Homemade bunker only good enough for grass fire

Homemade bunker only good enough for grass fire

02 March 2010

published by www.abc.net.au

Australia —  The Royal Commission examining Victoria’s bushfires has heard how a Humevale man died inside his homemade bunker on Black Saturday.

The inquiry is investigating each of the 119 deaths caused by the Kilmore East fire.

The commission heard that Barry Johnston, 59, had built his dream home in eucalypt forest at Humevale and that he was very fire-conscious.

Mr Johnston had built his own bunker, which was dug into a gully and covered with a slab of concrete buried under about 3 centimetres of dirt.

The bunker had no door but there were two hessian bags hanging over the entrance.

Mr Johnston’s remains were found inside the collapsed structure.

An investigator deemed the design as inappropriate for anything other than a grass fire.

The investigator said the roof should have been made of reinforced concrete and should have been buried by a half a metre of earth instead of a few centimetres.

The hearing was also told a couple had differing views on whether to stay or leave their house in Humevale.

Mary Martin, 76, had indicated she was going to leave her house but said her husband, 83-year-old Lloyd Martin would have to be convinced.

As fire approached Mr Martin told others he had pumps connected and everything was prepared and “under control”.

The inquiry heard part of the roof of the couple’s house was blown off during the fire and an investigator who examined the scene remarked on what he called an “obvious need for cyclone standard roof design”.

The investigator also suggested the couple had been ultimately trapped in a “house fire” situation, and unable to escape to the outside because of the bushfire

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