Access & Environment Officer report March 2013

As Dan was being particularly mean last  month   by not letting me have the whole issue of Argus for my writings,  I have had to keep my bushfire info for this one!

This bushfire season has been one keeping everyone on their toes both in Victoria and interstate.  With the cliff environments  often in remote areas, it pays to be aware when making choices to go camping and climbing and if possible, have some kind of plan in place should you find yourself in a hotter than you like situation.  As I noted in the last issue, there are some guidelines for bushfire season in the parks where we climb.  The information below has been taken from a new leaflet. For the full leaflet of information visit here: http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/151662/Hiking-and-camping-brochure.pdf

I have outlined some of the major points and explained the Fire Districts and Fire Danger Rating systems in a simplified form.

The various areas in Victoria are broken up into nine fire districts.  Each of these will be given their own Fire danger rating and Total Fire Ban restrictions. So take note of the district you are/will be in and the rating they have given for it.  Fire Danger ratings are predictions on how bad a fire could be if one started . This takes into account the weather conditions and the district itself. This is by no means a perfect science but can give you some idea when making your plans.

FIRE DANGER RATINGS
Code Red –the worst conditions for a fire and the parks in the district will be closed
Extreme and Severe – Hot,dry and windy conditions. Fire would likely be uncontrollable and fast moving if one took hold. Reconsider your plans
Very High, High and Low Moderate – If a fire started, it could most likely be controlled.  Be aware and minimise any risks.

FIRE DISTRICTS
Central
Dandenong Ranges, Southern Goldfi elds,Mornington Penninsula, Phillip Island, Yarra Valley, Great Ocean Road (East)
East Gippsland Gippsland Lakes, Lakes Entrance
Mallee The Murray (North)
North Central Yarra Valley, Central Goldfi elds
Northern Country Northern Goldfields, The Murray (Central)
North East Great Alpine Road (West), Alpine Resorts
South West Great Ocean Road (West), Twelve Apostles,The Otways, Southern Grampians
West & South Gippsland Gippsland Lakes, Wilsons Promontory
Wimmera Northern Grampians

BEFORE YOU GO

• Monitor weather forecasts for the area you plan to visit and pack a portable AM/FM radio to monitor local weather broadcasts during your visit.
• Know the fire weather district that you plan to visit so that you can remain aware of the Fire Danger Rating for that area and if there are any fire restrictions.
• Check the Fire Danger Rating and if there are fire restrictions. www. cfa.vic.gov.au or call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.
• Pack clothing that can help protect you if you are caught in a fire. Natural fibre long pants, a light long-sleeved wool jumper or close weave cotton shirt offer the best protection.
• Pack a mobile phone programmed with numbers for the Victorian Bushfire Information Line and local park or Department of Sustainability and Environment offices.
• Download the FireReady smartphone app to access fire danger information and receive alerts and warnings.
• Carry hard copy maps. GPS or mobile phones can be affected by smoke and may lack coverage in remote areas.
• Leave your itinerary and mobile phone numbers with someone in case of an emergency.
• Check if any access roads, parks or forests are closed by visiting parks.vic.gov.au. For your own safety, do not enter closed parks or forests.

WHILE IN A FOREST OR PARK

• Check for fire warnings or alerts in areas you will be hiking or camping
• Be prepared to change your plans on hot, dry and windy days. Parks and forests may be closed in these conditions.
• Identify suitable places along your hiking route such as a hut, large body of water or cleared area that could provide shelter if you cannot leave the area and there is a fire. These are last resort options only and do not guarantee your survival.
• Be prepared for Code Red days. If you are in a park or forest and a Code Red day is forecast, the safest option is to leave the night before or early the next day and return only when it is clearly safe to do so. Never travel into a high risk area (areas that are heavily forested, have thick bush or long, dry grass, or coastal areas with lots of plant life) on a Code Red day.

Do NOT expect an official bushfire warning. Due to the sheer size and geographic spread of Victoria’s parks and forests, it is not possible for every visitor to personally receive a warning. It is your responsibility to remain alert and aware of the current weather and fire conditions.

HANDY CONTACTS

• Victorian Bushfire Information Line – 1800 240 667
www.cfa.vic.gov.au
Twitter – @CFA_Updates
Facebook –
www.facebook.com/cfavic
For park and forest closures and information, go to parks.vic.gov.au or call 13 19 63
For road closures and traffic information, go to vicroads.vic.gov.au

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