Coolum's Fiery Friday of August 25, 2006. Photo: Elfi Lee
Coolum's Fiery Friday of August 25, 2006. Photo: Elfi Lee

Firies expect crowds at safety forum

One small plus from this week’s horrific wildfires in Victoria is that the next forum on bushfire safety in the Coolum area is sure to be better attended than previous events.

Coolum fire station captain Jason Spink said he had been considering abandoning the next program because of lack of interest.

“We’ve run a Bushfire Prepared Community (program) two years in a row and we’ve had two people turn up,” he said.

“I was actually not going to waste my time with it this year.

“But I think we’ll get flooded. We might end up with some people so it will be worth doing.”

Captain Spink said though conditions in Victoria compared to the Coolum and North Shore region were “chalk and cheese”, local residents had to be aware of their surroundings and make their homes “more defendable”.

“We’re talking about a very different vegetation and geography to where we are in Coolum but nevertheless we are always at threat,” he said.

“We do have a different type of vegetation here, we also have different methods of managing our land.

“You get a very complex root structure going on down there in which fires can travel through the root structures under the ground.

“You’re also talking a lot of very hilly, valley country – the fire obviously moves very quickly uphill.”

Captain Spink said areas of concern around Coolum included the Mt Coolum area and properties backing on to reserves such as the Cassia wildlife corridor.

“This is where it’s imperative that landowners are proactive in ensuring that their homes are defendable,” he said.

“While I think the current fires in Victoria are something bigger and ‘eviller’ than we’ve ever seen before, a lot of homes can be made defendable if a lot of pre-action is taken and home, and the homeowners, are prepared for it all.

“We have to remember we’ve had that rain over Christmas that has encouraged undergrowth and that the dry temperatures that we’ve had are drying that out – there’s a large fuel load there and the potential for a wildfire has increased.”

The Sunshine Coast Regional Council will donate $80,000 to assist communities devastated by the Victorian bushfires.

Mayor Bob Abbot described the weekend fires, expected to claim about 200 lives, as a national tragedy.

Mr Abbot said the Sunshine Coast was home to many former Victorians who would be particularly distressed by the scenes of destruction and concerned for the wellbeing of friends and family.

“No one could look at those images of devastation and see the pain being experienced by those communities and not be affected,” he said.

The council has also allocated $20,000 to flood-affected towns in north Queensland.

Mr Abbot said it was important that those affected in the north were not forgotten while the eyes of the nation were on Victoria.

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