With less than a month to the next fire season the Tuross Head Rural Fire Brigade are inviting the Tuross Head community to one of three meetings to look at how they can prepare for the coming fire season.
As well as delivering the invitation to the community by way of The Beagle and social media the brigade members have also letterboxed those on the Highway, Hector McWilliam, Trafalgar, Clive Park and Chatham Park.
The meetings will take place as follows:
• Residents living west of the Princes Highway: Monday 7th August.
• Residents of the cluster developments adjoining the heritage grasslands (Forest Lake Close, Hawdons Cove, Bass Ridge and Casuarina Grove): Thursday 10th August
• Residents of Tuross Head village and cluster developments closer to the village: Monday 14th August
All meetings will be at Kyla Park Hall starting at 6pm.
The community are encouraged to come along with questions and suggestions to help the Tuross Head Rural Fire Brigade plan and prepare their community for the coming fire season.
Some background reading for Tuross Head residents:
A correspondence to Eurobodalla Council (31st May 2023) was delivered a via letter under the signature of a representative solicitor.
The letter to Council opened with:
The Tuross Head Progress Association Inc. (THPA) has been requesting Eurobodalla Shire Council for over five years to reduce bushfire risk at Tuross by thinning overgrown bush along specific roadways in Tuross headland. The main concerns have been along Hector McWilliam Drive and Trafalgar Road.
All copies of correspondence are available.
These areas have been selected because they consist of large portions of heavily timbered bushland on council reserves on West to Southwest facing slopes. Due to the predominantly eucalyptus bush involved; the steep angle of the mainly rising ground; the frequent impact of this area by very strong winds; this large area is considered to be a likely and major pathway for fire into Tuross residential areas.
Apart from roads at the top of the rise, much of this thick bushland is inaccessible to vehicles of any sort. Importantly, this large bush area is immediately adjacent to the roads at or near the crest of the rise. These roads form the single and ONLY way in and out of Tuross.
If a fire quickly reaches these roads, over 2000 permanent residents and up to 3000 ADDITIONAL VISITORS DURING HOLIDAYS, could be trapped on the headland. Even a small fire is likely to spread quickly , beyond the capacity of our volunteer Tuross RFS Fire Brigade, which may not be quickly supported by other units because of the blocked access.
THPA believe that the Rural Fire Service determination in the past that these council reserves are a low fire risk is now almost certainly out of date, based on the standard RFS mathematical calculation on fire loading for fire-fighting purposes.
This type of calculation does not take emergency egress of the public into account.
Regardless of high or low risk determination by the RFS, the THPA considers many of our Council owned reserves to currently be a likely and significant pathway for ANY active wind-borne fire into our residential areas.
The THPA is very concerned about public safety and the likely tragic cost to humans, property, wildlife and unique flora (eg our Norfolk pines) if a wildfire reaches the residential areas.
In the past, Council has considered Tuross relatively safe because of the incorrect assumption that we are "surrounded by water". Tuross is NOT surrounded by water, it is effectively a wide, and well-wooded peninsular subject to coastal winds, grassfires from adjacent rural leases and wind-borne fire from nearby bushland.
Council appears in the past to also have ignored the possibility that an accidental fire could be initiated within Tuross, that could spread quickly to or from the Council reserves. This could be initiated for example, by a vehicle or residential fire, children playing or lightning strike.
The danger posed by council owned bushland on this headland was clearly illustrated to the entire township of Tuross during the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019/20. The town was inundated by hot wind-borne thick smoke and masses of airborne burnt fire debris with falling parched leaves.
By pure luck, there was a last-minute wind change near Turlinjah, which turned the massive firestorm. THPA acknowledges that a cost is involved in this recommended mitigation. This is why THPA has requested a "thinning" of vegetation from the roadside, not removal of large trees which is also an environmental consideration.
As these roads are designated 'tourist drive', the resultant 'park like' roadside reserves will become a visual asset as well as a fire buffer. Government grant funding may be available for fire mitigation works. Since the Black Summer fires, scientists predict worse extremes of weather including fires, due to Climate Change.
Residents are very concerned and at a recent general meeting of THPA the members unanimously voted for THPA to continue to lobby Council to carry out the work requested to reduce bushfire risk in Tuross.
Recent rain has increased vegetation growth, especially at low ground levels — and there is now likely a much higher fuel loading in the reserves - and still no council action. THPA has noted our concerns by letter to RFS and in a submission to the current Bushfire Risk Management Plan survey.
THPA is now also examining in detail the recommendations and the implementation progress of the NSW Bushfire Enquiry and the National Natural Disasters Royal Commission (Bushfire Royal Commission). THPA wishes to develop an understanding of Council's response to the accepted recommendations of these very important investigations.
Emergency Evacuation Centre
In addition, please note - THPA will write to Council separately about the need for Council support to establish a properly equipped Emergency Evacuation Centre (EEC) located, not 23 kilometers away in Moruya, but here in Tuross. Recommendation — EEC to be established either at the Kyla Park Community Hall (owned by Council) or, with owner consent, the Tuross Head Country Club, or both.
This facility is required for people who cannot reach the designated emergency center's in Moruya or Narooma if fire blocks the single route in/out of Tuross, or indeed the highway. THPA understands the financial issues and we believe grant funding should be available from State and Federal government to assist this worthy and necessary work to ensure the safety of Tuross residents.
As the owner of the abovementioned public reserves in Tuross Head, the Council has a duty of care and a liability to mitigate fire risk on those reserves to ensure the safety of residents and property in Tuross residential areas.
Obviously, any fire is likely to approach from the west, or southwest. The Tuross Head Progress Association, seek you to address is on the western side of the residential area of Tuross, and, partly on the western side of Hector McWilliam Drive.
This area that our client seeks to have fire mitigation carried out on is set out and illustrated in the attached aerial map marked "A". Therefore, it is again requested that Council undertake the relatively minor bushfire mitigation work on council bushland alongside Trafalgar Road (esp between No.3 and No.21) and Hector McWilliam Drive before the next bushfire season.
It is requested that you include this in this year's works program. Please respond as soon as convenient. Eurobodalla Council responded to the solicitors' letter (13 June 2023) to questions asked above by the Tuross Head Progress Association: Given the concerns raised regarding potential liability for Council with respect to bushfire
mitigation works, a separate response on this matter will be forwarded to you from Council’s
solicitors. Regarding the second matter referred to in your correspondence, we provide the
following information on evacuation centres.
An Evacuation Centre is defined as a safe place which provides disaster affected people with basic human needs including accommodation, food and water. Eurobodalla Shire has three main designated evacuation centres in Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma. These sites have been chosen due to their location close to the major town centres, size and facilities available.
Evacuation centres are established and managed by the Welfare Services Functional Area and Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) in consultation with the relevant agencies involved in the event and the evacuation centre owner. DCJ would not be able to resource opening additional smaller evacuation centres across the Shire or access evacuation centres in locations where access has been blocked.
FACT: "DCJ would not be able to resource opening additional smaller evacuation centres". In the case of the Kyla Hall it has a Hall committee that has keys, as does the Tuross Head Progress Association. As for volunteers Communities and Justice (DCJ) state:
The Emergency Management Training is available HERE The council response continues: The vast majority of Tuross Head is well suited to stay in place during a bushfire event
provided residents are well prepared and are physically and mentally capable of defending
their property. For the majority of Tuross Head homes, this defence relates to putting out
embers however we encourage all residents to make direct contact with the Rural Fire
Service for advice specific to the resilience and preparation of their own property and to
reference the RFS website for further information at: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/
We encourage all residents to develop a bushfire survival plan.
For those properties on the fringes of Tuross Head and adjacent to bushland, the risk is
naturally higher. The location of the Kyla Park Community Hall is in a higher risk location than many locations/properties in Tuross Head.
NOTE the area of KYLA HALL is NOT marked as being bush fire prone land, let alone a "higher risk location than many locations/properties in Tuross Head".
Unless residents are well prepared and physically and mentally capable of defending their property from more intense direct fire impacts, then they should leave early to one of the three main town centres (Moruya, Narooma or Batemans Bay) based on the advice given at that time. These messages were consistently provided to the community during the Black Summer bushfires and will be provided in the future as well.
If residents are unable to leave Tuross Head in a particular circumstance, then they should
seek refuge first with family and friends in a safer location, or as a last resort seek refuge at
the nominated Neighbourhood Safer Place (NSP), as determined by the RFS and updated on their website from time to time. The RFS has nominated one of the NSPs as the open area near the Club.
FACT CHECK: The RFS have nominated two NFPs in Tuross Head, the second being at Kyla Oval, possibly due to the fact it is not, according to Council's own Bushfire Prone mapping, "higher risk location than many locations/properties in Tuross Head".
We note that the Tuross Head County Club (THCC) opened their doors during the Black Summer fires however any future voluntary role the THCC wished to play in a future emergency situation due to a natural disaster, would be at the discretion of the Club.
We remain supportive of any measures all clubs (Council has previously supported grant
applications made by the THCC), businesses and residents take to make their properties and operations more resilient to natural disasters. We trust the information provided above satisfies your query on evacuation centres.