Andrew Faulkner: Black cloud over response

Andrew Faulkner: Black cloud over response

24 May 2013

published by

Australia — IN A time of dire need, the response from kind-hearted people was something to behold.

The billowing clouds above Cherryville acted as a smoke signal to CFS brigades from Piccadilly to Port Elliot, from Willunga to Woodchester, from Burnside to Bridgewater, and all points between.

Like a family that only comes together at a funeral, it is almost perverse that it takes such a calamity to be a catalyst for such pure generosity of spirit. For a grand show of all that is good about humanity.

Let it be recorded that the people of Cherryville and its surrounds say thanks to you, the volunteers, for such unflinching devotion.

And to the Environment Department firefighters – such impressive and dedicated people – and the magnificent flyers in their water bombers.

But, a week after the bushfire, a cloud remains over Cherryville’s blackened slopes.

The string of excuses from the CFS bureaucrats about the fire’s spread has obfuscated matters and enraged Hillsdwellers in equal measure. We do know this: The volunteers first on the scene asked for a fire bomber to attack the gathering blaze. For whatever reason, no bombers came.

Deploying them would be a waste of money, the CFS said.

Too many power lines.

It was too late in the day.

There were no ground crews to support the bombers.

There was no property immediately under threat on the first day of the fire. And so on. Maybe a dog ate the Cherryville map in the CFS’s Waymouth St headquarters.

People with intimate knowledge of the local terrain and fire conditions know the blaze would have been contained if the bombers had been deployed on that first day.

They are also furious at the apparent lack of trust shown in the local volunteers.

Speaking of trust, the CFS managers would do well to address their communications and warnings policies. For on day three of the fire, the CFS told ABC 891 bombers were operating along Fernhurst and Big Range roads.

The bombers had indeed flown over the area that morning, but they were not dropping any water. Surely the speaker was misinformed, for bushfires are no place for spin. Of course there will always be confusion during a bushfire. But all this mayhem in May? God help us all in the next summer fire.

Andrew Faulkner’s family has run Cherryville orchards since 1849.

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