MANY Creswick residents who evacuated their homes during Monday’s bushfire fled to Doug Lindsay Reserve where they assumed help and refuge would be found.
Confusion over where to go in a fire emergency meant car and bus loads of people arrived at the reserve – which was not the location of the region’s emergency evacuation centre, nor the town’s Neighbourhood Safer Place (NSP).
Luttet Street resident Jane Barrett, whose property backs onto the reserve, said people had gathered there on the afternoon of the fire, believing it to be a place of refuge.
“No one official went to the reserve yet there were lots of children and people down there,” she said.
Country Fire Authority incident controller Alfred Mason said there was no need for an emergency alert to go out out during the fire, which remained in the ‘Watch and Act’ classification.
Instead, communications were filtered down through the CFA’s One Source One Message system, which sent messages to CFA and DSE websites and media outlets.
The messages advised people of two emergency evacuation centres that had been established at Newlyn and Wendouree.
But Luttet Street resident Warren Porter said many Creswick residents were elderly and did not listen to the radio or have access to the internet at home.
Mr Porter said during the fire there were 60 kids and a bus at the Doug Lindsay Reserve, and he had gone to the site to assist them.
He opened up the clubrooms for the kids, turned the sprinklers on at the oval and made inquires with a person from the council about where the kids should go.
He said they sat at Creswick for an hour before information about the emergency evacuation centre at Newlyn was made available to them.
“The fire was three-and-a-half kilometres away at the time. If the wind changed, it wouldn’t take much,” he said.
Hepburn Shire Council chief executive officer Aaron van Egmond said Hepburn Shire Council’s official NSP for Creswick was the car park behind the visitor information centre.
During Monday’s fire threat, the council activated a Municipal Emergency Coordination Centre and established relief centres at Newlyn and Wendouree, he said
“Advice about the opening of relief centres and their locations was broadcast by ABC Radio and was also communicated via the CFA website and other social media,” Mr van Egmond said.
“Council reminds people to follow advice from CFA and police. In the event of ‘Watch and Act’ advice, people should check and follow their bushfire survival plan.