Understanding bushfire risk, warnings and responses

lessons from the 2018 Reedy Swamp fire

Joshua Whittaker, Katharine Haynes, Matalena Tofa, Carrie Wilkinson, Mel Taylor

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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Abstract

On Sunday 18 March 2018 a bushfire impacted on the communities of Reedy Swamp and Tathra in the Bega Valley Shire on the NSW south coast. The fire, known as the Reedy Swamp Fire, destroyed 65 and damaged 48 homes. 35 caravans and cabins were also destroyed. The fire displaced approximately 700 residents on the day, as well as an unknown number of tourists and visitors to Tathra. Fortunately no human lives were lost.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) commissioned the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre to undertake research into community preparedness and responses to the Reedy Swamp Fire. The University of Wollongong and Macquarie University were engaged by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre to conduct this research.

Themes covered in this research are community understanding of fire risk, planning, preparation, and responses during and after the fire.

Key findings centre around the need to educate people further about the role that embers play in spreading bushfire into built-up areas, the dangers of late evacuation, providing greater clarity in official warning messages and how warnings may not be delivered in the event of power or technology failure. The study found that many people consider bushfire preparation as something that is undertaken when directly threatened by fire, not well in advance of an active threat. Many people within Tathra had not hought that a bushfire could impact the town, or had not considered the potential for fire to penetrate beyond the bush at the western edge of town. The research found that many of those who left at the last moment said they would leave earlier in a future bushfire and would be more prepared to gather animals and valuable items to take with them when they evacuated.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBushfire and Natural Hazards CRC
Commissioning bodyNSW Rural Fire Service
Number of pages126
ISBN (Electronic)9780648275640
ISBN (Print)9780648275640
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2020

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