On Wednesday evening a catastrophic bushfire started in the forest to the north-east of Hepburn and raced across the landscape in 40 kph north-westerly winds, destroying thousands of hectares of bush and pasture and impacting on Hepburn and Daylesford – but it was only an electronic simulation.

The fire simulation was presented to 50 Daylesford and Hepburn community members by Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Forest Fire Management (FFM) members.

Using an evidence-based electronic simulation tool, the Phoenix Rapid Fire Prediction Tool (PRFPT), emergency service personnel took residents through the processes and outcomes as the fire built, focussing on the potential impact on the Hepburn and Daylesford communities.  They explained in detail how the fire would grow, what the community could expect to see and what measures they would take to supress the fire where possible and to protect the community residents and their assets.

Throughout the presentation, the emphasis was on community impacts, and how the community could contribute, particularly in preparedness and prevention actions before the fire hits.

The event consisted of a mix of verbal presentations, photos, videos and power point slides as the simulated fire built to a catastrophic level.  Then the attention switched to a very impressive ‘sand-tray’ model, again computer-driven using the PRFPT, which enabled participants to see the development of the fire in 3D across our specific topography.  The PRFPT is the tool used in real-life in Incident Control Centres when they are fighting actual fires.  It enables emergency service personnel to produce the best strategies and plans with maximum flexibility in real-time as the situation develops.

Throughout the evening, attendees asked questions on general issues and to clarify the impact on their specific circumstances.

Those community members in attendance agreed that the evening was a very useful and timely exercise that provided valuable advice and information for future fire seasons as we all anticipate the alarming effects of climate change.

In order to continue the learning process for the Daylesford and Hepburn communities, The Wombat Post will publish a series of profiles of all of our local emergency services – what they see as the issues we should be considering and what measures they are taking to build the resilience of our communities against future emergencies.