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Bushfire Brigade in Victoria
Monday, 16 March 2009

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The recent deployment of the Bundeena Bushfire Brigade in Victoria is a timely reminder that residents need to be prepared for bushfires as well.

The Victorian Bushfire Crisis that started in the 7/2/2009 will forever live in Australian History as one of the darkest days in our nation's existence. The loss of 210 lives, thousands of homes and the destruction of entire towns was unprecedented. Members from the Bundeena Bushfire Brigade have been deployed to the Victorian fire grounds over the month of February to assist local authorities in controlling these wildfires.

Our Members have returned with stories and images that will forever haunt them. Scenes of utter destruction remained vivid in their minds as everywhere they turned was greeted with black ash, and silence. Our members have commented on the tremendous impact it has had on the people they meet, and yet Victorian fire-fighters who have lost everything in these fires continue to battle on. They fight the effects of fatigue and the enormous emotional impacts that these fires have had on them. Words alone can simply not describe the raw emotion and detail anybody who has stepped onto the fireground has experienced

Many people within our town, particularly those who did not experience the 1994 fires, scoff at the notion that these fires could strike Bundeena with the same level of intensity. However, on the weekend of "Black Saturday" as this day is now called, Sydney experienced very similar fire weather conditions. On New Year's Day, 2006 Bundeena recorded a temperature of 46 degrees and winds up to 20km/h, with a squally wind change in the afternoon. The potential makings of a similar disaster are here, it is simply a matter of time before the next fire hits. Looking at the former villages of Kinglake and Marysville, they were very similar in size as Bundeena, and were also isolated with high fuel loads around the town.

We do not mean to cause alarm, in fact far from it. We want to reassure all people that there are steps you can take to help reduce the chances of losing your home to a wildfire, and increase your chances of surviving.

Questions you need to ask yourself if you want to know if your house is prepared include:

  • Are ground fuels cleared around the house (such as long grass, dead leaves and branches, or thick undergrowth?)
  • Are your gutters cleared of debris such as dead leaves
  • Is the roofing firmly fixed and cleared of leave debris
  • Are fire breaks prepared (a short green lawn can act as a firebreak)
  • Have metal screens been installed on windows and are underfloor areas enclosed to prevent embers from entering?
  • Have vents in the roof space been screened with fine wire mesh
  • Have flammable items been removed from around the house (e.g. woodpiles and obvious items such as garden furniture made of plastic or wood etc)
  • Are LPG tanks pressure relief valves pointing away from the house
  • Do all members of your household know how to ring "000"

The vast majority of homes that are lost to wildfire are due to embers becoming lodged and starting a fire. If a homeowner is well prepared and able to defend to their home, they will dramatically increase the chances of both themselves and the house surviving the fire.

Things you may need to consider when preparing y for bushfires include:

  • Hoses long enough to reach all sides of the house when attached to taps
  • Heavy duty hose with a wide spray nozzle is recommended
  • Reserve water supplies (such as a tank or pool) as you will find mains water pressure is extremely low. Try and store water during the winter months
  • Have a gate valve fitted to the water tank (a 38mm storz coupling will assist local fire-fighters)
  • Have a gate valve fitted to a portable pump as well (petrol driven)
  • Regularly inspect and test your pump to ensure it will work come summer
  • If able, install a sprinkler system in the garden and roof
  • Gather items such as metal buckets, mops, spray backpack units, ladders, metal rakes and shovels and leave in a clear, easily accessible spot to attack spot fires after the main front has passed
  • Ensure you have a battery operated radio and torch (with spare batteries) in case the electricity fails (highly likely)

IF YOU INTEND TO SELF RELOCATE

If you intend to self relocate any members of the family, PLAN WELL AHEAD OF TIME where to stay, how to make the decision to leave, and how to travel ( Remember, leave well before the fire front arrives) Make arrangements for your pets. Remember, if your home is insured and you don't feel 100% confident with staying at your home, leave early. Let your insure deal with your physical possessions, you life, and your families lives, are far too important to risk.

IF YOU INTENT TO STAY

For those who remain, ensure each person has suitable clothing, including sturdy leather footwear, long pants and a long sleeved shirt made from natural fibres, such as wool or cotton to protect against embers, a wide brimmed hat, goggles for eye protect, material over your mouth and noise to protect you airways (a wet cotton nappy works very well), wet towels to drape over your neck to keep cool as well as plenty of bottled drinking water. Consider the needs of pets, companion animals and any other livestock

WHAT TO DO WHEN THE FIRE APPROACHES

  • Listen to the radio for news on the fire progress rather than calling emergency services for information
  • Dress in protective clothing and drink water frequently ( THIS IS CRITICAL)
  • Wet down roof, house and garden, especially on the side of the approaching fire. Turn on sprinkler systems if installed
  • Stop downpipes and fill gutters with water
  • As the fire approaches, move inside and remain inside until the main front has passed
  • Fill all sinks, bathtubs etc with water to fight spot fires when it is safe to go outside after the main front has passed
  • Place wet towels and blankets against gaps under doors and windows
  • Close heavy curtains and shutters if installed
  • After the fire has passed and for several hours after the fire front has passed, patrol your property and put out any spot fires started by flying embers
  • Check your roof cavity regularly for embers

Our brigade implores all brigade members of the Bundeena community to start preparing your homes NOW during the cooler months. The better your preparation, the better your chances are of surviving the next wildfire event.

Please feel more then welcome to attend our station on Sundays if you have any questions you wish to ask. Your local fire-fighters will be more than happy to provide advice or point you in the right direction.

These fires in Victoria serve as a sombre reminder for the need to have a fully functioning brigade to help defend the community. We ask that if there is anybody in the community who is interested in joining our brigade please come down on a Sunday and we can start the membership process. We desperately need more fire-fighters, truck drivers and support people, so there is a role for everybody. If you interested, we are open from 9am Sunday

Victorian Bushfire Appeal Raffle

The Bundeena Bushfire Brigade held a raffle during the month of February to raise funds for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. Thanks to the extreme generosity of the people of Bundeena, we as a town managed to raise over $2100.00 in donations and raffle ticket sales. The winner was a lady called Sam Norris, who lives in Sydney. Sam has won an original harry Woodley painting valued at $1000.00. We would like to warmly thank all the supporters of our raffle, the people of Bundeena as well as the RSL and Harry Woodley for donating the prizes.

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