DVD documentary to teach lessons
The story of the devastating bushfire that destroyed the town of Dwellingup in Western Australia in 1961 is the focus of a new education program on bushfire awareness for fire agencies and local communities across Australia.
A DVD documentary on Dwellingup has been made by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (Bushfire CRC) in partnership with the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) WA and Fire and Emergency Services Authority WA (FESA).
The Day the Flames Came tells the story of the men who fought the fire and their families who watched as the fire closed in on Dwellingup. The bushfire was one of the most intense bushfires in the region in years and destroyed the town in a matter of hours.
Kevin O’Loughlin, CEO of the Bushfire CRC said The Day the Flames Came was a story of survival and ingenuity in the face of enormous odds. ‘’Although 161 homes we destroyed – along with the school, church, the mill, town hall and police station – miraculously, not one person died,” said O’Loughlin.
“This is the story of how the forest department employees and their families survived the terrifying fire that destroyed their town. It is also about how they rebuilt their lives and their community on the basis of the lessons they learnt in the summer of 1961.”
The Dwellingup fire led to better wildfire management and community preparedness and, although it happened 45 years ago, has many lessons for the way bushfires are managed today.
“Lessons learnt from past fires have an important role in shaping fire management practices today. The Dwellingup fire was a watershed in the way fire and land agencies manage fire. Today’s policies on prescribed burning and community preparedness were born from this catastrophic fire,” said O’Loughlin.
Along with former local residents, the film interviews leading fire ecologist Dr Neil Burrows from DEC WA and Craig Hynes from FESA. Burrows talks in detail about the intensity of the Dwellingup fire and how prescribed burning is used by land managers in Western Australia to reduce the risk of large scale wild fires. Hynes outlines how FESA works with communities to build community preparedness for wildfire.
The Day the Flames Came is the second in a series of short films from the Bushfire CRC. Black Tuesday , the story of the 1967 fires in Hobart was released earlier this year and was shown on TV. Both films have been distributed to fire agency libraries across Australia for staff and volunteer training. They are also available in some public and educational libraries.
The Day the Flames Came will be premiered at the Third Annual Bushfire CRC Conference held in conjunction with the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) annual conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Friday 11 th August 2006 at 1.45 pm .
The film will be followed by a question and answer session with the film’s director Moira Fahy and staff from FESA, DEC and Bushfire CRC. Kevin O’Loughlin and Moira Fahy are available for interview.
The Bushfire CRC is a cooperative research effort involving Australian and New Zealand fire and land agencies working with universities and other key research partners.