Residents, firies debrief

GALLERY: Aftermath of the Sedgwick fire

A BIG turnout of about 120 residents attended a fire meeting at Sedgwick hall on Tuesday night to reflect on the bushfire on December 28 that burnt 230 hectares and threatened homes.

Senior leaders of CFA and other fire agencies who led the meeting were rapt with the large turnout from such a small district.

Emergency messaging raised as an issue to be tackled

Bendigo CFA operations manager Craig Brittain said the collaborative meeting was “fantastic.”

Meeting chairman Mike Wassing, CFA Loddon Mallee’s regional director, said the meeting enabled residents and fire agencies to share information and learn lessons from the December 28 blaze.

The fire was started by a ride-on lawn mower.

CFA volunteer Brendan Drechsler, who was on the Sedgwick fire ground overnight for eight hours, said the hilly terrain and wind had hampered the firefighting effort.

He was worried the outcome would be worse than it was. “I didn’t think we’d stop it at all,” he said.

”My brother lost 350 acres and my other brother lost $40,000 worth of fencing, and my sister’s  house was ringed by fire.”

CFA trucks, helicopters and firefighters swarmed to the scene from nearby towns and as far as Mount  Macedon and Ballarat - 147 CFA firefighters on 30 trucks, 41 DEPI firefighters on 16 trucks, and three aircraft.

Mr Wassing said the post-fire meeting was an opportunity to share educational messages about fire safety, but also to listen to the community.

“The lesson of shared responsibility goes to the heart of what we do,” he said.

“We rely on the community to be ready and to take action that they need to do in a fire risk situation.

“But we also want to do better next time…it’s important for us to listen to their concerns.”

It’s important for us to listen to their concerns. - Mike Wassing

One key lesson the agencies learnt from the meeting was around emergency messaging, which some residents had found confusing.

Mr Wassing said the agencies heard that warning messages could be interpreted differently.

As a result the CFA would revise the information put into emergency warnings, he said.

Peter Goddard, a CFA volunteer in the Sedgwick brigade for 30 years, said a key thing that people could do on high risk fire days was to "look out the window" - be aware of your surroundings.

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