The lessons learnt from Victoria’s devastating Black Saturday bushfires have saved lives in the current fire crisis, the premier says.
Victoria has experienced its worst fire conditions since Black Saturday this week with a number of homes lost and one woman dying from a medical condition during bushfires across the state.
Tourists and residents of holiday village Halls Gap and surrounding towns were evacuated as fire burned in the northern area of the Grampians National Park on Friday, although some locals chose to stay to defend their homes.
It was the first time an evacuation order has been used since the evacuation policy came in after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
Premier Denis Napthine said the changes made since Black Saturday, including better co-ordination of all emergency agencies, resulted in significantly improved handling of the extreme weather conditions and significantly better outcomes than in 2009.
“There is not doubt that the improvements that have been made from the lessons learnt from Black Saturday have saved lives this week, there’s no doubt about that,” he told reporters in Horsham.
The February 7, 2009 Black Saturday fires killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2000 houses.
Dr Napthine said authorities will examine how the evacuation went in the Grampians but rejected compulsory evacuation.
“I can’t envisage that the state would introduce any compulsory evacuation. I think that would be unworkable more than anything else.”
He said the clear message was to leave early while it was safe.
“If the experts are saying this is a dangerous place for you to be then get out of there while it is safe.
“There is nothing, no house, no property, that is worth losing your life for.”
Dr Napthine said Victoria had coped well with extreme weather conditions in the four-day heatwave.
“We’ve had Black Saturday-type conditions not just for one day but for four days in a row,” he said.
“That has been challenging in terms of heat-related health issues, challenging in terms of the demands on our electricity and demands on our public transport.”
Dr Napthine said the state faces another six to eight weeks of the fire season with high fire risk conditions expected again in late January and February.