Concerns aired at Winmalee fire meeting

Winmalee and Yellow Rock residents aired their bushfire concerns at a community meeting organised by the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) at Winmalee High School last Thursday night.

Despite the meeting only being publicised that day, the school hall was nearly full with 350 residents.

At least 10 people in the room did not receive an RFS emergency safety warning text message to take shelter.

Blue Mountains RFS district manager David Jones said he would, “feed that back up the line ... it may be a service provider issue, I’m not sure, that may be part of it” and that he would look further into the issue.

A Yellow Rock resident asked what hazard reduction burns would take place in Yellow Rock in the near future.

Supt Jones said the weather conditions last week hadn’t been suitable to maintain control of a backburn.

“It’s a one-way, one-road in and its never received the recognition it deserves on that basis in terms of protection,” the Yellow Rock resident said.

“I would hate to see a real emergency situation develop here at Yellow Rock.”

Supt Jones said he’d look at the RFS organising a meeting with Yellow Rock residents in the near future to address these issues.

Supt Jones said residents could have a fire mitigation officer assess if hazard reduction was needed in their area by lodging a hazard complaint with the RFS.

“Generally over an 8-12 year cycle it [vegetation] needs to be burnt, which allows it to regenerate,” he said.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Upper Mountains area manager Richard Kingswood said there weren’t many days a year suitable for conducting hazard reduction burns — only 10 days in the Upper Mountains and a few more in the Lower Mountains, although last autumn and spring had provided more opportunities. He said in the last financial year NPWS had initiated 38 burning operations over 50,000 hectares, which was more than usually occurred.

Another resident asked why, with safety concerns with overhead powerlines, they couldn’t go underground, especially as the highway was being widened.

An Endeavour Energy spokesman said cost was an issue.

“It costs about 10 times more to put mains underground.”

Others were concerned about issues around road blocks, where children as well as adults were allowed to walk past roadblocks to return home, yet people couldn’t get their vehicles through. It didn’t make sense from a safety perspective, the resident said.

A Rural Fire Service organised community meeting held last week at Winmalee to  discuss the fire situation in Winmalee and Yellow Rock was well attended.

A Rural Fire Service organised community meeting held last week at Winmalee to discuss the fire situation in Winmalee and Yellow Rock was well attended.

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