Community has more Harrietville fire questions

HARRIETVILLE’S Community Building Initiative (CBI) has rejected claims more personnel could not be deployed to combat the Harrietville fire in the initial stage.

Members have studied the report from Emergency Services Commissioner, Micheal Hallowes’ and there is a community meeting to discuss the report at the Harrietville Community Hall tomorrow at 7.30pm.

CBI chairman, John Atkins, and secretary, Terry Woolley, stated the report is a useful start, but the fire needs further investigating and the review has given them more questions.

“The report has shown that there was confusion over who was the actual Incident Controller on the day the fire started and that there was no planning strategy in the first 24 hours,” Mr Atkins said.

“There should have been explicit risk management strategies in place and within these strategies, the consequences of what would happen if the fire got away, and the report clearly states that none of this was done.”

CBI members also want to know why the fire was not water-bombed and why Department of Sustainability Environment (DSE) crews from other areas were not deployed to the fire at first light on the Tuesday morning.

“The local crews started arriving between 9 and 10am, which means that after being briefed, they would not have gotten to the actual fire front before 10am,” Mr Woolley said.

“There’s daylight at 6am, that’s four wasted hours.”

This would not have put the fire out, but CBI members believe it would have pushed the heat back into the centre of the logs, removing the likelihood of embers.

“We are not placing blame on the DSE or CFA crews who were fighting the fire, they did the best they could and we appreciate what they have done,” Mr woolley said.

He said members also believe there is no community trust in the DSE.

“Five weeks ago DSE were clearing the West Ovens Track and in the process cut down old historic apple and pine trees and drove a bulldozer through the historic site,” Mr Woolley said.

“When we asked the DSE why they did this, they said they needed to use up excess money.”

The committee called for an official DSE and Parks liaison officers to work in partnership with the Harrietville community to assure the town’s natural resources are developed and managed well.

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