Stewarton fire

Stewarton fire

09 December 2015

9 December 2015

Ms RYAN (Euroa) — My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Emergency Services. The action I seek is that she release the report on a review of the Stewarton fire conducted by Inspector Paul Hargreaves. It has been almost a full year since the fires at Stewarton, Lake Rowan and Creightons Creek in my electorate. We were fortunate that nobody lost their life in those fires, but the damage was still great. Homes were lost at Creightons Creek, and at Stewarton and Lake Rowan thousands of hectares of prime farm land was burnt and many thousands of dollars worth of fencing and crops were destroyed. Then there were the emotional and financial impacts on those who lost livestock, many of whom spent the days after the fire putting down sheep and cattle.

Those of us who live in country Victoria know that fire is part of the landscape. We ready ourselves for it each season, but nothing can quite prepare you for the devastation that follows after a fire hits. The communities affected last December have pulled together in the wake of the fires, and I have come to greatly admire the positivity and strength of people like Doug James, who was hardest hit by the fire at Lake Rowan. After the fire it was Doug who stood at the Boweya fire shed urging everyone to look for the positives. He said, 'No-one has died. In the big scheme of things it could have been a lot worse. One way or another we'll get back on track'.

When I called for this review in the wake of the fires it was not intended to apportion blame or point the finger. Everybody acknowledges that the conditions on the day of the fire were challenging, as emergency services were dealing with multiple fires from multiple lightning strikes. Many of the landholders affected by the fires were on the back of trucks that day as Country Fire Authority volunteers. This review is about ensuring that the knowledge and experience of those who were there on that day is captured so that we can improve our systems and processes. It is about making sure that local knowledge is understood and acted upon and that we are adequately prepared so that when the next fire happens we are as prepared as well as we can be.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of these fires I take this opportunity to thank all those who have assisted in the fire recovery effort. People are right to question why, one year on, this report has not been released despite having been completed months ago, particularly in the light of the fact that the review of the Lancefield fires was released within four weeks. A year on and we are still waiting.

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