Wye River brigade’s water tank initiative

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Going back almost 20 years, Wye River Fire Brigade identified that many of the new houses being built had CFA-dedicated water tanks that were unusable.


The tanks were either too far away from tanker access, the pipes connecting the tank to the outlet were too small, or in some cases the tanks were empty.

The 2015 Christmas Day fire demonstrated the importance of a dedicated 10,000-litre supply for defending properties. In a small town with no mains water, it can take up to 20 minutes for a tanker to refill at the station.

But many people, including plumbers, aren’t sure of the regulations and conditions that must be met when installing a CFA-dedicated water supply.

Wye River brigade’s Community Safety Coordinator Ian ‘Wellsy’ Wells set about finding out all the regulations that had to be met with a new build. The ‘Bushfire planning’ section of the Victoria Planning Provisions outlines the requirements, as well as CFA’s Guidelines for Remote Outlets on Water Tanks in the Bushfire Management Overlay.

“It really is quite complex when you dig down into it,” Wellsy said, “and in some cases it appears like it falls through the cracks in the whole building process.”

For example, regulations stipulate that a CFA truck must be able to access within four metres of an outlet. However, if the tank itself is more than four metres below the draughting point on the truck it can be difficult to both prime and maintain adequate flow rates.

“CFA’s guidelines only allow for gravity feed tanks, which is just not possible in hilly terrain where half the houses are on the down slope and road easements don’t allow for tanks to be at road level,” Wellsy said.

Wye River brigade has compiled a compliance audit sheet for each property so that it can inform the council of any issues. The audit sheet includes regulatory conditions and points from CFA’s guidelines, and is divided into sections covering signage, the outlet and pipework, and the size and position of the tank.

Wye River brigade discovered that building surveyors are not required to check compliance on CFA-dedicated tanks. Council compliance officers have the power to enforce these conditions, but only do so if they have been notified.

District 6 Assistant Chief Fire Officer Craig Brittain took this compliance issue to Colac Otway Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee and it has now been referred to Barwon South West Regional Emergency Management Planning Committee and Municipal Association of Victoria.

New resident and CFA CEO Natalie MacDonald volunteered her house as a test case for the audit. Brigade members helped to determine the best location for the CFA tank and outlet. Following these discussions, Natalie decided to increase tank capacity to 15,000 litres. The house sprinkler system runs off a separate tank, allowing the brigade to have full use of the 15,000 litres. However, homeowners can always access a CFA tank if needed.

“We know residents often spend a lot of money installing a CFA-dedicated tank. We want to make sure they are safe for the brigade to access and are usable,” Wellsy said.

With the help of CFA’s Community Safety team, the brigade recently produced a flyer for residents (pictured below) that highlights the importance of CFA-dedicated water tanks and what owners can do, including maintaining good signage, clearing vegetation from around the outlet and ensuring tanks remain full.

Wye River brigade has also started mapping usable CFA-dedicated points on Google Maps for the township, as well as neighbouring Separation Creek, Kennett River and Grey River, which helps crews in pre-planning en route to a fire. The mapping also includes relevant information such as the presence of bunkers, solar panels and whether a house may contain asbestos.

We have great support from our community. We know they want to do all they can to keep the township safe from fire. They just needed to know ‘Wye?’


  • Member News imageCommunity flyer produced by Wye River Fire Brigade
  • Member News image Community flyer produced by Wye River Fire Brigade
Submitted by Andrew Hack. Wye River Brigade Captain