If ever the CFS was going to get its “be prepared” message through to Hills residents, the last two fire seasons would have been the time.
With the aftermath of Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires of February 2009 still fresh in people’s memories, the volunteer organisation’s huge public education campaign should have gained some traction.
There were television, radio and newspaper advertisements. Mail boxes were filled with explanatory DVDs and information kits that took residents through the process of drafting their individual bushfire action plans.
But according to CFS commissioned research, most people surveyed in the outer metropolitan areas of Adelaide, the foothills and the Hills failed to make a proper plan. Some just didn’t care.
Others acknowledged the wisdom of preparation and accepted the legitimacy of the CFS advice – they just didn’t get around to doing anything concrete about it.
There were vague ideas about leaving early but no detailed organisation of the logistics. “We’ll wait and see” was the prevailing attitude.
Unfortunately it is an attitude that will lead to deaths in the future if Hills people do not wake up to the responsibilities attached to living in a high bushfire risk area.
The conditions that spawned Black Saturday were some of the worst bushfire weather ever recorded and the experts have warned Australians to expect more of the same.
One of the worrying consequences of this region’s increasing urbanisation is residents’ detachment from the bush.
With more than 60% of the working population commuting during the week, we have a population base that can easily ignore the natural world around their homes.
Farmers can their environment for fires multiple times a day because their lives and their livelihoods depend on it.
How many of us can boast the same vigilance during the fire season when it’s far more comfortable to close the curtains and turn up the airconditioning on a scorching hot day?
Black Saturday claimed 173 lives, injured 414 people, destroyed more than 2000 homes and displaced more than 7500 people.
People were not prepared and those who considered themselves ready to defend were no match for the firestorm that engulfed them.
When the big one comes to the Hills, and it will, we can thank Black Saturday for giving us a CFS that is better prepared to warn us of the impending danger.
Our responsibility is to do something with those warnings and protect ourselves and our families.
Now is the time to sit down and draft a bushfire action plan.