Tackling fire safety

With increasing fatalities from fires in homes and accommodation facilities, Snowy River Shire Council, along with the New South Wales Fire Brigade, are leading the way to educate the community and visitors to the area on the importance of fire safety measures within the community.

The Snowy region is Australia’s major inland tourism destination, with around three million visitor nights annually. Snowy River Shire is a rapidly developing, medium to large Local Government area comprising 11 rural townships and seven resort villages. In September, inspections of properties in the area identified a high risk of fire within the region due to no or minimal fire safety measures being in place and overcrowding of accommodation.

Council, along with New South Wales Fire Brigade officers, prepared a report to New South Wales Fire Brigade Commissioner, Greg Mullins, and the then New South Wales Minister for Local Government and Emergency Services, Tony Kelly, outlining their observations and endorsing Council’s request for a joint pilot program.

This joint pilot program is a first between a Local and State Government agency working together to ensure safety and education in the community. Forty-five class 2 and class 3 buildings were inspected and every building has since been issued with notices in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979 (NSW). One site closed down by Council was approved to accommodate 40 people but had been retro fitted to accommodate 81 people.

Snowy River Compliance Coordinator, Wendy Nixon, said rooms had been created in roof space, cabin loft areas were used as sleeping areas, verandas were unsafe and solid fuel heaters were not installed in accordance with the Building Code of Australia, 2005.

“There was minimal fire safety, that being one blanket and one fire extinguisher for the entire site,” she said. “Overcrowding is a major issue in terms of fire safety. In a smoke filled room with no visibility it is very difficult to find an exit, especially when there are additional persons within a lodge or building.”

As a result of the inspections, notices served included some 546 fire safety measures to be implemented. In addition, 12 properties were served with immediate orders to install smoke detectors as basic fire safety measures. The pilot program will continue until all properties affected by upgrading have been inspected.

For further information contact Wendy Nixon on (02) 6450 5195.