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The February 2011 Fires in Roleystone, Kelmscott and Red Hill

Heath, Jonathan, Nulsen, Claire, Dunlop, Patrick, Clarke, Patrick, Buergelt, Petra T. and Morrison, David (2011). The February 2011 Fires in Roleystone, Kelmscott and Red Hill. Western Australia: Bushfire, Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

Document type: Research Report
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Author Heath, Jonathan
Nulsen, Claire
Dunlop, Patrick
Clarke, Patrick
Buergelt, Petra T.
Morrison, David
Title of Report The February 2011 Fires in Roleystone, Kelmscott and Red Hill
Publication Date 2011
Publisher Bushfire, Cooperative Research Centre (CRC)
Place of Publication Western Australia
Start Page 1
End Page 139
Total Pages 139
Field of Research 300605 Fire Management
Abstract Background

On the weekend of 5 and 6 February 2011, two major bushfires devastated separate areas of thenatural and built environments in the Perth metropolitan area. One of the fires took place across the suburbs of Red Hill, Herne Hill, Millendon, Baskerville and Gidgegannup (hereafter Red Hill–Brigadoon fire) (City of Swan), the other occurred in Roleystone and Kelmscott (hereafter
Kelmscott–Roleystone fire) (City of Armadale). The Bureau of Meteorology had issued a Fire Weather Warning (FWW) and a Total Fire Ban (TFB) had been declared for all the fire-affected areas prior to the commencement of the fires.

Methodology

After analysis of the fire scars from the Kelmscott–Roleystone fire and Red Hill–Brigadoon fire, interviews were conducted with residents of 425 households in, around or near the fires, with all residents of interviewed households asked to take part in a household member survey. Following the interview process, an extensive questionnaire was mailed out to a random selection of 3000 residents of the affected suburbs, producing a response rate of over 30%.

Findings

Preparatory Measures
Residents engaged in a number of preparatory actions in both the lead-up to and on the day of the fire, including actions such as clearing gutters, discussing the risk with neighbours or locals, having independent power and water supplies, protective clothing and mapping out a fire plan or evacuation route. The most cited source of information used by residents for their bushfire preparation in the mail-out survey was the ‘Prepare. Act. Survive.’ pamphlet sent out by the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA). During the interviews, ‘common sense’ and experience living in the community were very common responses by residents.

Associations between the number of preparatory actions per household and other factors revealed some interesting findings. Residents living on larger block sizes engaged in more preparatory measures than those on smaller block sizes. In conjunction with this, there was a significant increase in the number of actions of residents who were or had been involved in a Bushfire Ready
Group (BRG). Perception of degree of threat to life and property was associated with the number of preparatory actions; a high level of threat perception was associated with a greater number of preparatory actions per household. Perception of the likelihood of a bushfire to a resident’s town or suburb did not have any association with the number of preparatory actions per household,
demonstrating the importance of asking the right question.

Barriers to Preparation
Residents reported a number of barriers that prevented them from being more prepared than they would have liked to be for possible bushfire. A common response was that monetary constraints prevented households from being as prepared as they would have liked to be: “Money. I haven’t been able to afford a generator”. Other barriers included: finding regulations and bureaucracy too
difficult to either understand or to work with; lack of time; complacency; lack of experience; age and health-related difficulties; frustration over other residents’ lack of preparation; and being in a rental situation.

Total Fire Ban and Fire Expectations
Awareness of TFB among residents was 67%; however, this wasn’t always from definitive knowledge of a TFB. Residents reported a ‘common sense’ mentality due to prevailing weather conditions or from not knowing the difference between a fire ban and a total fire ban. Interestingly, over 60% of residents reported expecting to receive an official warning if required to evacuate, with
some residents not feeling the need to independently consult official sources for further information during a bushfire.

Learning, Information and Warnings about the Fire
The majority of residents became aware of the fire through either seeing or smelling smoke, with the next most important source of information being contact from family, friends or neighbours. When seeking or receiving further information from official sources about the fire, the most accessed sources were StateAlert, ABC Radio, the FESA website, emergency services personnel and other radio stations. However, when residents were asked about the most important official source of information, only 10% of residents responded that the StateAlert was the most important.
 
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Created: Mon, 23 Jan 2017, 11:13:52 CST by Marion Farram