New fire refuge policies

New fire refuge policies

07 November 2011

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Australia — VICTORIANS living in high bushfire prone locations may soon see community fire refuges in their towns following new legislation.

However, Latrobe City Council has yet to consult with relevant authorities in relation to the policy implementation, Latrobe City’s acting general manager community liveability Casey Hepburn said.

“As such, Latrobe City Council is not currently in an informed position as to its full responsibilities in relation to Community Fire Refuges,” he said.

“The process around the identification, designation, assessment, auditing, decommissioning and notification of community fire refuges is yet to be incorporated into legislation.”

Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan, in introducing the new policy earlier this month, said it provided a framework for identifying, establishing, managing and maintaining community fire refuges in areas of very high risk.

“Community fire refuges are one of a number of contingency shelter options contained in Victoria’s Bushfire Safety Policy Framework and should be considered in the context of all the survival options available to a community in a high-bushfire risk area,” Mr Ryan said.

The fire refuges have been defined as designated, purpose-built buildings open to the public that could provide short-term shelter during a bushfire.

However, Mr Ryan said the refuges may not be the most effective survival option, and residents would need to consider their other safety options.

“For people living in high bushfire risk communities, planning and preparing for bushfires will always provide the best chance of survival,” he said.

“On Code Red days in high-risk bushfire areas, leaving early is always the safest option.”

The State Government has allocated $1.5 million for the fire refuges pilot program.

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