Building code won’t stop bushfire deaths

25 August 2009

published by


NO building code is enough to protect a home from being destroyed in a bushfire.

That’s the stark message from the head of the Australian Building Codes Board to the royal commission into the devastating Black Saturday bushfires.

General manager Ivan Donaldson yesterday told the commission those who lived in bushfire prone areas needed to be aware of the risks.

He said the building code could only reduce the danger to their lives and properties, not prevent it.

“The building code has always been promoted by the Australian Building Codes Board as part of a solution, it’s never been promoted as the solution,” he said. “It probably is not one of the primary considerations, it is absolutely necessary, but it is not sufficient to deal with the risk.”

Mr Donaldson, who gave evidence by video link, said there were no absolutes to protecting someone in a bushfire.

“This is about mitigating risk, about dealing with the risk, but the notion that we, the ABCB, the building code and planning laws can eliminate the risk is another matter entirely,” he said.

CSIRO research scientist Justin Leonard told the commission the new building code, rushed through after the February 7 fires, was less effective than the 1999 standard.

Mr Leonard said the code exposed weak links such as exits from a building as well as specific safety standards in construction of a house including the size of gaps.

Kinglake survivor Wayne Haggar slammed authorities for not providing what he claims would be adequate warning the devastating fires were looming.

Mr Haggar said Premier John Brumby’s statement to prepare for some of the worst bushfire conditions in the state’s history delivered the day before Black Saturday, was not enough for his family to instigate their fire plan.

Mr Haggar, his wife Linda, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren were told a fire was imminent just seven to 10 minutes before flames encroached on their property.

But it was their neighbour who alerted them, not the CFA or DSE.

He said the Premier’s statements were not adequate to advise them of the risks they faced.

Mr Brumby last week defended his statements broadcast by all media the night before Black Saturday.

But Mr Haggar said: “The emotional difficulty that we’ve had since is the presumption in the media, and presumption from people outside the area, that we had sufficient warning purely based on the Premier’s advice the day before, that it was going to be the worst day since Ash Wednesday.”

Mr Haggar and his family managed to save their home but he said the emotional toll was still being determined, and was particularly worried about his grandson, 12, who “was simply curled in the fetal position in the house panicking” during the fire.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien