Nuff Nuff

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Black Saturday Transcript - Marysville February 2009

This conversation took place on the 11th February 2009, a casual conversation between friends, taped inadvertently. I am sharing this because I believe that people need to hear what those who fought and survived the Black Saturday Fires in Victoria endured immediately following the devastation of the fires and the trauma and grief they were faced with.

I'm sorry about the length - but I believe that this MUST remain in one piece, in memory of everything that has been lost.

Please take the time to read in full - I know it's long, but the story must be shared. (All names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved)

45 minutes of doing stuff – no speech – some sobbing is heard
Gate is heard to be opened.
Sound of water running.
Sound of a 4x4 approaching the property.
Albert - “I saw you coming” “How are you?” “How’s your stock?” “I know your house is okay” “But how’s your stock?”
Bert - “How you going Albert?” “It was a pretty wild sort of time wasn’t it?”
Albert - Inaudible
Bert - “No problems, we survived pretty well, I was well prepared. I….. I was ready from the week before it got here………
Albert - Yeah
Bert - ………I got the dozers out and cleared bare my place.”
Albert - “How did you get in to here?”
Bert - “The police aren’t there today” Up til now, nobody can get in.
Albert - “That’s ridiculous”
Bert - “Bloody hard” “Colleen went to Healesville 3 days ago, and can’t get back. But The Spurs on fire now.
Albert - Yeah
Bert - Yeah
Albert - “I went to……we went out yesterday, go out and come back, have you got a bit of paper and I know you won’t let me, it’s a bloody trick to get us out. I had to read the bloody riot act to……..
Bert - to get back in again
Albert - ………get back in again.
Bert - Well Colleen got a pass from the cops…….
Albert - Yeah
Bert - …. near our place, took all the details and wrote it down, she gave to the other cops on the way out and couldn’t come back in.”
Albert - Well, now this stuff, ……… this cop where Debra came through, you had any dealings with him?
Bert - he’s a bastard.
Albert - He promised to get it this through to us 2 days ago and never……….
Bert - and never seen nor heard of it. I’ve had runs in with him.
Albert - Everybody has.
Albert - Calling it a crime scene, so I went round a shot a dozen people as the fire came through. That’s what they’re saying.
Bert - Yeah
Bert - We are suffering, more than the poor buggers that got burnt out.
Albert - Yeah but……. Yeah but……..If you listen……….If you listen to the wireless, all you can hear is Kinglake, Kinglake.
Bert - Yeah well, They’re just starting to talk about Marysville now.
Albert - and the …..other thing is that.. the… the….. you know…… all…….. the interesting…….the interesting thing though I reckon, is that… all those who….. stayed, basically saved their house. Are you with me? ……. No, Sorry I’m putting that they wrong way.
Bert - Yeah, I don’t think they did, some people that stayed are gone………. They’re gone, they’re dead.
Albert - Yes
Albert - Yes, they had…………
Bert - ……… no preparation.
Albert - ………no preparation…………and……………and………..
Bert - Yes
Albert - Yes
The sound of unpacking from the back of vehicle is heard
Ethel - The kids have really thought of everything.
Bert - Pardon?
Ethel - The kids have really thought…….
Bert - They tossed everything in to make sure
Albert - now………I’ll put the……….. you like a cuppa?
Bert - Yeah……. I’ll be in that thank-you
Albert - first up I’ll sort that out……
Albert - So you’ve been baching on your own?
Bert - Yeah for the last 3 days. Yeah
Albert - How are you off for food? At least……………. Big pantry
Albert - Yeah well, you know after the fire ……. The other problem, why the town ran out of water?
Bert - well there were that many burst water mains for starters
Albert - no, it wasn’t burst water mains, sorry
Bert - I didn’t know you’d run out of water
Albert - there was only one burst water main and that was broken actually
Bert- Up near The Crossways.
Albert - Yeah. I’ll come and show you what the problem was. After the fire went through, nobody…….I went round…………..I went round and turned some of them off the next day. The bloody fire services were still running at Maidmary and Maryshouse.
Bert - Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Albert - Oh Right…………..Thank-you…………….
Albert - Yeah, ……..the modern…. stop cocks, they…….with a bit of heat on them, they…….they just blew out. Now…………. D……….I went around and I did about 30. Can you imagine 30 of those?
Bert - Yeah…………. yeah
Albert - And there were a lot more than that.
Bert - Yeah
Bert - I was expecting a bad one, but never dreamed of anything like this. You even got a wireless…….
Albert - Yeah…………
Bert - There are a set of batteries there somewhere.
Albert - oh yeah….. I don’t know how she managed…………..
Bert - You want a hand to take it. It’s not that heavy. It’s quite light actually.
Albert - I’ll take it up
Albert - I don’t know…………It’s probably easier for you to carry one, than the two………..but………..
The sound of stuff being picked up and moved. Gate crashing open. Sounds of people walking.
Albert - The only water I used here……. That’s all we used.
Bert - Yeah
Albert - That’s all I used. I saw……. but……
Bert - yeah
Albert - I thought we were going to lose the window…….that was where the wood heap was. Just beyond that wall. A HUGE wood heap. (on the neighbours property, on the fenceline)
Bert - what…….Over there?............ Jeez
Albert - I think it was the double glazing that saved us.
Bert - Yeah…….. we’ve got double glazing, but there was no….nothing near our house. The lawns were all watered,
Albert - Yeah………..but the double-glazing
Bert - Yeah, yeah….a lot……….A lot of houses their windows just melted.
Albert - Yeah
Bert - and that’s……..
Albert - Yup
Sounds of stuff being carried water/fuel?
Albert - E……?
Ethel - Yes?
Albert - I’ll start the jenny up.
Albert - Bert reckons the road’s open now.
Bert - I don’t know if it’s officially open
Albert - Yeah
Bert - Fred just came out and said that……..
Albert - how’s his house?
Bert - He survived, he has a good sprinkler system ….off a dam, so he’s pretty……
Albert - Right
Bert - ……… right I think
Sound of generator starting
Albert - I’m glad I …………when I bought that …………….
Bert - Yeah
Albert - I’ll show you what …….. I agree with you about……….
Albert - That burnt right up to the fence there. Stopped there, those shrubs down here………
Albert - I’ve been giving them a dose of water…….
Albert - ……..Just around there, went out to there, just that little bit in a straight line
Bert - It didn’t take much water to stop …….to stop the grass burning with most of the rubbish was gone.
Albert – Yeah
Bert - A bucket of water puts a lot of fire out.
Albert - A sprinkler system goes a lot better……..won’t say a lot better………but….goes a lot further
Bert - Graham & Heidi went to …… went to ummmm…… china
Bert - You need to get it somehow

Bert - Graham and Heidi went last Wednesday to China and uh……….
Albert - Yup
Sound of generator as they approach it again
Albert - look at the end of the ………..
Bert - No, I know that
Albert - to give you some idea, about a fortnight ago, I was going to buy some plastic buckets, but they were too dear, so I bought the stainless steel one……..galvanised one.
Albert - You don’t know what ………
Bert - You didn’t know how much you had and how much you didn’t have
Albert - Laughter
Bert - I went crook at Colleen because ……I was up at 4 o’clock. Ummm…….I couldn’t sleep and I wanted to get out and see if I could help and I see these lights come down Mt Gordon, there’s a HUGE tree across the road in front of our place and I knew they couldn’t get through. But I thought if someone coming at that hour of the morning…..
Ethel - they must need……
Bert - ……..they must need a doctor or something, I wasn’t even properly dressed at 4 o’clock in the morning. so I get in my kit…….. I’ll get the tractor in a minute, just hang on. She said “Don’t bloody worry about that” “you know me”
Ethel - Laughter
Bert - In the dark I didn’t know who it was.
Ethel - Couldn’t see who it was
Bert - anyway, we managed to get past the sign and tree. I said to her you are bloody mad.
Ethel - that’s what I………I mean her brother
Albert - What do you want? Tea of coffee
Bert - Tea, please. A weak tea, please
Albert - You’re a dairy farmer, you’ll have it black
Bert - No,
Albert - Most dairy farmers…………
Bert - yeah, I know that, yeah I know that
Ethel - Then we were worried she wouldn’t get back again, you know……….
Albert - so I said………
Albert - we turned a few of those…………we didn’t have any water
Bert - Yeah
Albert - we went round and turned Maryshouse fire service off and Maidmary’s fire service off and drove a few of those stakes in, we got water to here
Bert - There’s water pouring out at the Catholic Church, that’s running flat out
Ethel - Oh is there? ……. Well we’d better go and……….
Albert - well they were running………as you came in, they’re running?
Bert - Yeah, just now
Ethel - We’d better go round and turn it off too
Bert - I thought to myself, I’ll see if I can nip it up …….. you know……….. on the way back.
Ethel - Yeah, that’s right
Bert - That’s right
You can hear a radio running in the background
Bert - I was talking to Colleen about 2 seconds last night
Ethel - Yeah, that’s right
Albert - We got through …………. Oh and we couldn’t get rid of Irwin off the phone and then………. Next call we went to make……. Nothing. No service. ……..
Bert - yeah, exactly
Albert - We’ve got our shower Ethel. You might like to stand out where you’ve got to stand but………
Ethel - They’ll be nobody around to see you love.
Bert - we, ahhhhh….we’ve got gravity feed water from our workshop and tanks up there and gravity feeds the house. I’m right for water and I’m right for hot water because I’m using heater……… we’ve got the ahhhh…….
Bert - …….. in the lounge
Ethel - Oh, okay
Albert - you’ve got……………
Bert - Hydronic water
Albert - You haven’t got any chemical in it?
Bert - No, nope. It’s separate anyway
Albert - we put in a very big hot water service. We’ve got a big radio here. 18yo kid put a little special socket into the TV
Bert - yeah yeah, I see that the telcom boys are trying to get the power going at the moment by the looks of it.
Bert - Looks like a portable generator and……..
Ethel - we’ve had people, finally got hold of at the end of the hill and they burst into tears. Jill’s in a terrible state when we rang her, Kennedy wasn’t much better. And Larry wasn’t much better. They’ve rung the Red Cross and the Red Cross have no record of whether they are alive or dead.
Bert - Yeah yeah
Albert - Then I heard on the wireless,………. We……people……Marysville people are in Alexandra, please re-register, there’s been a glitch in their records. We had………Maurice Townsend came around, I don’t know if he was the SES or DS&E. Neville Nelson came around.
Bert - Yeah
Albert - and the police came around
Bert - all the paperwork…….. yeah………. They’ve been out to check us out and……
Albert - but then those people ring up and no record of us……..
Ethel –whether we are alive or dead
Albert - now, would you want something to eat Bert?
Bert - I’m not physically worried……… I am…..I can…..
Albert - It will be a sandwich
Ethel - Yeah, it’ll be a sandwich
Bert - that’ll be fine
Bert - I’ve got to get…….
Albert - We had ……the other night, we had Ian and……what’s his name, not O but Peter
Ethel - Oh yeah………….Ian………….. Oh yeah. Bert wouldn’t know him I don’t think
Albert - He built on Thomas’s old vacant land
Bert - Oh yeah………. When Rachael and Steven left…. They were about the last people I knew in the town
Bert - We don’t go to the pool anymore you just lose …….
Albert - well, we…….. Debra ……. had a contact somehow with the……woman, and she bought Violets’ old house. You know the two storey brick one, you can………They’re staying. They’re names Warren or something. She said, go down and see them, I went down, never seen her, I said and how long have you been here? Oh 4 years.
Bert - oh yeah (laughter)
Ethel - Actually, her husband is out of town……
Albert - ….but they wouldn’t let him back in
Ethel - let him in. She’s here, they wouldn’t let him back in. so……..
Bert - Colleen went down to………..
Bert - She got a pass from the police up here and thought she could get back.
Ethel - we tried to stock up yesterday…….
Bert - Yeah
Ethel - but, they told us we could, you know……go over to Alex and we could……..
Bert - ………you can’t come back in, if you’ve go out
Albert - ……… they’ll let you out, but won’t let you back in
Ethel - I said to Albert, I’ve got two dogs, the village dog………
Albert - Do you want a dog?
Ethel - It drives………….It barks, it drives you mad.
Albert - Hear that?
Bert - Yeah yeah
Ethel - All day, all night, absolutely drives you nuts.
Bert - Yeah Yeah, I hate a yappy dog
Ethel - Last 2 nights has been up in the shed. Can’t hear him
Bert - Yeah that’s what you have to do. I suppose…… I suppose the poor thing’s traumatised too, just like the rest of us
Ethel - Thinking about it, he probably sleeps on their bed
Bert - Yeah Yeah
Albert - Watched that………explode…….watched that that new weather board down there, that wall, painted, it……. Just ………burst into flames,
Bert - yeah yeah
Albert - This house over here, I must admit……….it’s clear all the way around it, that’s a plastic house, the weatherboards are plastic, the decking is plastic……
Bert - Yeah Yeah
Albert - The balustrade is plastic, the windows are plastic, and it’s perfect.
Bert - It’s unreal……It’s unreal……..isn’t it?
Albert - and yet up here ………..
Bert - The fire goes through and says I’ll have here and ……no don’t want you…..
Ethel - that’s right
Bert –……. I’ll have the next one. Ginger Meg’s house is still sitting up there.
Ethel - would you believe that little old rubbishy house …….
Bert - Yeah Yeah
Albert - The little old one in…….. next door to Albert Conner’s in Smith Street, you know?
Bert - Yeah Yeah
Ethel - Lovely little dump………ummmm
Albert - That little old one…….
Bert – Ginger’s house………..
Ethel - ………the old blue house……… yeah
Bert – Ginger's house …………Ummm……an old weatherboard, and it’s got… ummm…..artificial brick on the ……….
Albert - yeah yeah
Bert –……. On the outside. You’d think it would be……’d think it would go up.
Albert - Bitumen……….. artificial bricks had a bit of bitumen in them
Bert - Yeah yeah……….Stick ‘em on……..Yeah
Albert - but, no……. but they were made out of bit of bitumen, but some of them were…….
Bert - Yeah Yeah
Albert - But this Steph………..Which Carter is it? One of Stephanie Carter…..
Ethel - daughters
Albert - Brand new house, they were going to sign for it next week.
Bert - yeah Yeah
Albert - but……….
Ethel - but they hadn’t signed for it, that is the good news,
Albert - but……..
Ethel - They hadn’t signed for it – which is the good news
Albert - well, is it the goods news or the bad news? If it’s good news, they’d have insured it, they’d be right. Now……..If the builder had built it properly, does he have the financial resources to build it ……….to build it again?
Bert - yeah
Albert - and if he hasn’t, they’re left with……. With……..
Ethel - rubbish
Albert - rubbish to clear up
Bert - yeah
Albert - which they……….
Bert - they’ll have to think about that with the legal side
Albert - The Benny guy……
Bert - I don’t know…..Um – he just sold his house, they’ve signed up for it. Ummmmmm…..The deal went through…… goes through on the 4th or something. So he’s got to either replace the house or hopefully because they might….. you know……
Albert - No No……
Bert - …….. back off on the deal ……..
Albert - Yeah well…………
Bert - ……….. and can sue them if he doesn’t replace the house.
Albert - Well, the thing I was always told, that if you buy a house, insurance it straight away as soon as you pay the deposit…….
Bert - before you pay the …………..
Albert - I know one smart estate agent, who bought a house, the settlement was next day and he…… and he thought I’ll oh well the guys got insurance…..
Albert - …….. and it burnt down…….. The other guy hadn’t insured it, that’s a real…..
Bert - Yeah yeah
Albert - the other guy
Bert - that’s just as bad, Dairy farm, ummm, our insurance guy,……. Who…… was married to what’s her name……….ummm. One of the …… ummmm… I think
Bert - in the end, the put their kid……. their son to run it
Bert - …….Bought the property and would be back Monday to insure it
Albert - Yeah well I was…. My insurance guy…….. he sends me a fax, when we buy something
Bert - that’s what they do these days.
Albert - The date is the time on the back of the fax sheet.
Bert - Yeah Yeah
Albert - ......Out again
Ethel – Debra ………….
Albert - Rang Fran Bailey for us and jumped up and down, and the way she dealt with the water board, she said she rang on the Sunday and just tell him that……
Albert - Just tell him that……….
Albert - In 5 minutes he rang her. Yesterday morning they were across here and that’s what got……..
Albert - ……….back on. We turned off that many valves………
Bert - Right now…….
Albert - Are you right now?
Bert - Diesel running now…………….
Albert - What about……….
Bert - that’s why Colleen went to Healesville to get more……….
Bert - No, we’re right now. We’ve got the diesel generator running now.
Bert - Thanks Ethel
Albert - I haven’t got any diesel to give you
Bert - No we’ve got plenty of diesel now
Albert - The Crossways…….
Bert - Yeah. What? He’s dead?
Ethel - No he stayed. He hid under the bridge when it got really…….. then he dived out and started to put the spot fires out.
Albert - Some of those that got burnt……. (sobbing is heard)
Albert - 2 of them are dead, they’re dead (sobbing)

* Then the conversation moves onto those that lost their lives and all parties compare notes, tales, whose cars are still on the property, who is confirmed dead, who is still missing, who hasn’t been seen and for decency I have not continued with the transcription
The recording ends in a little under 2 minutes, it’s quite disjointed as the batteries start to fail.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Marysville V Kinglake, Bushfires and Rebuilding

I've tried to bite my tongue - but enough is enough - HOW DARE THE COUNCIL treat the township of Marysville with so little respect.

The same sign, two different towns, both affected in the same way - both suffering and this what you get.

Data from the 2006 Census reveals:-
To give you an idea of some figures:-
Kinglake (2006 Census) - 1482 population
Marysville (2006 Census) - 519 population

Kinglake:- During the week prior to the 2006 Census, 735 people aged 15 years and over who were usually resident in Kinglake (Suburb) were in the labour force. Of these, 58.5% were employed full-time, 29.5% were employed part-time, 4.2% were employed but away from work, 1.9% were employed but did not state their hours worked and 5.9% were unemployed. There were 291 usual residents aged 15 years and over not in the labour force.

Marysville - During the week prior to the 2006 Census, 269 people aged 15 years and over who were usually resident in Marysville (L) (Urban Centre Localities) were in the labour force. Of these, 58.4% were employed full-time, 31.6% were employed part-time, 1.9% were employed but away from work, 2.6% were employed but did not state their hours worked and 5.6% were unemployed. There were 149 usual residents aged 15 years and over not in the labour force.

The difference between Kinglake and Marysville - Kinglake is considered a suburb of Melbourne, Marysville is not.

A majority of Kinglake residents travel into the outer suburbs of Melbourne for employment

99% of Marysville residents worked within the township. Now there are only a handful of jobs left.

Marysville is dying, no jobs, people can't afford to stay. People can't afford to rebuild. Without jobs people move away.

Kinglake the same as Marysville, there was loss of life, there was loss of residences, but perhaps only 5-10% of jobs were lost in Kinglake.

Complete polar opposites. Yet Marysville gets completely ignored. same Council, same State Government, and the McEwen Electorate.

Council, State Government and Politicians should be ashamed that they so blatantly discriminate against a township struggling to survive.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mandatory Evacuations in the USA 'V' Australia

I am writing this whilst sitting in my lovely house on top of a hill, overlooking the suburbs of Melbourne. 10-20km north of me are tracks of land – burnt beyond belief. To the north of me 7 people died, to the east of me 164 people died. To the northeast of me the fire got to within 7km of my property, before the winds changed.

I’m trying to give to you a sense of where we stood in relation to the Black Saturday Fires and how close they came.

There have been many tales told of the USA where ‘Mandatory Evacuations” take place and I thought I would investigate a little further. Not everything you can hear is true nor understood fully by the speaker.

The word “Mandatory” means (in context) – (adjective) authoritatively ordered; obligatory; compulsory: It is mandatory that all residents leave the area.

Now mandatory evacuation doesn’t mean that in the USA. In the USA you have 3 levels of alert,
1. Be aware of your surrounding, you may be required to voluntary evacuation to pre-designated safe areas (similar to Australia).
2. Voluntary evacuation – evacuations centres are opened and the public may use them if they choose, or may re-locate to friends and family outside the immediate area of danger. People considered unable to care for themselves should be assisted by officials in the area. This could include children, if authorities deem them to be at risk.
3. Mandatory Evacuations – evacuations centres are opened, people are encouraged to leave the area and move to the evacuation centres, until the danger passes.

Now this is where it gets tricky. If you choose NOT TO leave, when the mandatory call is put out, you are ON YOUR OWN. Emergency services will not attend, food and fuel WILL NOT be available. Nobody will come and rescue you at the height of the danger. You are ALL ALONE.

Some things to consider IF a mandatory evacuation order IS ISSUED IN THE USA. From what I can understand you are effectively under marshal law and could be arrested if you step off private property. Explain Mandatory/Voluntary Evacuation

Now the key to ALL of this working is warnings and people being aware of their surroundings. No matter how diligent the officials are at warning people, some people will be missed. That is why it’s essential no matter which side of the world you live; you pay attention to the outside world.

In the USA, where there is more time than not, ample warning of an approaching hurricane or similar, I’m led to believe that along with radio and TV, loud hailers and face to face warnings are issued. Mandatory Evacuation

Bushfires because they are not something that can be predicted (i.e. arson or fallen powerlines) then the ability to issue timely warnings can be very limited. But in the instance of the Black Saturday Fires, for three days prior warnings were issued on Television, Radio and Print media. This was effectively Stage 1 of the ‘be aware of your surroundings’

On Saturday the 7th February 2009, the media switched to (Stage 2) requesting people leave their place of residence IF they lived in an area deemed to be a high risk fire area, or prepare to stay and defend. At that stage, NO fire had been reported.

Once the fire got started, there was no going back, the weather conditions on that day were probably the same if not worse than 1939 and the inevitable happened. Even those that had been through the 1939 fires, thought they were invincible and that turned out not to be the case.

Personally I stayed, with my husband, we prepared, as we had prepared every day for this time. Our house had been constructed with fire mesh, with a water supply not requiring any form of power. We had a water pump; we had tanks with CFA connections. We had accessed what could and could not be saved, building wise. Prepared the animals to be transported or left. The neighbours had all been warned and transport arranged for the elderly and infirm. Those with young children packed and left. The fire should have hit us about 3.30-3.45pm on Saturday the 7th February 2009. At 3.15pm the wind changed, and the fire turned flank and headed east. God help those in the hills. I called my parents and told them the fire was coming. They had 3hours to prepare. They did what they could, warned those they could. They survived. Just like many others, who had spent a life-time doing the small things, leading up to that dreadful day.

So you see – Australia DOES have similar steps in place for emergency evacuations, the difference is people here, in Australia seem to think that emergency services have enough personnel on the ground to save THEIR house, bugger everyone else’s.

I’m sorry – there are two words – PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Heed them, look at them and act on them.

CFA Roadside Signage

I have previously touched on this topic, what’s made me bring it up again is that I was reading the local newspaper and saw this article Star Group - Fired Up Over Signs Which says that the council are fully responsible for the funding for the CFA Fire Danger Indication Signs. I wasn’t aware of this, I’m sure you weren’t either.

The new format, corrugated plastic signs were placed over the old format steel (better) signs with funding from the State Government, the councils are being asked to replace the fading and failing plastic signs with a material more durable, but in the same format.

I agree with councils (which is rare for me) the old format is far superior to the new format as I have discussed previously here Victorian Public Lives Not at Risk
The reasoning behind replacing the signs in the first place as to make it ‘easier’ for the public to see the fire danger, which is a complete an utter lie. The new sign shows NO indicative points, only colours with a telephone number and a website. The old signs with the arrow and the colour markings were easier to see at high speed and also clearly indicated the fire danger in the area you were entering.

Another aim when replacing the signs is to ensure that the fire areas line up with total fire ban weather areas, which is also a good idea.

The Government need to realise that by supposedly simplifying things, they are actually muddying the waters and making it even harder.

The OLD CFA Danger sign was far superior to the new. It was easier to read when passing in a 100kph zone, and it clearly showed what the fire danger was. The new sign shows NOTHING. Other than pretty colours, a phone number and a website.

The State Government are all for making people more aware, more accountable, why remove ANOTHER avenue/layer of warning?

Your input greatly appreciated

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Public Fire Refuges and Bushfires

If you haven’t already figured, I’m very interested in this. In Marysville, during Ash Wednesday (1983) the Oval was the ‘safe’ place. Where the locals gathered, barrels of water, generators and general emergency type stuff. The same place I told my parents NOT to try and take my horse, because he was too unpredictable for them to handle. The roads were closed. I couldn’t get home, no buses running. The phone system was overloaded, mum somehow managed to get a message to my aunty to travel 2 hours to come and pick us up from school and take us back to her place. Horrible times. I was a mere child, but I’ve never forgotten those feelings of not knowing. NEVER.

Not long after that the Marysville Oval was deemed too risky to be used as fire refuge and Marysville was left without an nominated area. Some locals thought the golf Course, others the oval. The confusion was complete. Many did make it to the oval as per the news reports. Many were still there Sunday morning when I got into town.

Come Black Saturday (2009) when I lost phone contact with my parents, this time with hindsight I knew that things were bad. Just not how bad.

Public Refuges do have a place in EVERY township/settlement, I mean every and the councils of the area have no right to deny a township or settlement that peace of mind.

Residents in The Hills area in South Australia (Mitcham Council) are being denied Safe Refuges, because everyone is afraid of being made accountable. Hills & Valley Messenger Newspaper

Back in Victoria there are 9 designated ‘Neighbourhood Safer places’ in the Yarra Ranges area.

The state Government has allocated the amount of $500,000 for the state of Victoria to determine further ‘Neighbourhood Safer Places” That amount from what I can gather, covers the cost of signage ONLY. This is what a sign looks like.

It’s a standard size sign, approx 850mm x 200mm – blue background, white writing. The access to this particular ‘NSP’ was on a bend, and easy to miss on a clear, uncrowded road, I doubt I would be able to find it in heavy smoke or under stress. And the danger of accessing if coming from the north would be extreme, with the oncoming traffic coming around a blind corner.

There was no signage showing me where this site was located, I just happened to stumble across it whilst travelling.

I have just checked the CFA website and found this CFA - Neighbourhood Safer Places - I notice that the Murrindindi Shire/Council ONE NSP in their area. All the way up in Eildon. The Whittlesea Council has ONE NSP in their area. Too few for far too many people.

If the Council or State Governments won’t nominate an area that you will be safe in. Make sure you know where you will go on days of high fire risk. Failure to think about it might cause you to panic and do the wrong thing in times of stress.

Take care out there, no-one but you are responsible for you and your family.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The outcome of the Royal Commission and the bushfires of Black Saturday

I’ve read the recommendations, I’m no expert and I don’t pretend to be, but here is what I see:-

Recommendation 1:- “Enhance the role of warnings” This is very hard given the fact that wind changes (which can’t be predicted) caused many of the problems on Black Saturday. People MUST be prepared and accountable for days of high fire danger. It’s not the Governments responsibility.
Recommendation 2:- “Community education programs” I live in an area that was on high alert that day, due to the fires starting about 20km away. I have yet to see a letterbox drop. I have not seen any communication in relation to community education programs. I’m sure they are there, but I have not seen anything advertised.
Recommendation 3:- “evacuation and shelter for vulnerable residents” I’d be interested to know the locations of these shelters, as the general public have nothing put aside for them yet. What about neighbours? – On Black Saturday, our street ensured that the vulnerable residents were accounted for and removed or under the care of someone capable.
Recommendation 4:- “Replacing the 2005 Fire Refuges in Victoria” There were NO fire refuges in Victoria in 2005, all refuges were deemed unsafe due to public liability issues. Personal shelters for individuals, who will monitor these to ensure their ongoing safety compliance?
Recommendation 5:- “encourage individuals—especially vulnerable people—to relocate early” This is the leave earlier policy in different wording.
Recommendation 6:- “national curriculum incorporates the history of bushfire in Australia” We can't teach Australian History in schools, how can we teach bushfire danger to kids, without someone complaining we are terrorizing their children into fearing the bush?
Recommendation 7:- “to develop a national bushfire awareness campaign.” Isn’t that what the stay or go policy is? An awareness campaign about the dangers of bushfires?
Recommendation 8:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 9:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 10:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 11:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 12:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 13:- “introduce a graded scale of emergency declarations short of a state of disaster.” By avoiding calling a ‘State of Emergency’ the local government saves a lot of money. That is why the Black Saturday Fires were not declared a state of emergency because the funding that is provided once this has been declared is greater than if it had not been declared a state of emergency.
Recommendation 14:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 15:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 16:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 17:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 18:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 19:- “provide to all CFA volunteers an identification card” This is good, finally, even when clothed in CFA clothing, water tankers were unable to get through road blocks. Finally some common sense for support vehicles and support personnel.
Recommendation 20:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 21:- “aerial resources that are suitable for firefighting “ Considering we hire/rent/lease a fire fighting aircraft from the USA and that on Black Saturday it was claimed that most aircraft on Australian shores could not fight fires in any degree or fashion.
Recommendation 22:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 23:- these are internal issues for CFA (Why is the DSE not also mentioned here?)
Recommendation 24:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 25:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 26:- these are internal issues for CFA & DSE
Recommendation 27:- I agree with the replacement of the SWER lines, but this has been recommended for many years. Electricity linesmen have been saying this for years, because of the lack of maintenance performed over the years, and now the state of disrepair of the electricity cabling, we are going to be forced to pay for this, perhaps as high as a doubling of power bills to fund this upgrade.
I have a SWER line 20m from my house, that spans 1km of treed (and housed) area, how can that go underground? The aerial bundling won’t stop the cable breaking, but the replacement of may reduce the risk for many years.
Recommendation 28:- “change their asset inspection standards” This is a certainty and essential commitment that MUST be complied with, as discussed in a sitting at the Royal Commission
Recommendation 29:- is really just a re-hash of 28
Recommendation 30:- “to reduce the risks posed by hazardous trees “ I honestly thought that this would have been part of normal inspection process that is supposed to be carried out on a regular basis.
Recommendation 31:- “the identification of hazardous trees and notifying the responsible entities” is this a form of back-up insurance? To make sure that the electricity companies are doing their job? What other risk could trees be, other than risk to powerlines?
Recommendation 32:- “disable the reclose function” only 6 weeks? – The fire season doesn’t abide by dates or calendars, why only 6 weeks? Yes this will mean more power outages for regional areas, but perhaps it is for the greater good.
Recommendation 33:- Spreaders should be fitting on all lines, regardless of location, I thought this would have been standard practice.
Recommendation 34:- “The State amend the regulatory framework” and “to require it to fulfil that mandate” ummmmm, again I thought this would have already been in place and that being the case, why mandate that the mandate be fulfilled?
Recommendation 35:- “coordinated statewide approach to arson prevention “ The police can’t control arsonists. If arsonists are discovered, they go to court, they are released again on bail (as happened in the outer northern suburbs of Melbourne 2009) How can the police monitor that? – During peak fire season, if an arsonist is caught – they MUST be locked up for the duration of the fire season, it’s the only way to show a) we are serious, b) ease the workload on already stressed Police Officers.
Recommendation 36:- “National Action Plan to Reduce Bushfire Arson in Australia,” Relates again to Recommendation 35.
Recommendation 37:- These are internal issues for CFA and local Government.
Recommendation 38:- These are internal issues for CFA and local Government.
Recommendation 39:- These are internal issues for local Government
Recommendation 40:- These are internal issues for CFA and local Government
Recommendation 41:- These are internal issues for DSE and local Government
Recommendation 42:- These are internal issues for DSE
Recommendation 43:- These are internal issues for DSE
Recommendation 44:- These are internal issues for CFA
Recommendation 45:- “to urgently adopt a bushfire policy” Why is the Murrindindi Council singled out here? There were other townships affected. But I do agree with the principle of the idea
Recommendation 46:- “develop and implement a retreat and resettlement strategy” Good idea in theory, but non-compulsory? – What does this mean? We all know under ‘compulsory’ acquisition, that the value is well-under market value. What does this mean to landowners who choose this option?
Recommendation 47:- “reducing the risk of ignition from ember attack” is a MUST for buildings in high-risk areas. In fact common sense in reality.
Recommendation 48:- is really just Recommendation 47 worded differently.
Recommendation 49:- again Recommendation 47 & 48 reworded
Recommendation 50:- “develop a standard for bushfire sprinklers and sprayers” This is a MUST but in saying that – people can’t afford copper piping AND the cost is massive (and the risk of theft the same) – what else can be done?
Recommendation 51:- “existing buildings in bushfire-prone areas can be modified” This is a good idea – but again, the building owners should have already thought and put into action further protection means for the buildings.
Recommendation 52:- “the regular assessment of landowners’ compliance with conditions” The council will baulk at this – the cost and manpower required will incur cost and the councils will be reluctant to follow through.
Recommendation 53:- “amend s. 32 of the Sale of Land Act 1962 to require that a vendor’s statement include whether the land is in a designated Bushfire-prone Area” A good idea and allows for the potential purchaser to make decisions accordingly. The only failure of this, is that CFA are not compelled to attend properties in dead-end streets, This should also be commented on in the section 32, as a reminder of how alone you will actually be under the threat of fire.
Recommendation 54:- “issue fire prevention notices.” (Delegation is not a real issue) The CFA and MFB already do have this power, along with the council.
Recommendation 55:- “providing regular training and guidance material to planning and building practitioners” This should be encompassed under the council approval processes
Recommendation 56:- “a long-term program of prescribed burning” Correct, but there will be elements within society that disagree with this.
Recommendation 57:- “Department of Sustainability and Environment report annually on prescribed burning outcomes” again, as prescribed burning is done wholly within the domain of the DSE, This is covered within Recommendation 56.
Recommendation 58:- “long-term data collection to monitor and model the effects “ again, encompassed under Recommendations 56 & 57, with the reporting and increasing of burns.
Recommendation 59:- again encompassed under recommendations 56, 57 and 58. The use of wildfire was apt for the day of Black Saturday, but a ‘normal’ bushfire should be classified as such. A wildfire is just an increase in the strength of words, which is what the government wants.
Recommendation 60:- “the provisions allow for a broad range of roadside works capable of reducing fire risk” This decision (or change in rulings) will not appease some members of the community and cause Local Councils and Vicroads much hardship and possible confrontation in the field.
Recommendation 61:- “on resolving the competing tensions arising from the legislation affecting roadside clearing” addresses my exact concerns. Will the State and Commonwealth Governments have the guts to do this properly? The fires funnelled up the roadsides and creeks because of the quantity of scrub and rubbish in these areas.
Recommendation 62:- is just a rewording of 60 & 61.
Recommendation 63:- These are internal issues for Government and DSE and CFA
Recommendation 64:- “replace the Fire Services Levy with a property-based levy” This recommendation has long been fought for by insurance companies, the problem is will property insurance rates drop or remain stagnant because of this decision and what will be the effect on council rates?
Recommendation 65:- “a national centre for bushfire research” sounds like a good idea
Recommendation 66:- “assess progress with implementing the Commission’s recommendation” is definitely required, but will the time frames be fluffed to appease certain groups?
Recommendation 67:- “The State consider the development of legislation for the conduct of inquiries in Victoria” Is this a slap in the face for the Victorian Labor Government, in essence the governments response and knee-jerking regarding the interim report?

Now remember the above is MY PERSONAL views on the subject. I understand that CFA/DSE/MFB/Victoria Police policies along with Government rules and regulations, all have an impact on my life, but it’s not for me to dissect these decisions and possible outcomes. That is why I have avoided comment on recommendations encompassing those areas.

I still don’t think enough emphasis has been placed on personal responsibility; each and every adult who lives in a high fire danger area has a personal responsibility to every child and aged adult in their care. I don’t think this has been stressed enough.

Something that the media and the general public have been avoiding commenting on is the issuing of fire warnings. For three days prior to the tragic day of Black Saturday, the media was crawling with the Premier, the Chief of the CFA and others who stated quite clearly that Saturday the 7th February 2009, was going to be the worst day that Victoria had seen in many decades.

I understood that to mean that the risk of fire was basically inevitable and consequently could not be ignored. I was on alert and saw the smoke of the Kilmore fire long before anything was in the media. From that moment onwards I enacted our fire plan and ensured that everyone on the street was aware. Once the fire situation made it to the media my father was calling me, checking that we were organised, checking that we were okay.

The public were warned, perhaps not on the day – things were moving too quickly, I could only follow the fire from what I could visually sight. Not from the media, or the CFA website simply because the information must have been coming in too quickly.

I have blogged previously about the events after this time. I have no wish to re-visit that ground, it has been done and nothing can be changed.

Remember this blog is MY PERSONAL VIEW.