Tuross Head Bushfire Risk Assessment & Preparation
The Tuross Head community are advised that the outcome of the RFS Investigation into the perceived bushfire risk hot spots in Tuross Head presented to Council and the RFS are expected before the end of January 2019. John Tilbrook of the Tuross Head Progress Association wrote to the General Manager of ESC on 13th December 2018 saying:
On the 26th November 2018 the Tuross Head Progress Association (THPA) convened a public information meeting to identify and address perceived bushfire issues in Tuross. The keynote speaker was Marty Webster, the NSW Rural Fire Service’s Community Safety Officer for the Far South Coast who was assisted by local Tuross RFS brigade members. An indication of the importance of this meeting was evidenced by the attendance of 172 ratepayer residents. Although invited, it was noted that no key council staff nor councillors attended this public forum.
This meeting outlined fire risk options, such as preparing private property against bushfires, and individual household bushfire planning to stay and defend property, decision making points as to when to evacuate your home in a bushfire emergency situation, as well as sensible on-going public bushland management within the Tuross Head precinct by our Council. Given that there is only one access road/exit road in Tuross (Hector McWilliam Drive), the locations of “Safer Areas” for use as evacuation assembly areas are important. At present these are Kyla Oval/Kyla Hall and the Tuross Head Country Club carpark.
Of concern was the recent advice given at a public meeting in Tuross on 7 June 2018 by a senior council officer that “…a fire like Tathra could not happen in Tuross due to the lakes and Tuross had better communication facilities”. RFS advice has clarified that a significant amount of the devastation and loss of property during the Tathra fire on 18/19 March 2018 was caused by airborne embers from the larger bushfire fire that initiated at Reedy Swamp and swept into Tathra within 90 minutes. Tuross Head is definitely at potential risk of loss of property from burning ember attack should a wild fire break-out in state forests west of the Princes Highway and be fanned by strong westerly winds on a hot day.
Climatic patterns are changing, and bushfires are becoming more frequent and more damaging. Therefore, on behalf of the Tuross community, the THPA requests that action be taken by the Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) to mitigate potential bushfire risk in Tuross through annual risk assessments in association with the local RFS Brigade together with hazard reduction programs to reduce the fuel load on the forest floor and especially in scrub undergrowth surrounding our urban infrastructure. There are many parks and reserves which add to the beauty and character of Tuross, any of which may pose a fire risk during high fire danger warning periods. However, from the input at the RFS public meeting held on 26 November 2018, we draw your Council’s attention to the following priority areas.
Protection of key infrastructure in the ‘Water Tower’ reserve area including Tuross RFS brigade building, Telstra/Optus tower for communications and ESC water reservoirs & pumps. It is vital that physical integrity of this infrastructure remains operational during a bushfire emergency.
2. Electric power to the above vital facilities runs in one electricity cable from a power pole on Trafalgar Road and through a corridor of trees in the immediate vicinity of the Water Tower park/scenic lookout as depicted below in the following three photographs which shows the fire vulnerable route of this power supply cable to the township’s vital community assets. 3. It is recommended that this high voltage power be relocated underground by Essential Energy.
During a strong, hot westerly wind, a potential pathway for a bushfire into our village and the key community
infrastructure area is the bush reserve from Tuross Lake rising up the steep westerly slope and exiting between numbers 3 and 21 Trafalgar Road directly opposite the Water Tower park/Scenic Lookout. It is recommended that this reserve be cleared of undergrowth from the Trafalgar Road back to the top of the west slope (approximately 30 metres wide).
The main shade trees could be retained, and the surrounding ground well-kept by making a cleared area to be maintained by regular mowing to mitigate the fire risk. The Council’s Fire Mitigation Officer will no doubt be aware that this upward sloping west-facing bushland poses the highest fire risk in Tuross.
Two photographs of the bushland on the westward sloping Reserve on Trafalgar Road that pose the bushfire risk appear below.
Another bushfire prone area mentioned by the public at the RFS Public Forum is the bush reserve to the south of Hawkins Road which is surrounded by many urban houses built into the native landscape as depicted below.
The THPA has taken the initiative to assist the moistly elderly residents of Tuross to be better informed and much better prepared for an unexpected bushfire event, therefore it is an extremely important duty-of-care responsibility for our Council to undertake the above recommendations drawn from the RFS conducted forum as a matter of priority due to the oncoming bushfire season. The President THPA (Cathy Milliken) & Vice President (Gary Smith) are available to meet with Council’s Fire Mitigation Officer, other Council staff as well as members of the local RFS who may need to be involved in addressing the bushfire risk concerns of our community.