Letting rural communities take the lead in developing fire safety projects is the idea behind a pilot project just starting in three Victorian towns.
“The Fire Ready Towns project is community driven – it’s empowering a community to create initiatives and develop fire safety within that community,” says Kevin Sleep, a community education coordinator with Loddon Mallee region.
“The aim is to help create resilient communities.”
The pilot was launched in three different high bushfire risk communities across the region – Murrayville, near the South Australian border, Rushworth, in the Goulburn Valley, and Taradale, south of Bendigo.
Meetings with leaders in each community started in early March to get a feel for whether the project would be accepted and the sorts of projects the community might get involved in.
“Then we go to the community and have an open meeting to decide whether they want to go ahead with the concept of a Fire Ready Town,” Kevin says.
What’s unique about the approach is that the community drives the project.
“What we would like to see is that it’s driven by the community, not CFA, so that our role would be support and expertise if they needed it,” Kevin says.
“One of our team came up with the idea based on the Tidy Towns concept, which is still quite popular in rural Victoria. If these pilots are successful we will offer it across the region and open it up to the rest of the State.”
Kevin says the three towns chosen for the pilots are already doing a lot to raise fire safety awareness.
“We know that in their own way these communities have been proactive about fire safety and we want to build on what they’re already doing because they’re all high bushfire risk towns,” he says.
“We want to empower a community to develop its own programs on fire ready safety. They might, for example, decide to do the work for the older members of the community on their properties, it might be education programs, they might issue everyone in the community with a smoke alarm and a battery so they’re actually attending to fire safety all year round. It could be anything and everything.”
All three towns chosen for the pilot program have been identified as needing a Township Protection Plan due to their high bushfire risk.
“We’ve got to have a community meeting with them for the Township Protection Plans so why not talk to them at the same time about this pilot and kill two birds with one stone,” Kevin says.
Photo courtesy of Shire of Campaspe
Story written by Yvonne Pecujac