There was no bushfire warning: resident

There was no bushfire warning: resident

6 April 2009

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The effectiveness of Victoria’s bushfire warning systems has again been questioned ahead of the royal commission into this year’s fatal fires.

The issue was raised on Monday in the devastated town of Marysville during a community consultation conducted by royal commissioner Bernard Teague.

The Black Saturday fires claimed 34 lives and destroyed every building in Marysville.

At the Marysville meeting, local resident Jill Sanguinetti said the state government’s Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) had failed to issue any warning that a fire was approaching her town.

Mrs Sanguinetti said if vital information had been broadcast even 30 minutes before the fire arrived, many lives could have been saved.

“As I understand, the DSE was given the message at 3.30pm that the fire was coming,” Mrs Sanguinetti said.

“We had the radio on and were watching websites and we didn’t hear anything.

“Had there been, even by four o’clock, an immediate broadcast on every radio and TV station – ‘this is an emergency, you’ve got to move’ – I think that would have made a big difference, and of course it didn’t happen.

“I’ve got no idea what happened – I hope it comes out of the royal commission.”

Residents of other bushfire-affected towns have raised the same concerns at earlier royal commission consultations.

At Flowerdale and Kinglake north of Melbourne, several residents said they had received no warning from either the DSE or the Country Fire Authority that their towns were in the path of the inferno.

Other residents said a perception had existed in the community that Marysville could not burn.

“If you talk to the locals prior to the fire they would tell you that the geography, the way the fires come and the prevailing winds and all the rest of it, that Marysville cannot burn,” said Michael O’Loughlin.

“The proof was it didn’t burn in 1939 and on Ash Wednesday in ’83. I didn’t think we would burn here – I just didn’t want to get trapped in the town, and that’s why we left.

Mr O’Loughlin, who joined in the submissions made on Monday, said the warnings in the week leading up to the February 7 fires were excellent.

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