Australia — Bushfires should be graded according to their intensity and howling sirens activated to warn residents in their paths, a community fireguard group says.
Submissions to the Victorian bushfires royal commission have blamed a communication breakdown for terrible losses onBlack Saturday as people were overrun by fires they didn’t know were coming.
Advice about the progress of fires did not sufficiently alarm townspeople, a submission by the 100 AcresCommunity Fireguard group says.
Because of the ferocity of the fires, even those who had a fire plan and thought they were prepared were overwhelmed before they realised they must try and escape instead of defending their properties.
The group, based atPark Orchards on Melbourne’s eastern fringe, says emergency sirens should be installed in all towns of high fire risk.
Battery operated radios should be mandatory during the fire season and all media, not just ABC Radio, should broadcast fire threat messages.
The submission also proposes a fire rating system of 1-10, arguing that people would have more chance of making the right decision about defending their homes if they were better informed of the risks.
The stay or go policy will be one of the first issues to come under scrutiny when the bushfires royal commission begins formal hearings into the disaster on Monday.
The February 7 fires killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.
The first block of hearings, headed by commission chairman Justice Bernard Teague, will also examine the timing and intensity of the bushfires and warnings. Country Fire Authority (CFA) chief officer Russell Rees will begin giving evidence tomorrow.
His testimony will be followed by Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) chief fire officer Ewan Waller, Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin and Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe.
The 100 Acres group submission was among eight posted on the royal commission website on Sunday. Hundreds more will be uploaded this week, with submissions set to close on May 18.
Kinglake survivor Wayne Haggar says the warnings on Black Saturday were a total failure.
When the power was cut to his property, the only mention of Kinglake on the CFA website was of a small grass fire, he says in his submission.
We had absolutely no warning of the impending danger, and from the time our power went out (we) had only about five to 10 minutes before the flames were entering our property.
Mr Haggar also touches on another common theme of discontent among survivors – council laws restricting the removal of vegetation and fuel loads.
He describes fighting flames at “our very back door”, because he was not allowed to remove trees within 10 metres of the house “under threat of legal action”.
Whittlesea resident Peter Towt says no fuel reduction burns have been conducted in his area in 83 years.
Residents had pleaded with authorities for four decades to reduce undergrowth, warning a fire would have “catastrophic consequences”.
So the results of February 7th 2009 came as no surprise to many.