It’s the old story: who saves the family and the house of the firefighter while he/she is out fighting other fires?
The new fire season has started, and many of the outstanding information sessions or programs created by the CFS have already been held in preparation. In fact, everything is about planning – making sure you actually have a plan.
The CFS asks that you have a written – and practised – bushfire survival plan, and one workshop still to be held is at the Clayton Bay Fire Shed on Alexandrina Road on Sunday, December 6 from 1.30-4.30pm. To book, contact Vanessa Geerts on 0428 817 186 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrienne and Neville Scott have worked their vineyard at Hindmarsh Valley for 26 years, and like so many of us they had not fully considered what to do if a fire was suddenly coming their way. Now, the transformation of their home and property in readiness of a fire may save their lives, thanks to Adrienne organising a CFS Firey Women training session at their residence also attended by 10 women living nearby in August.
According to Adrienne, they were stunned when realising that simple preventative measures and the implementation of a plan could save them and everything else.
“We learnt so much, especially about preparing your property and how to communicate,” Adrienne said. “Even though we have rapid numbers instead of street numbers, they want us to go by a grid number.
“We were told the importance of having a plan, like whether you will go or stay if there is a fire, and if you stay what you will do. They showed us things like the importance of being covered in clothes, gloves and a mask. Even leaving a sign on your gateway so your neighbours know whether you have gone or you are still home.
“They have asked us to meet again as neighbours to work out which way we can escape should a fire come from a particular direction.
“There was focus on gardens; what trees are dangerous and how you grow them. For us, it meant digging out our lavender bush because it was with other trees making it three different heights like steps and then there is the roof. We have to make sure there is a gap so the fire cannot jump to the roof so easily.
“Even putting wire over the vents of the house so embers cannot get inside was something we didn’t think of, and there was the obvious reminder of cleaning your gutters.
“I thought it was good that we learned how to understand reports when they were on the radio, and not to think that you can get in your car and race it because the fire can race you.”
Adrienne said the Firey Women program was not being about heroes, but thinkers, and Neville added that you should never assume that you won’t have a fire. “I guess it was something that we never wanted to think about,” Neville said. “You may need to come to terms with the fact that with a fire you may have to walk away from your property.”
Judy Sweetman, who also attended the course, said she would be home during a fire because her husband was always out on the fire truck.
“We always thought that he would be able to tell me when it was time to go or leave the property, but the reality we were told was that he may not have a chance to tell me because he would be too busy,” Judy said.
“You have to know what you are going to do, and how you are going to handle the situation. There are also different situations like having children or visitors at the scene, or having livestock.”
Adrienne said there were girls at the course who owned horses, and learned for the first time what to do in case of a bushfire.
“You keep the outside fences in tact, but open all the internal ones so they can get around,” Adrienne said. “And don’t put them in a stable or a shed… let them out and they will look after themselves.
“We were told how during a grass fire there were horses in the paddock, and the biggest horse was stomping out stubble fire protecting the other horses. There was another case where alpacas had herded all the goats by a dam.”
Among the youngest attendees was Chloe Hautop, who said she gained a lot from the program. “I thought it was good because a lot of younger people may be home by themselves,” she said.
“It’s good to know what to do, like removing all the things that could catch embers, closing all the doors, blocking all the holes, filling up your sinks with water, having mops ready to dampen the embers and straping your windows so they don’t shatter.”
Kaisu Vartto, who lives on a farm across the road from the Mount Billy Conservation Park, was always aware of the dangers of living in a high bushfire area, but not every precaution that needed to be taken.
“Even though we have the CFS truck on our place, if there is a fire the truck is not going to necessarily be there,” Kaisu said.
“My husband has done a lot since the course because it really inspired us and gave us the knowledge about fire behaviour. It made me much more aware about reducing the fire load and knowing what kind of behaviour they have.
“The bottom line message they drove home to us was don’t be a hero. If it is a catastrophic fire day and there is a fire in your area, leave early; a lot of people have died because they have left too late.
“I thought it was a fantastic course, and the CFS should he congratulated for putting on such an excellent program.”
And you know how the emphasis was on planning, well the CFS runs these Firey Women courses outside of the fire danger season, so plan to attend one.