Old-time resident raises alarm over fire preparedness

AN isolated elderly resident of Budgong has raised concerns over the fire readiness of people on properties surrounded by bush.

Ernie Dumpleton, a long-time Budgong resident and Budgong Community Group member, said it was time to “refresh the memories of a lot of people who live out in the bush”.

“We have to make sure we do our homework in these fire prone districts.

“I’m worried about people living in the Budgong area. Next time we get a fire near Tallowa Dam it’s really going to move through here because of the amount of growth.

“I’m concerned about people in Budgong because there’s no mobile phone service out here, the road names are confusing and the fire trails are in poor condition.

“Our firefighters come from Cambewarra and Kangaroo Valley and it takes at least about 20 minutes for them to get to you.

“The road names out here out here are confusing because there’s Bugong Fire Trail, Bugong Road and Lower Bugong Road.

“I think someone needs to do a stocktake in this area of who is living where, and how prepared they are for bushfire.

“RFS, National Parks [and Wildlife Service] and [Shoalhaven City] Council should look at the properties and the fire trails.

“The fire trails are our main line of defence,” Mr Dumpleton said.

Shoalhaven RFS spokesman James Morris said the issue was similar throughout the Shoalhaven.

“The major difference is coastal properties have water to one side whereas people who live away from the coast are often surrounded by bush.

“We conduct community Firewise meetings where we go to a street and meet with the residents in an area of concern.

“We explain how bushfires work and then look at their area specifically and make recommendations.

“We will also inspect properties and houses and advise on ways to improve fire preparedness. 

“We can tell them if their house is actively defendable or not.”

Mr Morris said the preparedness of people and properties in the Shoalhaven varied from those who are very fire-conscious to those who have bush right up to their house and everything in between.

He also reminded the community that the rural firefighters were volunteers.

“When they get a fire call, the volunteers often have to travel from their workplace, to the station and then to where the incident is.

“Because we’re a volunteer service we can’t give people response time guarantees.

“If you choose to live in remote country you need to realise it could take a while to get a fire truck to you.”

Budgong Community Group liaison officer Ken Stewart said the community had a good rapport with the RFS.

“We’ve conducted some Firewise meetings with them and most of the residents are pretty up to date with what’s required,” he said.

“There are varying amounts of fire preparedness in the Budgong area from very well prepared to those who are not.

“The community group has funded a small firefighting unit on a trailer but it’s not recognised as a complete firefighting unit.

“It’s just available for residents who want to have something on standby while they burn off. 

“One of the biggest issues out here is of response times.

“This was highlighted earlier in the year when a domestic fire started in a house.

“I happened to be following the fire truck and they were doing eight kilometres per hour to get to the fire which was on what is called a fire trail.

“The trail was in such a bad condition eight kilometres per hour was as fast as they could go.

“Equate that with the distance from the station to fire and it was over 45 minutes from the initial call.”

Mr Stewart said his house was surrounded by Morton National Park and he had taken as much precaution as possible.

“We maintain we will stand alone, we do not expect the RFS to come to us in the event of a major fire, there’s only one way in and out of this property,” he said.

“We have measures in place in case of a catastrophic fire. Our situation is probably one of the rarest in the area because of our geographical location,” he said.

Councillors Lynnette Kearney and Patricia White recently attended a Budgong Community Group meeting and relayed a number of concerns back to council.

Cr Kearney said the confusion between the naming of Bugong Road, Lower Bugong Road and Bugong Fire Trail was raised at the meeting.

“We have passed on their requests to the relevant people in council and are arranging for an onsite meeting.

“The best way to work it out is to get the relevant people out there to talk to them.

“We will try to solve anything they are worried about,” she said.

Council infrastructure staff and Traffic Committee members are planning to inspect the roads in the Budgong area.

Consideration is being given to changing the name of Bugong Fire Trail to Duffeys Lane. 

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