Community Fireguard

Residents of the Green Place community joined with others at a CFA meeting on bushfire awareness at the Eltham fire station in September 2012.

A group of residents from here later sought a series of information sessions from the CFA to assist with preparing household fire plans. These plans are to describe how to prepare properties for each fire season, and how to prepare yourselves to either leave home for forecasted days of extreme fire risk, or to stay and defend the home and family.

Our CFA facilitator for the sessions over five weeks was Marnie Wadsworth. The weekly 90 minute sessions commenced on the evening of Tuesday 20 November at Evan and Gillian’s home.

The group was led through discussions on preparing the home and garden to reduce the risk of house ignition and the impact of fire, preparing a kit of clothing and accessories for personal protection, acquiring some basic home-defence equipment like hoses, buckets and mops, preparing a departure kit of clothing, documents, valuables etc. for when you leave home, and information sources for current fire awareness. We gained an appreciation of experiences of close-call survivors from the Black Saturday fires through numerous DVD presentations. And we went outside to look at the directions from where fires are expected to come, to take part in some hands-on experience with fire-hose and knapsack, and to do a walk around Green Place to identify some of the features of properties considered to be weak points for fire.

While a serious fire may not threaten this village in our lifetime, the message taken from the planning sessions was that it is wise to have a fire plan, and to be prepared to put it into action. Green Place and Eltham generally are in a location from where leaving late in the face of fire will be a bad decision given likely traffic congestion. Some residents plan to stay and defend, others plan to leave early given set triggers, such as an FDR forecast for code-red conditions. The Fire Danger Ratings or FDRs form a 6-level scale of predictions of how fires will behave, combined with the difficulty of controlling them.

Following the information sessions for planning, many from the Green Place Fireguard Group also attended a Saturday workshop with the CFA to cover the requirements to stay and defend their property. Even households not intending to stay took part, in case their plan to leave early was thwarted.

The fire risk here, particularly for houses in closer contact with the bushland will differ from the risk to fully developed suburbia. We sought an assessment particular to our setting by calling on the CFA “Home Bushfire Advice Service”. The CFA assessor Gerry Hauke visited the village in February 2013, and gave advice on ground level fuel management. He has prepared property assessments for the homes of those present for the walk around. This service is offered free by the CFA, who can be telephoned on 8746 1400 to request an appointment.