A pilot program that helps small communities in the Grampians region to develop bushfire plans for their towns is being watched with interest by CFA.
The project’s facilitator, former CFA staffer and Maryborough brigade volunteer Raelene Williams, says the small towns of Raglan, Landsborough and Redbank – all within 45 minutes’ drive of each other – were chosen for the pilot program because of their differing socioeconomic profiles and demographics.
Raelene says CFA had finished rolling out Township Protection Plans around the State last October when she was asked to facilitate the new project.
“It was an opportunity to test what a community would produce if they were to go through the process of putting a bushfire plan together for their town and how they would go about it,” she says.
Raelene contacted the brigade captains in each town, asking them to set up a committee of six people who were representative of the community.
In Raglan, that has a community hall and a brigade for its population of 180, the committee decided to formulate the town’s Fire Ready Plan before taking it to a community meeting. A few months later, about 45 locals turned up for a barbecue lunch and meeting about the four-page plan, which was later mailed to all households in the area.
“They wanted it to be a simple plan and not duplicate the bushfire information that CFA put out,” Raelene says. “Their theme for the plan was the importance of knowing your neighbours, working with your neighbours and understanding what your neighbours plan to do if there’s a bushfire.”
The pilot was also launched in Redbank, population 80, where committee members decided to ring around to get ideas and feedback. Their plan took the form of a calendar highlighting important dates including a workshop on personal bushfire plans that the committee asked CFA to run in October. It also marks when residents should prepare their properties and a Fire Awareness week in October.
In the town of Landsborough, population 250, the local committee decided to send surveys to residents. The feedback showed that elderly people wanted the fire brigade to sound its siren when a fire threatened, while others wanted CFA to run a fire scenario for the locals.
Plans for Redbank and Landsborough were finished in May.
“The three plans were very different from each other and so were the processes they used,” Raelene says. “It goes to show that all communities are different – it’s not one size fits all – and different things work in different places.”
The pilot, which finished at the end of May, is currently being evaluated to see whether there’s scope for using it across the State.
“CFA is being proactive in saying, ‘Let’s check some different ways to work with communities so they can be prepared for bushfire’,” Raelene says. “The initial feedback from the evaluation is very positive and CFA is very pleased with the outcomes so far.
“It’s been wonderful to see it unfold from the initial idea to the produced plans. You can see that to them it’s a living plan that will change each year. It’s heart-warming to have gone through the process and to see their sense of achievement. I think this is the first step of many, many steps to come over the decades.”
By Yvonne Pecujac