Firefighers fume as homes burn in the Grampians bushfire

Firefighers fume as homes burn in the Grampians bushfire

29 January 2014

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Australia — SOME volunteer firefighters returning from battling the Grampians bushfires fear their homes were burned down after they were stopped at roadblocks, it has been claimed.

The explosive allegation was made by Laharum CFA captain Mark Francisco who said the rules preventing locals returning to their homes, in some cases days after the fire front had passed, were “ridiculous”.

Twenty-seven homes were lost in and around the northern Grampians after grass and scrub fires broke out from the national park a fortnight ago.

Mr Francisco (pictured) said smouldering roof insulation or embers had burned several homes after the main fire had been contained. “We had people trying to get home from fighting the fires who were stopped at roadblocks and may have been able to save their homes,” he said.

Victoria’s Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said while he was still satisfied with the four-step rules at roadblocks, there was room for more local advice to police and government officials who were put on the spot.

“In big events like this you are not always lucky to have local involvement and that is what we need,” Mr Lapsley said.

He said roadblocks were an ongoing issue for emergency services.

The Weekly Times spoke to three residents, who asked not to be identified, who had used back roads to skirt around roadblocks to access their properties.

Two were concerned about caring for livestock which had been without feed for two days.

One said more people would ignore the current “leave and live” policy if they were prevented from returning home.

Roadblocks were maintained for several days after the Grampians fires had been largely controlled because of the danger from falling trees and branches.

Mr Francisco said some residents in cleared areas should have been allowed to return.

“They had just been fighting a fire which was much more dangerous than a falling tree,” he said.

Mr Lapsley said officials were mindful of a coroner’s finding into the death of a father and his 12-year-old son at Pomonal in 2006.

The pair perished in a bushfire when they were allowed to pass a roadblock.

Mr Francisco said there needed to be more flexibility which took into account local conditions.

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