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Update - Westmeadows Grassfire Contained thanks to MFB, CFA and DSE

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24 Jan 2012
MFB and CFA crews battled a 40 hectare grassfire around the Broadmeadows Park area around Erinbank Crescent, Westmeadows this evening (24 January).

Seventy firefighters from ten MFB units, three CFA units and two units from Dept of Sustainability and Environment, battled the blaze which damaged an estimated five fences in Dorset Drive, Piccadilly Court and Eden Place, Greenvale, and caused some homes to be evacuated by Police.

The fire was brought under control after two and a quarter hours with no reported injuries and no loss of homes.

MFB Deputy Chief Fire Officer David Youssef reported that the fire travelled a kilometre and was up to 400 metres wide at its height.

“Wind conditions were difficult making firefighting more challenging requiring the evacuation of homes as a necessary precaution. However, people were able to safely return to their homes before 7.30pm,” said DCFO Youssef.

“Fortunately the damage was limited but it is a timely reminder that even this close to central Melbourne, grass and bush fires are a reality and people need to be fire ready.”
 “It was a well run incident with excellent cooperation between agencies.”

MFB is conducting a program to remind people who are living in higher risk areas of Melbourne that bush and grass fires can happen near them and to provide advice on how to manage the risk.

Protecting your home and property from grassfires

It is important that a defendable space, a minimum of 3 meter clearance, is created and maintained around your property.  This limits the ability of a moving grassfire to ignite a building through direct flame contact or radiant heat.

Inform your local council if public grassland, a paddock or bushland near your home poses a high risk to yours or others property.

Narrow fuel breaks (under 3 metres wide) are ineffective at stopping a fire; however they may slow it down or limit the ability of a moving grassfire to ignite a building or fence through direct flame contact or radiant heat.

It is too late to begin spraying and slashing as the fire approaches. You must prepare now!

Reduce the height and proximity of grass to your property by:
•Spraying and using herbicide
•Creating fuel breaks by removing all fuel (vegetation) down to the soil.
If you are going to stay
If you live in a high risk bushfire area and your plan is to leave; leave early on the day.
If in doubt, leave.

If there is a grass, bush, scrub fire nearby, you can expect:
•Lots of smoke – it will be difficult to see and may cause breathing difficulties
•Emergency vehicles on nearby roads – road travel could be very dangerous
•Small fires created by embers carried by the wind
•Significant radiant heat – this can be deadly

The greatest danger confronting you during a bushfire and a grassfire is not the flames, but radiant heat.

This should no be confused with the heat of the atmosphere on warm days.  Radiant heat travels in straight lines, radiating out from a bushfire ahead of the flames
•The best protection from radiant heat is distance
• Radiant heat can be blocked by a solid object, such as a concrete wall or building that creates a barrier between you and the bushfire
•Only stay if your home is well prepared and you can actively defend it.
• Protect exposed skin area with long trousers, light long sleeved woollen jumper and good solid shoes

You must also consider the smoke from the fire, it can affect air quality and pose health risks.  The signs of smoke irritation include: itchy eyes, sore throat, runny nose and general coughing.

To minimise the effect of smoke in your home:
• Keep all windows and doors closed
• Place towels or blankets around the bottom of doors and window sills
• Do not use your air conditioner
• Stay indoors

If there is a fire nearby and burning embers fall around your home and property take the following action:
• If you can see the fire, call 000 (zero, zero, zero) to report it
• Make sure everyone remain safely inside your home
• Stay alert and be aware of what is happening outside

After the fire front has passed extinguish small fires around your home:
• Make sure you are wearing your Personal Protection Kit to protect yourself from radiant heat, smoke and embers
• Gather necessary equipment, including hoses, buckets of water and mops
• Go outside and carefully extinguish embers/fires around your home using your hose and/or wet mop
• Stay alert and continue to monitor the situation

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