Fire response

In a world where it seems everyone wants to find someone or something to blame when life takes a turn for the worse, it is refreshing to see the resilience and the maturity of the community affected by last week’s Cherryville bushfire.
They have rallied around the Billing family who lost their home on Blockers Road and many have rallied around the landowner who lit the burn-off that led to the fire.
Some properties were caught short by the blaze but CFS Chief Officer Greg Nettleton was quick to praise the majority who had “heeded the message” and had prepared for a bushfire.
Even Adelaide Hills Mayor Bill Spragg, who attended a residents’ meeting at Basket Range on Monday night, commented on the community’s common sense approach to the disaster and their acceptance of the bushfire risk they faced.
Perhaps the response would have been different if more homes had been lost or if people had died.
The feedback so far from locals is that they realise how fortunate they were to have the fire in May – not February.
The photographs taken of the fire by the CFS Promotions Unit show a night-time inferno.
However, compared with the Black Sunday fires that swept through the same area in the summer of 1955, this was a “low energy burn” that was safe enough to allow firefighters to move along summer fire tracks and congregate at individual properties to save homes. It is extremely unlikely that would have happened at the height of summer with a howling north wind.
Some sections of the media have been critical about the lack of immediate response from water bomber aircraft on the Thursday afternoon when the burn-off escaped.
In an ideal world SA would have its own fleet of firefighting aircraft available at a moment’s notice 52 weeks of the year in every high risk area.
We don’t because we cannot afford it and at some times of the year it’s not necessary.
Deciding when it is not necessary is a task we give to the professionals.
However, their decisions will never negate the ever-present risk of bushfire in the Hills and the responsibility we all have to prepare for fire.
If it had been the height of summer, Cherryville might have had a water bomber over the initial fire in five minutes and perhaps it wouldn’t have galloped away.
But then the fire might have flared at night or the winds might have been too strong or the smoke too thick to allow the bombers to fly. The planes are a tool only and at the end of the day and, as the Cherryville fire proved, it is the preparation work of the landholders and the bravery of the firefighters on ground that make the biggest difference.