Willow Grove fire exercise

Community exercises get locals thinking

In November 2016, more than 120 residents took part in Community Bushfire Exercises at Willow Grove Football Club.

The sessions aimed to give residents the tools to help them prepare their properties and themselves for the threat of bushfire, and empower them to take responsibility for their bushfire plan. A better-prepared community member will have a better recovery outcome than a resident who has done little preparation.

Willow Grove Captain Anthony Schultz said most people found out about the event through the Willow Grove Fire Brigade’s Facebook Page and the 2 electronic message boards, placed at Willow Grove and Westbury. This is the second of this type of event held in Willow Grove. We had a Community breakfast last fire season as well.

Topics covered were fire behavior, Fire Danger Ratings, warnings and advice, local fire history and the importance and content of a bushfire plan. A burn table was also used to show fire behavior and local topography.

An interactive part of the day that worked well was a session about simulated fire scenarios in specific local areas. Residents looked at large aerial maps and were able to pinpoint where they lived. Using the maps, residents were encouraged to discuss which direction a fire might come from, what local conditions may be like and what actions and plans need to be considered.

Residents worked in small groups with a CFA brigade member to test their plans and talk about what they would do.

“The most successful part of the day was seeing how many people really started thinking about being prepared,” said Anthony. “We’ve run things in the past and never had a turn out like this, so to engage around 120 residents was fantastic.”

Local police and members of DELWP were also on hand to answer any questions.

One resident commented that they’d lived in Willow Grove for 18 years, experienced the effects of the 2009 fires, but still didn’t have a bushfire survival plan. After the exercise they planned to assess their property and have a family discussion to formalise their plan.

Another local resident said, “It was great to get people thinking about personal responsibility. Meetings like this make you realise how real it is.”

Feedback from participants showed that only 23% of people had a fire plan. After the workshop 84% had committed to developing their own fire plan.