We really don’t need to comment because this passionate post from Daniel Bremer on the Bedfordale Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade’s Facebook page says it all:
Complacency is Going to Kill Someone
Winter grass, I have WINTER GRASS growing on my bush block in the Perth Hills in JANUARY. I’ve never seen anything like it. Big rains with a coolish summer overall has altered the reality of vegetation around our home. Whilst I struggle to get any actual plants to grow, lush green winter grass has sprung up all throughout my bush block without warning. It seems like every prediction of this being a very bad bushfire season is a distant memory. As much as I know about the unpredictability of bushfires, even I must be honest and admit that I haven’t thought to check my gutters for several weeks now. We aren’t having those week long 40+ days like we used to. It’s cooler than normal and I’m complacent.
In a short 24 hour period, Perth is reminded that it’s summer and bushfires are a real threat. With multiple homes within striking distance of any given 50+ fires raging throughout the state, we once again discover that our community is not prepared and doesn’t really know what to do in the event of a bush fire near them.
The call comes over the fire radio explaining that the fire is 20 meters away from a retirement village with 90 residents. The most vulnerable in our community is under threat. Reports come in from a fire down in Augusta of residents out raking leaves in a singlet and thongs and you can’t help but shake your head in disbelief. The fire chief phones in a request for ‘crowd control’ because of the sheer number of bystanders running towards the raging bushfire to see if they can get a good photo or to see what is going on – which coincidently puts undue additional pressure on firefighters who are concentrating on trying to save lives inside the fire zone. Yet the public unwittingly adds to the stressful situation and puts even more lives at risk.
I have done all the fire fighting training. I’ve studied bush fires, heard all the horror stories and have a pretty solid grasp of what to expect in a bushfire. But the last time I put the uniform on, is a day I will not soon forget.
We were doing a control burn. There was virtually zero wind. The idea was simple, we burn the edges and let the fire burn in on itself, putting the fire out naturally. With zero wind to help it, it was a long and tedious day. The fire was expanding at a rate of about 5 metres an hour. When you have hundreds of meters to burn, especially as a volunteer, you just want to get it done and go home. I hadn’t been that bored in years. I stood there watching this fire trying to keep myself occupied. I started working out scenarios in my head. Based on the rate of speed, the fuel load, this particular fire should reach the point I’m standing by… 3am. The problem was it was only 6pm. It was perhaps the most bored I’ve been all year… and then…
All of a sudden, like with the snap of a finger, 35 km/h winds came out of nowhere and changed my life instantly. The fire reached me in 23 seconds. Nine hours was reduced to 23 seconds. I ran. I ran as fast as I could and in my mind I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to outrun the fire. The wind, giving the necessary oxygen for the fire to grow at an unstoppable rate. Embers started falling in front of me, creating instant spot fires. Bushes in front of me started exploding in flames. I was over-taken and in trouble.
Fast forwarding to the end of the story… I ended up in hospital.
As I think back to that last time I put on the uniform, there is one thought that I just can’t get out of my mind… it was WINTER! If a fire can explode like that in winter, imagine what it could do in summer?
Here’s the thing, I had been to hundreds control burns and fire emergencies and never had any kind of experience like that before. I was complacent on the grounds that day, and I’m still paying the price for it.
To hear of people running towards a raging bushfire to get photos is the most disheartening feeling. I want to jump straight into my vehicle and run down there and shake sense into the minds of people that have no idea how much of a threat they are putting themselves in. It doesn’t matter if the wind is taking the fire the other direction… it takes one milli-second for the wind to change direction and send it back directly at you.
So how prepared are you? Be honest, are you a little complacent? If a fire starts on your street at 2am, will you and your family members know exactly what to do when you only have 10-seconds to get out of your house? Where will you go? What will you do if the vehicle you were going to evacuate in is on fire and you are now trapped? How prepared are you?
The single biggest killer in a bushfire is indecision. Trust me, making decisions in a life threatening situation is virtually impossible to do unless you have already considered and predetermined what you will do when it happens. Just one reason why you need to make decisions and prepare a head of time.
We are encouraging all members of the public to have a 5 minute chat with your family to ensure that everyone knows what to do in the event of a bushfire. DFES has put together a quick and easy to follow guide to help you and your family be prepared.
Prepare you and your family TODAY.
By Daniel Bremer – Bedfordale Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade