Tasman Peninsula bushfire task force 2013
The report of a Bushfire CRC task force following the January 2013 Tasman Peninsula bushfire was released as part of the 2013 Tasmanian Bushfires Inquiry.
The Bushfire CRC task force, led by Prof Timothy Skinner and Prof Jim McLennan, conducted 245 interviews with residents across the Tasman Peninsula from 14-24 January 2013. Interviews were undertaken with residents in both the affected and surrounding areas, focusing on people's preparation, decision-making and actions during the bushfire. Researchers were comprised from the University of Tasmania, the University of Western Australia, La Trobe University and RMIT.
The full report is available below. Important research findings include:
Long term preparedness
- The three most frequently reported long term preparations undertaken by those surveyed were: clearing vegetation around the home; having an unwritten bushfire survival plan; clearing a space around the home.
- The three least frequently reported long term preparations undertaken by those surveyed were: reviewing the local community protection plan; ensuring house structure protection; having a written bushfire survival plan.
Short term preparedness
- The three most frequently reported short term preparations undertaken by those surveyed were: packing a kit ready to leave; checking the fire danger; clearing litter from the yards.
- The three least frequently reported short term preparations undertaken by those surveyed were: charging a mobile phone; ensuring protective clothing was ready; filing containers with emergency drinking water.
On the day of the fire
- Actions undertaken by males and females were found to be significantly different.
- Males most frequently reported a successful attempt to defend the home.
- Females most frequently reported leaving well before the fire impacted.
- The most frequent reported from residents was that they ‘left just in time.’
- The least reported action was ‘not at home – deliberate decision based on the fire danger’.
- The actions taken on the day by people who had reported previous bushfire experience were significantly different from those who did not have previous bushfire experience.
- People who had previous experience most frequently reported a successful attempt to defend the home.
- People who did not have previous bushfire experience most frequently reported leaving just in time.
- Mobile phone was the most preferred way to receive warnings, indicating Emergency Alert text messages were reported as being valuable.
When did people take action?
- One third of those surveyed took decisive action more than two hours before the fire impacted.
- Just over 20% of those surveyed did not take decisive actions until immediately before the fire impacted.
- The three most common factors that caused residents to leave were: smelling or seeing smoke; receiving an official emergency warning other than an Emergency Alert; receiving an Emergency Alert.
- The three most frequently reported factors respondents attributed to survival were: leaving early, planning and preparing, and receiving emergency warnings.
From 3 and 4 January 2013, several bushfires devastated communities in the south east of Tasmania. The fire that started near the township of Forcett and burnt across 20,165 hectares was the most devastating, destroying 193 dwellings, with the township of Dunalley being the hardest hit. The fire started as the result of an old fire that was smouldering in a burnt out tree stump and intensified due to the weather conditions.
On 3 January the temperature in the Forcett area was in the mid-30's with strong west north west winds of up to 78 km/hr, helping to fan the fire. The fire danger rating in this area was ‘Very High’ and a total fire ban had been issued across Tasmania. The fire danger rating was increased to ‘Catastrophic’ on 4 January, with maximum wind speeds of 81 km/hr and temperatures reaching the low 40's.
In response to these fires, the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) commissioned the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre to undertake a research project aimed at gaining a better understanding of the community response to these fires. This would not have been possible without the assistance of the University of Tasmania's Rural Clinical School and the Menzies Research Institute.
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