RISKS TO LIFE WITHOUT A WATER BORNE EVACUATION OPTION FOR COVE RESIDENTS?

garysylvaneyFri, 13/03/2015 - 1:49pm

Recent statements by Senior Fire Authorities have expressed a negative view on the value of a water born escape facility for Cove residents (a Jetty) in the event of a serious bush fire threatening the residential areas.

As I understand the reasons given, they seem to revolve around these issues:

1).A Jetty, enabling water evacuation by marine craft (ferry,marine rescue, police or private vessels) would create a false sense of security for residents resulting in their delaying evacuation via our single road.

2).Burning ember risks to craft/ residents.

3).Lower oxygen levels in area.

It seems to me the reasons given in light of the following experience and further fire emergencies to be related to in future articles need to be questioned and thoroughly investigated. With only one high risk exit road and no safe assembly area other than Karuah, I believe means of water evacuation from North Arm Cove would be an important life saving option. At the very least, a full and wide ranging evaluation of the reasons for and against a water born evacuation facility should occur involving all interested parties. Post a catastophic fire situation in the Cove would be too late.

Therefore, a recent major bush fire situation that involved evacuation by water of thousands from the Tasman peninsular in Tasmania over December 2012 and January 2013 I believe is relevent to our situation. In compiling the following, I have relied on extracts from newspapers and Wikipedia.

2013 Tasmanian Bushfires.- Wikipedia.

On 3-4 January 2013, a heat wave, (1), which became known as the Angry Summer and which covered most of the southern and eastern portion of the Australian continent, caused a number of fires to spread across the country. The most devastating of these occurred in Tasmania, where several large bushfires burnt out of control.(2)(3) The fires were intensified by the heatwave,(4) As of 5 January, at least 100 properties were destroyed,(5) and 20,000 hectares of bushland were burnt out.(7) Communities in south-east Tasmania and on the Tasman and Forestier Peninsulars were forced to flee as fires came down from the north, cutting the only road out and destroying much of Dunalley. A seaborne rescue operation described as “huge” was launched for the thousands of people sheltering on beaches, in boats and at the Port Arthur historic site. More than two thousand people were ferried to safety by police and private volunteers,(7)

Boat Rescue for Tasmania's Stranded.-The Australian 5/1/2013.

A FLOTILLA of boats is the lifeline for thousands of people stranded on the Tasman Peninsular as bushfires continue out of control. Recreational and commercial vessals are being used to bring in thousands of meals and other esscential supplies and to evacuate people most in need. The road into the peninsular, the Arthur Highway, has been closed since yesterday. Up to 1000 people are reported to have been taken out by boat overnight, but police could not confirm the number.

Tasmanian bushfire damage grows.- smh.com.au. Andrew Darby.5/1/2013.

About 40 per cent of the structures at the small hamlet of Connellys Marsh were destroyed, and homes were reported lost at Copping and Primrose Sands, police said. The volunteer Sea Rescue Tasmania took four boats out to communities whose roads were cut, including at Connellys Marsh. “The boys said when they got back that they saw something they never wanted to see again.” a Sea Rescue co-ordinator, Cheryl Piper, said” At Connellys Marsh there was fire down to the waters edge” Thousands of people evacuated from their homes and holiday houses to nearby beaches, and many were stranded on the peninsular when the fire cut the single highway. About 400 people sheltered at the Port Arthur Historic Site,and commercial ferry operators said they evacuated around 800 people out of the peninsular overnight. “We're refuelling and we're about to head off again,” said Peppermint Bay Cruises operator Rob Peart.

Mass rescue as thousands flee Tasmanian fires.-smh.com.au. Jill Stark.-6/1/2013 .

A HUGE sea rescue operation was launched for thousands of people sheltering on beaches, in boats and at the Port Arthur historic site, as the Tasman Peninsular fires destroyed homes and cut off the only road out. On Friday evening, police asked two private catamaran operators to make the 90 minute rescue trip from Hobart to Nubeena, on the southern end of the peninsular, where fire was raging less than three kilometres from the jetty. By lunchtime on Saturday, 1000 people had been ferried to safety, with crews expecting to work through the night and into Sunday morning to rescue at least another 1000 stranded at various parts of the peninsular Up to 600 people had taken refuge at Port Arthur when the fire raged out of control on Friday afternoon, and waited for buses to take them to the evacuation points by the water. With thick smoke blanketing the region, and hampered by a power outage from mid-afternoon, catamaran operators had to ferry people to safety. “The first time we got there it was really smoky and it was very dark, so I had to rely on my expert skippers who had done their time on that jetty in the past,”said Rob Peart, manager of Peppermint Bay Cruises. “But people were very orderly when they came from along the jetty. The locals obviously had escape plans and each of them had their bags of luggage and their personal belongings that they wanted to keep and we just brought them on board. There were a few guests who had lost properties and it was very devastating. A lot of them were pretty quiet, it was late at night and they just had that look of 'get me out of here.' Mr.Peart's crew and another from the cruise company Navigators, worked through the night and into Saturday morning, making about eight return trips. In daylight, Mr.Peart said the scene was even more alarming. 'On approach this morning there was some pretty dramatic smoke. It's something that I never witnessed before. The smoke is covering the whole horizon. There's ash all over the boats.”

 

The two following YouTube videos, relating to the above bushfires provide just a few of the many examples of the value of water borne facilities in life saving and maintenance of esscential services in the event of a catastrophic fire. Fortunately for our village such an event has not happened in the area in recorded times. This cannot however, be a reason for not being  prepared facility wise, so that residents and authorities have as many options open to them as possible in an emergency situation. In this way life preservation is maximised.

Bushfires destroy hundreds of homes- YouTube.

Australian Bushfires Family Clings To Jetty-YouTube.

 

Bibliography:

1)“Fire risk high as southern states swelter” (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-04/fire-risk-high-as-southern-states-...). ABC News (Australia). 4/1/2013.

2).Staff (4/1/2013). “Tasmanian Fire Crews Battling Multiple Blazes” (http://www.abc.au/news/2013-01-03/alerts-on-tasmania-bushfires/4451510). ABC Online.

3).Staff (25/1/2013) “Hot Spots Putting Up Fight” (http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2013/01/25/371014_tasmania-news.html). The Mercury.

4).”Fires rage across Tasmania” (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-04/forcett-fire-places-homes-at-risk/...). ABC News Australia.4/1/2013.

5).Lord, Elizabeth (5/1/2013). “Hottest for 130 years” (http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2013/01/05/369686_tasmania-news.html). The Mercury (Hobart).

6).Bureau of Meteorology. “Tasmania in January 2013: Recod heat, little rain” (http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/month/tas/archive/201301.summary.s...).

7).Stark, Jill (6/01/2013). “Mass Rescue as Thousands Flee Tasmanian Fires".  (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/mass-rescue-as-thousands-flee-t...).

 

Comments

See the final report of the NSW Bushfire inquiry.

https://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/assets/dpc-nsw-gov-au/publications/NSW-Bushfi...

Recommendation 31

That, in order to improve bush fire planning and protection of road infrastructure and to ensure communities, freight movers and fire fighting agencies have appropriate access and egress in a bush fire event, Government, working with local government as needed:

  •  develop a formal bush fire risk assessment process for all State roads and bridges, to identify:

• ‘high-risk’ communities where access and egress in the event of a fire will be affected, for example rural communities connected by a single road surrounded by bushland, and ensure community bush fire planning processes (i.e. Bush Fire Risk Management Plans (BFRMPs) or Community Protection Plans) include plans to ‘leave early’ or enforce mandatory evacuation orders

how waterways can be integrated better into the transport network as evacuation routes or places of shelter when road and rail transport is unavailable – waterways should be included in regional emergency management plans

• route options for rapid identification of needed road closures in the event of fire

• key sections of the State’s road network for future upgrade to ensure whole corridors are resilient to fire impacts, regardless of who manages the asset audit, through the NSW RFS Audit Unit (to be established) the inclusion of critical road infrastructure in BFRMPs prepared by Bush Fire Management Committees (ensuring that appropriate transport representation is provided to BFMCs) and Local Emergency Management Committees across the State. In support of these measures, it will be critical that the community is given early warning of bush fire events and has ample time to evacuate prior to or during an emergency.

I believe that all 76 recommendations have been accepted by NSW State Government.

A timely reminder.

I included this in my submission to council (which closes on October 23rd).

I'd encourage others to do the same.

A public Jetty should be looked at again as a critical piece of infrastructure for North Arm Cove. As shown in the article from the Tasmanian Fires of 2012, such a facility would save lives. Less critical but none the less useful would be as a departure/return point for a Ferry Service, permitting convenient travel to other Port Stephens centers. Nelson Bay would surely be popular.

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