The Mirror News

Fire risk brought home to Sandy Point residents

SANDY Point residents were given a realistic idea of the fire risk to their town when they participated in the innovative Township Protection Project last Saturday evening. Theirs was the first town in Gippsland to be selected to undertake the program, which was delivered by the CFA.

Around 50 residents attended the practical exercise, which was held at the Waratah Beach Surf Lifesaving Club from 4pm to 7pm, and included a free dinner.

The meeting was also attended by representatives from the CFA Fish Creek, CFA Leongatha, South Gippsland Shire, and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE).

The exercise was facilitated by former CFA staff member and volunteer Ivan Smith, who has first-hand knowledge of the behaviour of fire under varying circumstances. He was able to deliver scenarios specific to Sandy Point as well as to individual properties.

The program differs greatly to any other fire management meeting previously conducted, allowing participants to increase their understanding of the risk to their township – and to their own properties.

“The participants got a realistic idea of the sort of fires we could have here, rather than preconceived ideas such as a massive fire raging out of the bush. It’s not quite like that here,” explained Andrew Oldroyd, CFA Brigade Support Co-ordinator.

In this new, innovative program, large-scale aerial photos were shown, providing a new perspective on the density of flora of the area and the probable courses a fire would take – giving an insight into how a fire could travel – and how quickly, which is very important in knowing how to deal with it.

During the two fire scenarios given, participants were encouraged to locate their own property on the aerial map.

A ‘fire simulation table’ was set up and then lit up!

Using locally found plants including grasses and ti-tree, small 3D houses were put in place and roads indicated. This gave a very real visual representation of how and where a fire would travel, and of the differing situations which would have an effect on the varying courses the fire could take – dependent upon whether the fire began within the township of Sandy Point, or as a grass fire travelling across paddocks to the town.

This differed enormously with previous fire management meetings which the community may have attended, as rather than being very generic and applicable to any town, it was very specific to Sandy Point itself.

It was explained that even the topography of an area has a huge impact on how a fire behaves.

This all helped to enforce the reality of fire risk to individual properties, and to change residents’ perceptions of what to expect in the event of a fire.

Andrew Oldroyd stressed that having a fire plan is important – but not everyone realises that in reality more than one plan should be ready for action. If warning of an impending fire is received, there is hopefully time to put into action a detailed fire plan. If a fire starts within the district, it could impact quickly, necessitating a different approach to dealing with the danger.

Now that participants have an increased awareness of these specifics, a free Bushfire Planning Workshop is to be held at the Waratah Beach Surf Life Saving Club, Sandy Point, on Saturday February 25, at 1pm, preceded by lunch at 12.30pm. RSVP by 20 February to Joy Churchill on 5149 1021 or j.churchill@cfa.vic.gov.au

This workshop will assist residents to take their individual properties into consideration when making their fire plan. For those interested persons unable to attend the workshop, a free Household Bushfire Assessment can be booked by phoning the CFA Head Office on 5149 1000.

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