Bigger than Black Saturday

A huge crowd packed into the Cardinia Cultural Centre for the community information meeting.

By Garry Howe

The Bunyip State Park fire is bigger than Black Saturday.

CFA assistant chief officer Trevor Owen told a community meeting at the Cardinia Cultural Centre on Sunday afternoon that it was “quite different” to previous fires in the state park in 2003, 2006 and the 2009 Black Saturday fires.

“This is much larger than those,” he said.

“In 2009 when it started it ran hard that day and in a narrow finger.”

Mr Owen said this fire had been going longer and over a wider front.

He said it began as six fires from lightning strikes on Friday. Firefighters got on top of four of those fires and the remaining two merged into the current fire front on Saturday morning.

“It’s an incredibly tough and challenging situation,” he said.

Mr Owen said emergency services were resourced the best they could – given the number of fires across the eastern end of the state – and that they were doing their best to save properties.

“We can’t control an uncontrollable fire,” he said.

“We can’t provide a fire truck to every affected household. We can’t be everywhere. You have to plan for not seeing a fire truck on your property.”

A south west wind change late on Sunday afternoon is expected to turn parts of the fire on itself, but also turn its eastern edge into the fire front and take it towards Labertouche, which has been evacuated.

Mr Owen said it was critical people remain up to date, adding that monitoring social media was not always accurate and timely.

He said the best source of information was through the Vic Emergency app (or the website emergency.vic.gov.au) , ABC Radio and local media.

“Be mindful though that this fire is dynamic and things will change.”

There have been media reports that Jinks Creek Winery, at Tonimbuk, has been lost – and also unconfirmed reports that Mill Valley Ranch, at Tynong North, has been impacted.

Cardinia Shire CEO Carol Jeffs said a third relief centre had opened at the Kooweerup Community Centre on Sunday afternoon, adding to those at the Pakenham Hall and Bellbird centre in Drouin.

Ms Jeffs said they had been overwhelmed by people’s generosity, with offers of food, supplies and volunteer labour.

“We don’t need food and clothes at this stage,” she said. “Hold that thought though.”

The Casey Cardinia Foundation has set up platform for donations. Anyone wanting to contribute financially to victims can do so through http://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/BunyipFireRelief

Red Cross has opened Register.Find.Reunite. and is urging people affected by the Bunyip Complex fires to get in touch with their families and friends.

“Being separated from family and friends is one of the most stressful things a person can experience during an emergency. Not knowing where your loved ones are, not being able to contact them by phone or email adds to that anxiety,” said Red Cross State Manager Emergency Services, Kate Siebert “The service helps find and reunite family, friends and loved ones during a disaster.”

If you or a loved one has been impacted by the Bunyip fires, Red Cross encourages you to register or enquire through the Register.Find.Reunite. service.

People can register and look for someone with Register.Find.Reunite. at register.redcross.org.au from a computer or any mobile device. They can also register at the Emergency Evacuation Centres at Pakenham Hall, cnr of John and Henry St Pakenham, or at the Koo Wee Rup Community Centre, 235 Rossiter Rd, Kooweerup.

The Register.Find.Reunite. service matches registrations from people affected by an emergency to enquiries made by their loved ones searching for news. Where a match is made, the person who made the enquiry will be notified.

It is important for emergency management agencies to know where people are during emergencies. By registering with Register.Find.Reunite. you are also letting important services know that you are OK and what support you may need.

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