WHEN reports of the death of a woman at Roses Gap started to emerge on Friday, authorities used it as a warning to others to leave early.
“This should be a very, very salient lesson to everybody that when you’re told to leave, when you’re told that there is a huge risk to your life and property, then your life is worth saving by leaving early,” Premier Denis Napthine said at a press conference on Friday.
But one of the woman’s closest friends, who spoke to the Mail-Times anonymously, said any suggestion her friend Barb Pleasance had died as a direct result of fire had been premature.
“I felt that was being used as a scare tactic because they knew nothing about the woman,” she said.
“I was very upset because they didn’t know what the cause of death was.”
A coroner’s report is being compiled to determine the cause of death, but authorities have subsequently said it was a result of a medical issue.
Mrs Pleasance was highly experienced in fighting fires, joining the North Warrandyte CFA in the 1960s.
Her house was customised to survive fire with an inner core made from large slabs of Mt Gambier stone along with a fully-equipped underground house – ‘Barb’s Burrow’.
“She meticulously planned every detail of how she would approach the fire – that’s why I was very upset with what was stated,” the woman said.
“I spoke to her at 11.30pm on Thursday – she was fully prepared.
“I tried to ring her at 3.30am on Friday and there was no answer.”
The woman said her friend of more than 40 years had a strong dedication to the environment.
“She was passionate, she came from England in the 1960s and was in love with the Australian bush. All her life she worked towards providing a sanctuary for flora and fauna,” she said.
“She was highly intelligent.
“This was not some silly woman who did not know what she was doing.”