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Media Release Loch Sport Fire Management

Loch Sport Fire Risk Management Practices
The Loch Sport CRG organised a public meeting on Saturday 11th January 2020 in Loch Sport with over 350 people attending. The meeting identified the following major threats to Loch Sport in the event of a bush fire outbreak:
** Entry & exit via main access road not possible (25km from Golden Beach turnoff into Loch Sport) isolating the town and putting property and lives at risk
** Loss of power supply – disrupting communications, life support systems, food security, etc
** Loss of water – as a result of loss of power (other than for those with generators)
** Unsafe Emergency Evacuation Assembly areas (Places of last resort) and communications failures.
Note: These same threats were highlighted in the Fire Service Commissioner’s VIC report into the September 2012 fire near Loch Sport.
The meeting identified the following as the most significant risk management opportunities:
** Create 30m cleared zone either side of the access road into Loch Sport
** Remove all foliage/trees with 15m of the power transmission line
** Power poles should be concrete with steel cross arms
** Conduct regular Fuel Reduction Burns (FRB) in compartments (by rotation)
** Undertake regular ground level mulching
** Re-establish defined land clearance zones / fire breaks
** Maintain cleared access tracks
** Allow removal of dead timber (for firewood) within designated zones
** Ensure private property maintenance is done to a defined standard within the town area
** Clearly define and maintain designated places of last resort.
The authorities with single / joint responsibility for fire management practices are Vic Roads, Department of Environment Land Water & Planning (DELWP), Wellington Shire Council, SP AusNet, Forest Fire Management Vic, Parks Victoria / GLAWAC and the Emergency Service agencies involved in Loch Sport include Country Fire Authority, State Emergency Services, Victorian Ambulance Service and Victorian Police.
Interim Conclusion: If the identified threats and the identified significant risk management solutions are the key things that should be pursued in order to achieve a successful outcome, then it is important to discuss those various solutions with the responsible authority (or jointly responsible authorities) so that they are given the opportunity to consider and agree the best solutions (or offer viable alternatives), confirm their plans for implementation and commit to a time frame within which the various solutions will be executed.
Since the meeting, the CRG working group has been actively engaged with the relevant authorities and some of the actions taken to date include:
** Vic Roads: Inspected road into Loch Sport. No issues found – complying with “Road Management Plan”. Gerard Engel – Stakeholder Manager Traralgon
** Wellington Shire – detailed letter received. Cross-agency programs in place. Owners are responsible for their properties including nature strips. Annual inspection carried out (with infringement notices issued). WSC concentrate on fine fuel removal, not trees & larger vegetation. Rural roadside is not Council responsibility but Regional Roads Victoria. Town roadside is owner responsibility. Council responsible for parks/open space/ Bush fire “Places of last resort”. Alan Hall – Coastal Councillor / Mayor
** SP Ausnet – have provided “Management Plan” that applies. One inspection done in early Feb identified one span as requiring attention. A second inspection later in Feb identified 150 spans (out of 226 between GB turnoff and LS) as requiring vegetation clearance work. This work is currently being done. Michael Cullen – Area Manager Vegetation
** DELWP (in conjunction with Parks Victoria and FFM Victoria) – currently have equipment slashing their fuel breaks and access tracks within the Gippsland Lakes National Park. 90% completed. Map provided to details work zone. Jim Noonan (Senior Forest Fire Management Officer).
** Danny O’Brien MP – has been active in the media. Published policy statement regarding FRBs. Wrote to Minister D’Ambrosio on our behalf – asked for DELWP to work with Loch Sport people on bushfire prevention matters and asking for review of power supply into Loch Sport (underground, etc)
** Minister Lily D’Ambrosio (Energy, Environment & Climate Change) – FFM works with CFA – “Joint Fuel Management Program Plan”. Current plan includes 7 burns over 1051 hectares in Loch Sport area and 152km of fuel break slashing over next 3 years. Firewood collection will not be allowed. She noted that WSC/CFA/Parks Vic and DEWLP committed to work together with the Loch Sport community to address the issues raised at the recent public meeting & in their recent letter. Note: she did not address the power supply matter in her letter of reply.
On 7th April, the CRG working group then participated in a 90 minute video conference call with DELWP, WSC, CFA & Parks Victoria – this was a particularly useful round table discussion and further information was tabled and a range of planned actions were committed to. Jim Noonan, the Senior Forest Fire Management Officer from DELWP concluded with this summary:
“Hi Craig, thank you for your email and please pass on my thanks to the CRG for their initiative and interest in this space. As fire agencies we sometimes have to work hard at engaging the community in bushfire matters so it is very welcome when a community takes the lead and brings their concerns to us about community safety. I do want to say that the work around Loch Sport and with the community, as with all communities that are susceptible to bushfire, doesn’t end with slashing and planned burning. Although these are important works, we still need to work with community to keep reviewing what we have in place as the science evolves and better tools are made available to fire agencies. We will continue to look at Loch Sport as fire and emergency agencies to identify other opportunities that will reduce the risk of bushfire. In regards to the Bushfire Risk Traffic Light tool I mentioned, I will speak with our risk landscape team about the best way to provide you with this information. As a raw map, it can be easily misinterpreted, for example an area shaded in red does not mean we cannot and will not treat those fuels, it just tells us that the treatment of those fuels will have a lower risk reduction value as opposed to the green areas. It is also just one of the many tools we use to base our decisions. I will let you know how I go. With regard to where to from here, as fire agencies, we will reconnect with the CRG in the lead up to the next bushfire season to provide an update on the fuel management program surrounding Loch Sport as well as hear from you about how you see the community preparing for the season”.
Loch Sport CRG
PO Box 129 Loch Sport 3851
WEB: www.lochsportcrg.org.au