Grampians bushfire debrief

EMERGENCY service representatives and government authorities met in Horsham yesterday for a debrief on the northern Grampians bushfire in January.

Country Fire Authority District 17 operations manager Dale Russell said the meeting was about identifying opportunities for improvement in future fires.

"We talked about safety, community engagement, the evacuation at Halls Gap, predictive services and products to do with weather, integration of the CFA and Department of Environment and Primary Industries in fire attack and pre-season preparedness," he said.

Mr Russell said the debrief findings, along with many others by the CFA and other authorities, would shape the future of fire-fighting in the region.

"We gather all that information and that might influence training, learning materials and the basis for briefings," he said.

Wimmera Superintendent Graham Kent said community engagement had emerged as a key finding from the meeting.

"There were lessons around how we communicate with people in areas affected by climate-driven incidents," he said.

"We really want the community to stay connected to agencies and be involved in planning and preparing."

He said while he understood there had been some unrest from people about road closures, safety was paramount.

"The primary focus will always be safety and preservation of life and we understand that might cause some people to be disrupted," Mr Kent said.

Horsham Rural City director of technical services John Martin said the debrief showed that pre-season community fire briefings were essential to fire preparation.

"We had a look at the municipal emergency co-ordination centre and identified the need to make sure we can get that up and running quickly," he said.

"The benefit of community briefings was also noted; people who did participate did get a lot of benefit."

He said council would continue to emphasise the importance of bushfire action plans.

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