Curls of smoke are a common sight across the region at this time of year as combustion heaters are stoked to ward off the cold, and landowners take the opportunity for burn-offs and bonfires.
In the cool of winter, fire is a friend, and this year especially with coronavirus dominating everyone’s lives, it can be hard to turn thoughts to preparing for the weather to warm up and the start of the bushfire season.
Not so for one Altona resident, Christine Janssen-Dehle, who has made it her priority to ensure her five acre bushland home is as prepared as possible for summer.
Realising it had been some time since her fire equipment had been properly checked, Christine invited CFS Captain Neville Kies of the Lyndoch Brigade to come to her property for an inspection well ahead of the change in season.
It was a welcome phone call for Neville, who praised Christine for her proactivity.
“If she’s prepared to help herself, then we’re prepared to help her,” said Neville.
“It might be something as simple as we get her motor and pump unit serviced and checked out, or we put an adapter on her rainwater tank that we can hook into with our appliances, just little things like that.
“Christine is one of many in this area. That’s one person who is educated; one less person we have to worry so much about.”
Living in an area with a high fuel load, Christine has taken steps over the years to ensure her property is as defendable as possible, including having a full tank reserved for firefighting next the house, paving around her home, planting low combustible shade trees such as white cedar, and most recently having a second access gate installed at the front of her property for CFS use as well as an alternate escape route for her.
Christine also keeps a detailed written record of her bushfire plan and preparations, and will physically practice the process ahead of time.
“Because you don’t want to be in a panic,” she explained.
Having faced one of the worse summers for bushfires last season, Neville was quick to stress the importance of preparation and working with neighbouring property owners to ensure no-one is undermining the effort of others.
“As much as we hate to say it… some properties are defendable and others aren’t,” he said.
“It’s neighbours working with neighbours. If you’re doing a clean-up and a hazard reduction or whatever it may be and opening up your block, and the neighbours don’t do anything, there’s a hazard.
“Prepare, act and survive. You can prepare now and actually do something. It’s all very well to think about it, but if you don’t actually do anything, nothing happens.”
For Christine, receiving practical advice from Neville has given her peace of mind that she has done everything she can do to prepare her home and help firefighters should they have to attend her property this season.
“I do feel prepared and I am much more confident since consulting with our local CFS unit in Lyndoch,” said Christine.
Bushfire survival plan workshops are scheduled be held by CFS Community Engagement Officer, Kelly McMiles during August in Lyndoch and Eden Valley.