Victorian bushfires survivor says bunker saved family in Clonbinane

Victorian bushfires survivor says bunker saved family in Clonbinane

27 May 2009

published by

Australia —

A Black Saturday bushfire survivor said today a bunker saved his family as a fire storm swept across Clonbinane.Former CFA volunteer Bevan Gobbett said that although he was fully prepared to save his house in a bushfire there was nothing he could do when the fire hit, with only a few minutes warning.

“There was nothing at all that could have prepared you for what happened on that day,” Mr Gobbett said.

He said that when the fire struck his bushland home his wife and daughter went to the bunker, a 6m shipping container buried on the property 20m from his house.

The house was protected by sprinklers, he had fire pumps and hoses, his block had been cleared of debris and fuel and there were no trees within 40m of the house.

But when a wall of flame hit the propertywo fronts Mr Gobbett said he realised nothing could be done and he darted to the bunker.
The bunker in Clonbinane. Picture: Victorian Bushfires Royal CommissionLess than a minute later the full front of the fire swept over the bunker.

“It was like a jet engine at the door. It was one of the scariest experiences I have ever had,” Mr Gobbett said.

“You could have put 100 fire tankers and Elvis (the firefighting helicopter) above my house and it would have killed 100 fire tankers and Elvis.”

Mr Gobbett said he knew Black Saturday was going to be a day of extreme fire danger but said people living in communities like Clonbinane were used to facing the fire threat.

He said it was not practical on every total fire ban day to evacuate because they would have spent half the summer away from their home.

Mr Gobbett said on February 7 he was celebrating his daughter’s birthday but he monitored the CFA website and ABC radio.

He believed they were given virtually no warning other than seeing smoke in the distance, of the approaching disaster.

He later learned that the families of CFA volunteers were told the bushfire would reach the area five hours before it happened.

Gary Livermore, counsel for the State Government, suggested that information was wrong but Mr Gobbett said it was confirmed by the wife of a CFA volunteer at a public meeting after Black Saturday.

The commission hearings are continuing.

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