Murrindindi raises bushfire awareness

Article image - Murrindindi raises bushfire awareness

Following the 2006 summer bushfires in Victoria, Murrindindi Shire Council in the State’s outer north central held a Bushfire Recovery Roadshow.

Titled, ‘Where There’s Smoke…’, the display comprised a series of photos contributed by the community, together with maps and information about the fires.

The roadshow toured the Shire from March 2006 to February 2007, visiting local businesses, libraries, schools, visitor information centres, various community events and festivals. It also visited the Toolangi Forest Discovery Centre, where students from suburban schools come to learn about Mountain Ash forests and the effect of bushfires on the environment.

Council’s Bushfire Recovery and Community Development Officer, Anne Leadbeater, said the fires, which burnt a total of 8,500 hectares across Murrindindi, were experienced differently in different areas.

“Some townships experienced rapid grass fires, while in others, dense bushland meant communities were on standby for up to five days,” she said. “By using photographs to depict the effects in each area, residents gained a greater understanding of the challenges faced by the entire community.”

Anne Leadbeater said Council received hundreds of photographs from the community, but narrowed the final collection down to 165 images that best illustrated the fires’ impact.

“It was really interesting to see what people were inspired to capture in a time of emergency,” she said. “The display got people talking to people they hadn’t met before about where they were, how they felt and the effects the fires had on them. It was a great tool for community debriefing.”

The roadshow also sparked conversation between Council and residents.

“Catching up to talk about photos provided a valuable link with community members we may not have spoken to otherwise,” Anne Leadbeater said. “This provided the chance to discuss the wider implications of the fires and how the community felt Council dealt with the issue.”

The fire recovery process also involved school children in Murrindindi. Local teachers received professional development using a model created by the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Department of Sustainability and Environment. The model outlined the role of fire in the environment and how bushfires are fought.

The program aims to provide reassurance to students that fire emergencies are managed in a strategic way and that all agencies, including schools, emergency services and Council, have plans and preparations in place. The CFA is now looking to implement this initiative in other fire affected areas.

In preparing for the threat of future fires, Council and the CFA have held several community meetings promoting the Community Fireguard Program. The ongoing program sees residents in a particular street or group forming their own Fireguard Group, where they can share fire plans and discuss collaborative emergency procedures.

Council is now looking to create a community calendar incorporating the roadshow images and fire prevention tips.

For further information contact Anne Leadbeater on (03) 5772 0333.