Firey women on the job

NEARLY 50 women recently took part in the award winning ‘Firey Women’ course at Kimba.

The course was run twice over two day sessions by CFS Community Engagement Officers Therese Pedler (Port Lincoln Region 6) and Penny Kazla (Barossa Valley and Yorke Peninsula Region 2).

The bushfire safety information course was sponsored by the Caralue CFS Group and held at the Kimba Golf Club.

Most participants wanted more knowledge and confidence in planning whether to stay and defend or leave early, in the event of a bushfire or forecast catastrophic fire conditions, as their partners are usually out fighting the fires and not at home to assist.

The women’s sessions were developed from a need identified out of the Black Tuesday bushfire near Port Lincoln in 2005.

The devastating bushfire in which nine people died and at least 113 were injured was one of Australia’s worst bushfires since Ash Wednesday in 1983.

The fire began in farmland north of the town of Wangary and spread to the east burning more than 145,000 hectares of farm and scrubland in and around the small townships of Wangary, Wanilla, North Shields, Poonindie, Louth Bay, Greenpatch, and Yallunda Flat.

Around 93 homes, 50 other buildings and 100 vehicles were destroyed in the bushfires.

An estimated 30,000 livestock, mostly sheep, also perished.

The Eyre Peninsula Bushfire of January 2005, later called the "Black Tuesday" bushfire, resulted in much damage to property and even more damage to local's lives.

The fire began on 10 January, and was initially contained by emergency services.

However, severe weather conditions on 11 January, with wind speeds of 70 km/h and temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, then caused the fire to break through containment lines and spread to the east.

The presenters gave factual and personal accounts of what it is like to live through such bushfires and how to better prepare homes and property in the event of such catastrophic conditions.

Highlighted was the unpredictability of weather, wind generation and fire behaviour as the participants were guided in utilising personal skills and jobs appropriate to age and ability of family members left to cope with a bushfire situation.

Bushfire terminology such as heel, flanks and front were discussed along with bushfire types being ground, surface, crowning and spotting.

“Three factors affect bushfire behaviour” said presenter Therese Pedler.

“Fuel type/loading (type, size and quantity), weather (wind effects and atmospheric conditions) and finally topography (slope of ground).”

The aim of the course is to assist participants in at least starting a Bushfire Survival Plan and the first course run achieved a 100 per cent success rate.

“Bushfire Survival Plans need to be tied to the fire danger rating” said Ms Pedler.

“There is no room for a ‘wait and see’ option so the best plan is to ‘Prepare. Act. Survive’.

The biggest killer in a bushfire is radiant heat and Ms Pedler went on to explain as was the case in the Tulka and Black Tuesday bushfires, it is not safe at the beach and you only need one ember to burn a house down.

“On a catastrophic bushfire day, the only place in South Australia where public safety can be guaranteed is the Bushfire Safer Settlement of Adelaide which is roughly the Adelaide CBD and western suburbs toward Glenelg”.

“However around the state are designated Bushfire Safer Precincts and Bushfire Last Resort Refuges” explained Ms Pedler.

Participants did a simulated exercise of what it is like to be trapped in a car during a bushfire as well as hands on practice at using a fire fighting pump and identification of potential fire hazards around a building.

In starting their Bushfire Survival Plans, participants were informed that a written checklist greatly aids preparation, which should start now.

Equipment and useful household items for preparation were discussed including appropriate clothing and even how a toy water pistol can help put out spot fires in the roof space.

“There is a household selfassessment tool on the CFS website which can assist people to start their planning process improving bushfire safety around their property” said Ms Pedler.

In the event of a fire, the first action is to call 000. 

Information on bushfire safety, preparation and community groups is available on the CFS website at www.cfs.sa.gov.au including current incident information.

There is also a mobile phone app and the Facebook page to keep up to date with the latest bushfire information.

Feedback from the course was extremely positive and several groups have already initiated further community training sessions.

“We are happy to run community information sessions anywhere” said Ms Pedler who can be contacted through the Eyre Peninsula Region 6 office in Port Lincoln on 8682 4266 or direct on her mobile 0428 114 234.

Giving it a go: Robyne Enright has a go at starting a fire pump during the Kimba Firey Women course.

Giving it a go: Robyne Enright has a go at starting a fire pump during the Kimba Firey Women course.

This story Firey women on the job first appeared on Eyre Peninsula Tribune.