Castlemaine fire refuge abandoned

A DESIGNATED fire refuge area in Castlemaine has been abandoned because of safety concerns, while other communities are still without any emergency meeting spot during the fire season.

Reeds growing around the designated meeting spot at Western Reserve were deemed too much of a fire risk.

 Another Neighbourhood Safer Place (NSP) for Castlemaine has been identified at Victory Park in Mostyn Street to replace the Western Reserve NSP.

A CFA spokesman said an annual safety review considered radiant heat around the area and other factors that could have led to safety concerns.

The NSP program was introduced after the 2009 Black Saturday fires when it was apparent that if people’s plans did fail, it was better to at least have identified a place where they have some hope of surviving. 

Across the Mount Alexander Shire other NSPs are located at Campbells Creek Community Centre, Guildford Recreation Reserve, Maldon Recreation Reserve, Newstead Community Centre and Taradale Public Hall. 

In Bendigo there are 10 dedicated NSPs including the Queen Elizabeth Oval and Prince of Wales Showgrounds.

A CFA spokesman confirmed that some places still did not have anywhere designated as a bushfire meeting spot.

The spokesman said some places just did not have any school or oval that was suitable and that even if there was a NSP it may not make a difference in terms of saving lives in a bushfire.

Fire services commissioner Craig Lapsley said a NSP should not be considered an alternative to leaving early or having a fire plan in place.

He said a pilot program in the coming months would look at how community refuges could operate and their changing role. “The best option is to always leave early,” he said.

Mount Alexander Shire mayor Michael Redden said it was important residents had a fire plan and to only consider using a NSP as a last resort, if all their other fire plans failed in a bushfire.

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