Blackwood fire refuge opened

AUSTRALIA’S first joint fire station and Community Fire Refuge was officially opened by government ministers at Blackwood yesterday.

The $1.4 million facility was finished in December, but it is still only the third new CFR to have been established in Victoria since Black Saturday.

At yesterday’s official opening, Premier Denis Napthine said the town now had a last resort, as well as a new fire station that would boost the safety and comfort of fire brigade members.

He said the new CFR provided a valuable shelter option, but leaving early on high fire danger days was always the safest option.

“This new community fire refuge offers the Blackwood community a last resort survival option but should not be considered a substitute for a practised personal survival plan,” Dr Napthine said.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells said the Blackwood refuge had a remote opening system and direct contact with the State Control Centre in Melbourne and the Incident Control Centre in Ballarat.

A new three-bay fire station has also replaced Blackwood’s 28-year-old tin shed.

Moorabool Shire mayor Paul Tatchell said state-of-the-art facility had the benefit of raising the profile of fire preparedness among residents.

“It’s made everyone incredibly conscious,” he said.

“People feel much more secure. For their safety, the important thing is we keep reiterating this is only if your fire plan fails.

“This makes them more aware they need to have a fire plan.”

Western Victoria MP Simon Ramsay said the past week’s weather had highlighted the need for a CFR in a high fire-prone area.

The refuge was built to withstand a bushfire under Ash Wednesday conditions and is fully ember-protected.