Australia — Fire authorities will rebuild their emergency warning smartphone application that struggled during the worst bushfire season since Black Saturday.
The new application will include alerts for floods and is expected to be completed by next fire season, replacing the Fire Ready program that frequently crashed and confused the location of fires and towns.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said bushfire alerts would also be delivered through public institutions such as schools in developed areas that border bushland, after concerns about the warning given to residents in Melbourne’s outer suburbs during a blaze in February.
Mr Lapsley said fire authorities acknowledged there was no ”silver bullet” for warning the public, and that one of the main lessons of the fire season would be the best way to inform communities.
There were 46 houses and about 190,000 hectares of land destroyed by the summer’s worst blazes. There were 4400 fires reported to fire authorities, 24 of them classified as significant.
Four Victorian firefighters and 84-year-old Seaton grandfather Stan Hayhurst, who was caught in the Aberfeldy fire, also lost their lives this fire season.
”We also spent time this year to learn more about the way in which we communicate fire warnings,” Mr Lapsley said.
Police have slammed those who recklessly lit fires and are still hunting arsonists suspected of lighting the Dereel fire last month. That fire destroyed 12 houses.
The Aberfeldy fire in January destroyed 21 houses and more than 85,000 hectares and claimed the life of Mr Hayhurst. Police allege it was recklessly lit by Grahame Code, 75, at his rural Aberfeldy property, and he faces five charges.
A fire at Donnybrook, which destroyed several properties on Melbourne’s outer fringe and magnified concerns about the preparedness of residents in semi-urban areas, was also lit recklessly, police allege. A 48-year-old Geelong man has been charged with one count of recklessly causing a bushfire and will face the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday.
Detective Senior Sergeant Jeff Maher, the head of the arson and explosives squad, said not all careless acts that caused a bushfire were deemed to be reckless. For example, driving a car through long dry grass may not necessarily be reckless, but using an angle grinder in the same area could be.
He said police are concerned about the number of recklessly started fires.