Gippslanders urged to understand fire danger ratings
With Gippsland set for a number of days of hot and dry weather, a survey by the CFA suggests many of us could be putting ourselves at unnecessary risk.
The survey found just 1 in 10 Victorians living in areas of high bushfire risk, including those in Gippsland, say they would ‘leave early’ on days of high fire danger.
Alarmingly, a third of respondents say they would only leave once a fire is threatening their town or suburb, with 7 percent waiting for direction by police or emergency services.
The CFA's Deputy Chief Officer, Stephanie Rotarangi, is urging residents to understand the Fire Danger Ratings and make sure they leave early on days of high bushfire risk.
“Leaving early is the safest option to protect yourself and your family and it means leaving the area before a fire starts – not when you can see flames or smell smoke. Leaving early means avoiding panic, being trapped, making the wrong choices and risking serious injury or death,” she said.
“Victoria’s environment and climate means we live in one of the most fire prone regions in the world, therefore the only way that you can guarantee your safety during a bushfire is not being in it.
“Waiting to leave means a drive that normally takes a few minutes could take hours, or you may not be able to get out at all.”
Dr Rotarangi warned Gippslanders not to be complacent, despite recent rainfall.
“Some areas of the state, particularly in Gippsland, are extremely dry and will need many weeks of above-average rain before drought-stressed plants start to recover,” she said.
“While the recent rain has made fuel less flammable in the short term, the current weather outlook indicates a return to dry conditions and elevated fire risk.
“This season still has the potential to be in line with Victoria’s driest fire seasons. It’s not a question of if there will be bushfires this season, it’s a question of when and where,” she said.
“You may 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 said that on hot, dry and windy days, such as those forecast for today and tomorrow, fires can start and spread quickly. She urged Victorians to learn what the Fire Danger Ratings mean and use them as triggers to take action to keep themselves and loved ones safe.
“Talk to your household, family or neighbours about your bushfire survival plan and check Fire Danger Ratings daily so you know when to leave. The CFA website has more information and will help you use the Fire Danger Rating to know when conditions are dangerous enough to put your bushfire survival plan in to action.”
“It's your responsibility to make the best possible decision for your family based on the current Fire Danger Ratings and official warnings for your area.
“It’s extremely important that people spend some time getting to understand the Fire Danger Ratings and how to use them to keep themselves safe.”