Niño weather pattern will contribute to higher fire risk in some parts of Victoria this season compared to the last three years.
“Now is the time to sit down with your family or household and make sure you have a bushfire survival plan. Practise this plan and be ready,” CO 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 per cent believe CFA is responsible for protecting them during a bushfire, and 43.8 per cent 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,” CO 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.”
Victorians should know where to find the best information to stay safe and never rely on just one source of information.
Victoria’s integrated warning system includes the Vic Emergency website, app and social media channels, VicEmergency Hotline 1800 226 226, emergency broadcasters including ABC radio, Sky News TV, commercial radio and select community radio stations.
Warnings are issued when an incident is occurring, and you need to act. Make sure you understand the three levels of warnings and additional messages such as ‘Evacuate Now’:
- Advice – An incident is occurring or has occurred. Access information and monitor conditions.
- Warning (Watch & Act) – An emergency is developing nearby. Conditions are changing and you need to act now to protect yourself and your family.
- Emergency Warning – You are in imminent danger and need to act now.
- Evacuation – An evacuation is recommended or procedures are in place to evacuate.
We’re asking people to take the following actions:
- Move your winter woodpile away from the house or sheds.
- Prune tree branches so they are not overhanging the roof or touching walls.
- Clear your gutters.
- Keep grass shorter than 10cm.
- Remove leaves and twigs from around your property.
- Test anything that is part of your fire plan such as sprinklers, pumps and generators.
- Check that your home and contents insurance is current and includes a level of cover in line with current building standards and regulations.
- If you are burning off to remove green waste, register your burn-off online at Fire Permits Victoria at www.firepermits.vic.gov.au, or call ESTA on 1800 688 511.
- Make sure your household has a Bushfire Survival Plan. Find out how at www.cfa.vic.gov.au/bushfireplan.