CFA chief officer Euan Ferguson, has expressed concern about the lack of bushfire awareness of some people living in high-fire-risk rural areas.
Mr Ferguson said the group includes some who live in the bush but commute to the city, spending their day away from the inherent threats. Some simply did not know they were living in a high-risk environment until a fire occurred, or until they received a warning from a CFA member.
He also reminded Melburnians who own holiday homes in high-risk areas that they need to be prepared and aware of the extreme dangers posed by bushfire. ''If you look at society in this day and age, we are very urbanised, and we have many people who have urban attitudes - but they travel and they have holiday homes in rural areas. And there are many people who live in rural areas but they essentially lead an urban life'', he said.
Black Saturday, 7th February, 2014
Bushfire rages out of control from the Bunyip State Park towards the townships of Labortouche and Tonimbuk, 7th February 2009. Photo: Jason South
''Gone are the days when the average Australian man or woman had a real empathy with the bush and considered themselves a bushie and understood forests and fire and storms and that sort of thing.''
Mr Ferguson said the CFA wanted to gain a better understanding of people who live in rural areas but have an urban outlook, some with very urban expectations of the support they will get during a fire emergency. The CFA needed ''to better understand … what it is they're seeking, so we can have a conversation with them''.
Some people in high-risk areas lacked an understanding of how easy it was for fires to start and how devastating the consequences could be. ''It's a lack of understanding about the bush and what that means and a lack of understanding of how rural Australia goes through periods where it's extremely dangerous and volatile and grass and scrub will ignite easily, or will ignite from lightning … and then it's not until it happens that they all of a sudden realise that they've been living in a bushfire risk area and they didn't know that,'' he said.
CFA chief Euan Ferguson. Photo: Joe Armao
Mr Ferguson said one of the best recommendations from the bushfires royal commission calls for more stringent building standards in bushfire-prone areas. ''We had to stop people building homes which were vulnerable to fire, where in essence, they were building in harm's way,'' he said.