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In a bushfire should you stay, or go?



November 30, 2012

Steels Creek after the fire. Photo Tom Griffiths

Australia’s national bushfire ‘Stay or Go’ policy is rigorously examined by Tom Griffiths in his thought-provoking essay from this week’s Inside Story. Have deaths been wrongly attributed to late evacuations? Are homes really defendible?┬áIf you’ve ever had the whiff of bushfire smoke in your nostrils, you MUST read this.

Griffiths says of the tragic 2009 Victorian fires:

“Of the 173 people killed on Black Saturday, two-thirds died in their own homes.”

He argues that a culture of belief in the official ‘Prepare, Stay and Defend or Leave Early’ policy is based on misinterpretation of the historical evidence, a mistaken assumption that houses can be defended and an emotional sense that ‘fighting’ and defending’ is strong and ‘fleeing’ is weak. Worse still, he explores the possibility that fire authorities are reluctant to give out proper warnings about the speed and severity of approaching fires as they feel it might provoke risky late evacuations.

As Australia enters its bushfire season, there’s lots of government TV adverts prompting you to hurry up and make your bushfire plan before it’s too late. Yes! Please do that! But make sure you read Tom Griffith’s essay as part of your planning.



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