Australia’s First Joint Fire Station And Community Fire Refuge Opens In Blackwood

• Australia’s first co-located Community Fire Refuge and Country Fire Authority (CFA) fire station open in Blackwood
• $1.4 million facility was completed on time ready for the summer fire season
• Victorian Coalition government protecting communities and planning for the future

Premier Denis Napthine and Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Bushfire Response Kim Wells today officially opened Australia’s first co-located Community Fire Refuge and CFA fire station in Blackwood.

Dr Denis Napthine and Mr Wells were joined Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley, Member for Western Region Simon Ramsay and Member for Northern Victoria Amanda Millar at the opening where they toured the new state-of-the-art facility.

“This is the first time a CFA fire station has been built as a Community Fire Refuge in Australia,” Dr Napthine said.

“The Blackwood community now has a last resort bushfire survival option in the event of a significant fire, as well as a new fire station that will boost the safety and comfort of local fire brigade members.”

“The $1.4 million facility was completed on time in December last year in time for the summer fire season.

This now means there are three Community Fire Refuges available for community use, with Ferny Creek and East Warburton in the Yarra Ranges designated at the end of last year.”

Dr Napthine said that while the Community Fire Refuge provides a valuable shelter option, leaving early on high fire danger days was always the safest option.

“This new Community Fire Refuge offers the Blackwood community a last resort survival option but should not be considered a substitute for a practised personal survival plan,” Dr Napthine said.

The refuge has a remote opening system and direct contact with the State Control Centre in Melbourne and the Incident Control Centre in Ballarat. Other features, including heat shields, a standby power generator and fire protection systems will ensure that the refuges can be operated by the community.

Mr Wells acknowledged the efforts of the Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley and his team in leading the development of this world-first pilot program.

Mr Wells also recognised the work of the community working group, Moorabool Shire Council, VicRoads, Country Fire Authority, Department of Environment and Primary Industries and Victoria Police for their ongoing engagement and feedback throughout the process.

“Blackwood is a fire-prone area with few bushfire survival options and the opening of this refuge is the result of significant work by state and local governments, agencies and the dedicated community members here in Blackwood,” Mr Wells said.

The new fire station was constructed by Ballarat-based company Searle Brothers and includes a storeroom, workshop, multipurpose rooms, a kitchen, toilets and an office.

“The new three-bay fire station replaces a 28-year-old facility and will serve the brigade and the Blackwood community well into the future,” Dr Napthine said.

The Blackwood Fire Brigade currently has 29 members and attends an average of 40 incidents a year.

During the opening of the facility, four CFA members were recognised with service medals and a $3,600 automated external defibrillator (AED) was presented to the brigade. The AED was funded through the Victorian Coalition Government’s Volunteer Emergency Services Equipment Program (VESEP).

Mr Ramsay said the co-located Blackwood Fire Station and Community Fire refuge is an important and significant investment for the protection and safety of the Blackwood community.

“The past week’s weather has highlighted the need for a community fire refuge centre in a high fire-prone area,” Mr Ramsay said.

“The new fire station demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the Napthine Government to fire services that support our hard working CFA volunteers.”

Ms Millar said Blackwood’s unique location and proximity to the Lerderderg State Forest means this new Fire Station and Refuge will be greatly welcomed by locals.

“The facilities will significantly enhance the community’s safety now and into the future,” Ms Millar said.

Mr Wells said the Community Fire Refuge would be activated only when fire is threatening the community and was not a drop-in-centre on hot days.

“This Community Fire Refuge is fully ember-protected and built to withstand the passage of a bushfire under Ash Wednesday conditions, but we remind community members that leaving early remains the safest option in high-risk bushfire areas,” Mr Wells said.

Dr Napthine said the pilot has ensured that Victoria is a world-leader in the development of Community Fire Refuges, benefitting not only the state but also other high bushfire risk communities in Australia and around the world.

“The work on these three refuges has informed the creation of national performance standards and a construction handbook for building refuges across Australia,” Dr Napthine said.

For more information on the Community Fire Refuge pilot program visit: www.firecommissioner.vic.gov.au

Vic Emergency website: www.emergency.vic.gov.au