THE Country Fire Authority has reinforced the need for Wimmera residents to take fire danger ratings seriously.
The warnings come after authority research found only 10 per cent of people living in areas of high bushfire risk say they would leave early on high fire danger days.
The result is the lowest percentage since the authority started its annual Bushfire Community Survey in 2009-10. The survey also found 13 per cent of people would stay and defend their property on high fire danger days, down from a survey high 17 per cent last year.
A third of respondents said they would leave as soon as they knew a fire was threatening their town or suburb.
A quarter said they would do as much as possible to protect their property, but leave if they felt threatened.
Country Fire Authority District 17 operations manager Craig Brittain said people could not afford to be complacent when it came to fire danger.
“Sometimes we find community members do tend to leave it until the last moment to leave, because they think, ‘I’ll wait and see how it goes’,” he said.
“But by the time they've got smoke and embers over their properties, it’s too late to leave.
“We really need to continue to educate community members to look at fire danger ratings in advance, so they know what the risk is going to be for the next few days, and make a bushfire plan.
“People should already have plans in place for what to do on high-risk days.
“If they are not going to stay and defend their property – and there’s a range of things to consider with that – their plan should be about not being there.”
Mr Brittain said it was vital people were well-informed on high-risk days. “I can't reinforce it enough. We're all in this together,” he said.
“There's plenty of information available on the CFA website, or people can call their district office.
“And don't just take your information from one source. Have a look at different areas so you get a variance of information and can make an informed decision about what to do.”
Country Fire Authority deputy chief officer Stephanie Rotarangi said this fire season had the potential to be among Victoria’s driest.
“It’s not a question of if there will be bushfires this season, it’s a question of when and where,” she said.
“You might feel that we say the same thing every year, and to an extent we do. That’s because in a place like Victoria, we need to continually be prepared for the worst.
“When grass or scrub fire strikes, it will travel at a tremendous speed and be difficult to control, so preparation is the key.”
Dr Rotarangi urged people to ensure they understood fire danger ratings and used them as triggers to take action.
Ratings show how dangerous a fire would be if one started, and range from low-moderate to code red.
A quick guide to fire danger ratings:
- Make sure you know what fire weather district you’re in, and check the rating and Total Fire Ban for that district every day over summer.
- If the rating is code red or extreme, you could be risking your life if you wait and see.
- Ratings are forecast using Bureau of Meteorology data, based on weather and other environmental conditions such as fuel load. Providing this information in advance enables people to prepare for any significant forecast of fire weather.
- Fire danger ratings are displayed on 85 automated and around 300 static signs across Victoria.
- Visit www.emergency.vic.gov.au, check the VicEmergency app or call the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226 to check ratings.