Eltham Gateway Deathtrap – important bushfire information.

I don’t think it will surprise any of you to know I’m paranoid about bushfire. What you may not know is that even I can be surprised. In a bad way.

The link below will take you to a very well thought out, well researched document about the extreme bushfire danger threatening not just the Warrandyte area, but also the far more built up suburbs to the west and north of Warrandyte. I’m talking Eltham, Research, Diamond Creek etc.

http://www.elthamsdeathtrap.com/

The reason these areas are in such danger was illustrated not long ago when an out of control grass fire threatened new housing estates in Epping, a northern suburb of Melbourne.  Epping and surrounding areas are poorly serviced by through roads. When the bushfire alerts went out, the roads leading away from the path of the fire became gridlocked. Not only could residents not evacuate safely, the fire services were having trouble getting to the fire. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

In my area, the danger is complicated by the fact that the Yarra River literally cuts us off from the suburbs to the south, and there are just two narrow bridges crossing the river. One bridge chokes the north-south exit from Eltham,  while the other is 13 kms to the east at Warrandyte. My bridge chokes the east-west exit.

As I live in Warrandyte, I have known about the danger posed by that east-west bridge for years, but it was not until I read the Eltham Gateway document that I realised we were pincered between two bridges and the river. Have a close look at the CFA map if you don’t believe me.

The worst fires always come from the northwest. That means people have to evacuate to the south. But the river is in the way. Can you imagine the chaos, and loss of life, if a bushfire like Black Saturday forced us to flee across either of those bridges?

I can, and the image of mangled, burnt out cars lining the roads to these bridges scares me to death.

Even if you think you know all about the possible dangers, please, PLEASE read this document. It is quite long but worth reading, especially for those who plan to evacuate in case of danger. Leaving at the last minute may not be possible, and even leaving early-ish may be more dangerous than you know.

Stay safe

Meeks

 

 

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

19 responses to “Eltham Gateway Deathtrap – important bushfire information.

  • Karen Wyld

    I understand your fear of fire, however its the stupidity of people that I fear more. I grew up on a farm in a rural pocket that became surrounded by new estates; so saw many fires in the nearby paddocks. And later my parent lived in the Adelaide hills, where there are people who don’t take enough responsibility for reducing risks.

    So I think sharing information like in this post is a good way of raising awareness of the importance of being informed, responsible and prepared.

    Once again, Victoria has had it bad this year, and I really feel for everyone who has lived through such terror, loss and heartache.

    Like

    • acflory

      Thanks Karen. And you’re right about the ignorance. Back in the day, country people grew up knowing how to minimize bushfire danger, and they did what had to be done. These days, that ‘bushcraft’ for want of a better word has been lost in the flood of city people looking for a beautiful place to live.

      I was certainly one of them, eight years ago, so I understand the mindset. Unfortunately it’s a very dangerous mindset. Just because a suburb is located on the ever widening fringe of a big city doesn’t mean it’s immune to fire. And it certainly doesn’t mean that residents can sit back, do nothing, and expect the CFA to come rescue them when things go pear shaped. Yet despite everything, that is still how a great many people who move out here think.

      Like

  • Moi

    The report identified issues but doesn’t offer any real solutions. It doesn’t once mention the importance of fire bunkers or legislation from the Royal Commission that allows people in high risk areas to remove all trees within 10m of their houses, and vegetation 30m, without a permit. These, and clearing fuel loads from private property are practical things that can significantly reduce the risk to life and property. As these weren’t mentioned, the report has all the hallmarks of a political attack on the left, and merely shifts the responsibility (and cost) of personal safety onto governments and Victorian taxpayers. As there is little evidence that wide scale vegetation removal is occurring, it suggests that residents love living in the bush and are willing to accept the inherant risk that comes with it.

    Like

    • acflory

      Hi Moi,
      I live in North Warrandyte so I’m painfully aware of the bottleneck caused by our bridge. I also have first hand knowledge of the lack of clearing on private property and the chest high scrub choking roadways. Some of us have known we live in a deathtrap for ages. The surprise came from learning that built up, suburban Eltham was in the same boat.

      The scary thing is that most people living in Eltham have no idea of the danger… and so do not take even the most basic of precautions.

      As for your point about shunting responsibility away from individuals to government authorities… -deep breath-

      1. We are bound by the rules and regulations of said authorities. Prior to Black Saturday they forced us to embed our homes in native plants that burn.
      2. The 30/10 and 50/10 regulations did not come into force until after Black Saturday. Before then, we had no right to remove any trees whatsoever. For any reason. I applied to remove one tree that was too close to the house. My reason was fire danger. My application was refused.
      3. In the most recent CFA literature on preparing your property for bushfires, they recommend having defendable zone of 1.5 times the height of the nearest tree. All my trees are more than 10 metres high. That means a cleared zone of at least 15 metres. I am allowed just 10 metres in contradiction to the CFA recommendations.

      There is more but that should be enough to show that government and local councils are VERY much a part of the problem.

      As an individual who can afford to do so, I have invested in keeping my house and my family safe :

      1. Inground, concrete, dedicated firefighting water tank
      2. Very expensive roof sprinklers
      3. A concrete bunker to protect my firefighting pumps
      4. Toughened glass in all the upstairs windows.
      5. Fire resistant shutters on all doors and windows, including upstairs.
      6. Gutterguard on gutters
      7. Alpacas to mow the grass

      AND fire resistant landscaping with pebbles instead of mulch.

      But no matter what I do as an individual, my 1.6 acres are embedded in a landscape where most other residents don’t give a shit, either because they don’t know the danger, or because they intend ‘to leave’ so why should they care?

      I’ve put my money where my mouth is in North Warrandyte because I see the danger but I love this place enough to want to stay… and survive.

      When every resident in this bush fire prone area takes as much personal responsibility as I do then I will stop demanding that the authorities shoulder their own responsibilities and stop being part of the problem.

      You don’t have to be a hippie to love this place. But you do have to be a responsible adult.

      Like

  • katyasnowqueen

    we live in the Dandenong Ranges and every Novemeber I pack bags and put them behind the sofa near the front door, along with my laptop bag and cat travel crates, and there they stay until end of March.

    Like

    • acflory

      Ouch. I keep forgetting you people in the Ranges have it just as bad. I hope you never have to put your plan into action. Getting out of the hills in a hurry is a very scary thought.

      Like

  • EllaDee

    Great post. I’ve not much experience with bushfires. I have driven through minor break outs, and once was on standby to be evacuated.. and ran around manicly trying to think was to take with me, ultimately choosing the dog, 2 cats and nothing else, not even a change of clothes! I read Kinglake 350 and was terribly affected by the story and the experiences. The authorities just cannot sweep this issue into the too hard basket. Disaster and tragedy can, and will happen again unless things change. The reality as with the floods in Queensland, is people do live in areas where there is risk and they in particular and their properties secondarily, should not tbe disadvantaged by inept bureaucracy and budgets. The situation should never [again] get to the point of accountability, finger pointing and blame because at that point it’s too late, and won’t bring back the dead.

    Like

    • acflory

      You’re so right Ella, yet human beings seem to have such short memories, especially politicians. I guess from their point of view, we’re not going to have another Black Saturday for a few decades so why should they worry. Let whoever is in charge at that time wear the blame.

      Gah, I would so like to knock heads together…

      Like

  • lorddavidprosser

    When I first opened the document Andrea and read things the Victorian Government can do I thought surely you don’t have the same problems as over 100 years ago. Then, silly me,, I twigged- The Government of Victoria. What worries me is that the dangers are much more severe tan back then because of the population increase and I do worry because someone very special lives there. So I want to ask everyone in that area to please ensure you get better safety measures put in place by the ‘Victorian Government’ so I don’t lose my friend Andrea or she many of her friends in the area or they their friends and family. In short- any of you. Life is too important to scrimp on a few shillings. Any scrimping will be remembered at the next elections.

    Like

    • acflory

      -laughs- Thanks David. I think those closest to me will be fine in anything short of a nuclear dead hit, but I do worry about everyone else. This area has been living on luck for far too long. I shudder to think what may happen when the luck runs out. Sadly election times seem to be about what goes into individuals’ pockets rather than what goes into the common good.

      Like

  • metan

    I’m just loving this cooler weather that has swept down upon us and pretending that next summer won’t happen 😦
    We only have the one road out too, the Warburton Highway. The thought of a few thousand people all trying to leave at the same time is frightening. Makes me want to dig a big hole and buy a bunker. Not the best solution I know but…..

    Like

    • acflory

      I know what the authorities are saying about the dangers and lack of standards etc but I believe anything is better than frying to death on the road. Sometimes it’s just not possible to leave early. And sometimes fires sneak up on you without warning. Or the warning turns into an Epping fiasco.

      My take on bunkers is that they are a last resort and that every household in fire prone areas should have one. Not having a bunker for fear that people will become complacent is ridiculous. They’re complacent already. 😦

      Like

      • metan

        My biggest fear is that a small fire nearby gets out of hand during the night. No danger in the evening but no notification when we need it. 😦 A bunker would give some small peace of mind wouldn’t it.
        Might have to put it in secretly though, otherwise you’d have the entire street knocking on the door! 😉

        Like

        • acflory

          Yes, that’s my big fear too. We all relax when it gets dark but on hot nights that’s no guarantee a fight won’t start. 😦

          I’ve told my near neighbours they can come here in an emergency because I have the roof sprinklers so the house should be safer than just about any other place around here. But I’m also terrified of offering shelter and then having something go wrong.

          Like

          • metan

            Taking responsibilty for others in that situation is something you could never predict the outcome of, such a hard decision to make 😦
            I am less worried during the day than I am at night, things always seem less problematic in the light of day.

            Like

          • acflory

            I’ve been thinking about something. Instead of spending all that money on the mobile/text alert system, wouldn’t it have been cheaper just to ‘buy’ a dedicated radio channel and have it broadcast nothing at all, pure silence, unless there’s an emergency alert? That way we could leave the radio on that channel/station 24/7 and it would be like having an air-raid siren in every house.

            I haven’t got a clue what a radio channel or frequency or whatever it’s called would cost but I know the other thing has cost squillions.

            That said, I’ve slept so well the last couple of nights. 🙂

            Like

          • metan

            That is a good idea, sometimes it is the not knowing what is going on that is worse than knowing something is. I would love a CFA scanner so I could just eavesdrop all day!

            Yes, these cold days and rain are VERY welcome!

            Like

          • acflory

            I bought a cheap, analog CFA scanner but could never tune it properly and now it seems they’re going to convert to a digital system and those scanners cost a small fortune. 😦

            Like

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