No place to run

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No place to run

By Bert van Bedaf
SOUTH Gippsland Shire could be without neighbourhood safer places for the remainder of the 2009/2010 fire season.
South Gippsland Shire Council officers have recommended that the Waratah Bay foreshore is rejected as a “safer” place after the Country Fire Authority had approved it. It was the only safer place identified by the CFA in the shire.
The CFA had included the foreshore in its public website listing, but the area has now been withdrawn as a safer place, following the
recommendation.
But South Gippsland Shire Council officers have rejected the Waratah Bay foreshore as a safer place on several grounds.
A report by Lew Wilson will go before the first council meeting of the year on February 3, recommendation that the Waratah Bay foreshore is rejected as a safer place, because “it does not meet a number of assessment criteria”.
The recommendation was decided by the Municipal Emergency Management Planning.
Officers that were consulted include council’s risk management officer Bret McLean, municipal fire prevention officer Ian Nicholas and municipal emergency resource officer Fred Huitema, as well as CFA operations officers Simon Bloink and CFA brigade administration support officer Gary Burns.
Grounds for rejection included access from Gale St, traffic management, disabled access to the beach, restricted access of fire fighting vehicles and the stranding of people on the beach for long periods of time with no facilities, particularly during a high tide.
Costs were also a concern. If council were to adopt the foreshore as a safer place, vegetation would need to be maintained and signage would need to be erected at council’s
expense.
“The estimated total cost of which is initially around $8000 with an ongoing cost of approximately $2000 per annum,” Mr Lewis said in his report.
Questions also arose whether people utilising the beach would have brought adequate clothing, water and food.
Mr Lewis recommended that “the community be advised via the local media that there are currently no designated neighbourhood safer places in South Gippsland.”
In addition to the Waratah Bay issue, the CFA has also rejected 13 neighbourhood safer places in the South Gippsland shire, leaving the shire without a safer place or refuge anywhere in the region.
Especially, risk areas such as Venus Bay, Sandy Point, Waratah Bay and Walkerville, which have a high influx of tourists during the summer season and long weekends, have been left without safe refuge.
Lew Wilson, council’s Municipal Emergency Manager and Deputy Municipal Recovery Manager said “technically the CFA has not rejected the sites. They have assessed them as either compliant or non-compliant in respect of fire rating.
“One of the key assessments for fire rating is a clear space of 300 metres (it can be assessed at a lesser distance depending on potential for radiant heat, such as Waratah Bay Foreshore) and this I believe was the criterion used (by the CFA) for the initial identification of potential
locations.   
“The initial identification of potential sites involved our council municipal fire prevention officer, a DSE (Department of Sustainability and Environment) representative and local CFA representation along with the CFA assessment officer.”
Mr Lewis pointed out that once a site has been assessed as compliant with CFA requirements, “it then must be assessed according to the criteria in Council’s adopted Municipal Neighbourhood Safer Places Plan.”
In the case of the Waratah Bay foreshore, it was not considered compliant with the municipal plan.
Mick Dorling, CFA captain in Fish Creek, believed the officer’s recommendation was correct.
“I believe it should be rejected on the grounds of high tide.”
The CFA recommended the foreshore because it was sufficiently distant to escape radiant heat, but Capt Dorling suggested that if a fire erupted and the safer place was used at high tide, they may still be exposed to radiant heat.
“I don’t believe the foreshore is the right place,” Capt Dorling said.
Mayor Jim Fawcett said he expected considerable discussion on the issue by his fellow South Gippsland shire councillors.
“I have read the report a couple of times and I will be asking questions about the CFA appraisal and study.”
He said council officers’ rejection of the CFA recommendation “should not be taken lightly”. He said single access and exit was a concern. “If blocked, you do have access issues.”
“But this doesn’t preclude people from seeking refuge on the beach,” Cr Fawcett said.
Cr Fawcett said it was “worrisome that we don’t have any designated places (in the shire).
The places that were rejected by the CFA were Sandy Point: CFA fire station, farm land (Pilkinton property), foreshore, surf lifesaving club, and the tennis court at TP Taylor Reserve; Venus Bay: Fishermans Rd jetty car park, foreshore (any beach area, from No 1 to No 5), Jupiter Boulevard shops, surf lifesaving club and paddocks along Lees Rd; Walkerville: farmland behind Prom View Estate (Rich property) and the foreshore opposite Walkerville North Hall.

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Posted by SiteAdmin on Jan 27 2010. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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