Lake Clifton Fire 10 January 2011: Field Interview Task Force Report-Community Bushfire Safety

Following the fire on 10 January 2011 which destroyed 10 homes in the Lake Clifton area, a field research interview Task Force was established under the coordination of the Bushfire CRC. The Task Force comprised researchers from three universities and from FESA Community Engagement. A total of 40 interviews were conducted: 35 with households in the fire scar area— this represents 56% of the 62 households affected. The remaining five interviews were with households on the edge of the fire scar. A semi-structured interview protocol was used. Interviews were coded and transcribed. The transcripts were analysed for content and themes by the La Trobe University (Melbourne) Bushfire CRC team. This report describes the main findings from the Task Force interviews in relation to:

  1. Bushfire preparation and knowledge.
  2. Readiness to respond to bushfire threat.
  3. Bushfire plans and intentions, and actions on the day.
  4. Information and communication on the day.
  5. Factors affecting decisions and actions on the day.

The major findings were:

  • Most people interviewed had no previous experience of bushfire.
  • Most people interviewed had received bushfire preparedness material prepared by FESA.
  • There was a high level of awareness of bushfire risk in the community – but less than half indicated that they had any longer term preparedness measures in place, and there was limited appreciation of the potential for a serious bushfire on that particular day.
  • Most people had thought about what they would do in the event of a bushfire and had a bushfire plan, and took action in accordance with the plan – after the fire most said they would follow this same course of action again.
  • Visual cues of the approaching fire (smoke, embers, flames) were particularly important in the decision making process.
  • Everyone interviewed indicated that they were insured (although some indicated they were underinsured).
  • The majority of people who left went to a nearby local community point (the Lake Clifton Bakery area).
  • Practical assistance from family and friends, and information on the location of the fire were seen as key factors impacting on survival.
  • In addition to the general sense of threat, visual cues of the approaching fire, and the prior commitment to a bushfire plan, a need to protect pets or livestock was identified as an important psychological influence on decision making for many on the day.
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