HORSHAM Rural City Council hopes a community debrief report on January’s bushfire in the Grampians will ensure the municipality is better prepared for future bushfires.
The report documents what worked well, what could have worked better and determines how fire response could be improved.
Council hosted debrief sessions at Brimpaen, Laharum and Dadswells Bridge.
Seventy-three community members attended, along with representatives from the Country Fire Authority, Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Victoria Police, Red Cross, Wimmera Uniting Care and the Department of Human Services.
Council’s community services manager Melissa Morris said a range of topics were covered, including planning and readiness; communications; response; water supply; traffic management; and relief and recovery.
She said many residents reported they had fire plans in place and were therefore prepared to defend their properties.
“Others indicated they were not prepared or that their plans just didn’t work,” she said.
Ms Morris said the need for greater fuel reduction in and around the areas affected by the fire was highlighted, as was the need for improved mobile phone coverage.
“There were many positive points noted regarding the overall effort, the deployment of resources and the impact this had on stopping the main fire and other fires occurring at the same time,” she said.
Ms Morris said residents reported they preferred local emergency services and faces at community meetings and roadblocks.
She said people were generally happy with the relief and recovery efforts, although there was a suggestion the relief centre – which was in Horsham – could have been closer to Laharum.
“There is a lot of adrenaline I suppose, with the things that are happening, and people are doing their best with what they have. Generally, the feeling was that this community coped pretty well with this event.”
Cr Mark Radford said the feedback would be used as a launchpad to improve fire response.
“Emergency management is an imperfect science,” he said.
“There is a lot of adrenaline I suppose, with the things that are happening, and people are doing their best with what they have.
“Generally, the feeling was that this community coped pretty well with this event.”
Copies of the report will be circulated to the agencies and community members who attended the meetings.
The report will also go to the Municipal Association of Victoria and emergency service and recovery agencies at state level.
Cr Tony Phelan said it was important to understand the process was not finished.
“We’re still working with the community to get them through the next phase,” he said.