Blazing a trail for bushfire awareness

South Katoomba Rural Fire Brigade has committed to double its efforts in delivering bushfire awareness programs in the lead-up to the next bushfire season.

Brigade captain Steve Parrott launched Operation Koonje in February, which will see the brigade working closely with the Katoomba Chamber of Commerce and Community (KCCC) to co-ordinate public education measures about how to best prepare homes and businesses for a major bushfire emergency.

The decision to implement Operation Koonje follows the completion of a study for the Blue Mountains District Rural Fire Service. This found a critical bushfire threat existed in South Katoomba — home to 2800 residents and the Upper Mountains’ biggest commercial centre — and the surveyed area required an urgent and revised bushfire protection strategy to limit the impact of bushfires.

Speaking to KCCC members at the launch of Operation Koonje at the Carrington Hotel, Captain Parrott said education was a key part of any bushfire management strategy.

“Our message to the business community is there is a need to increase alertness to the bushfire risk and to promote bushfire awareness in the community,” he said. “The South Katoomba bushfire threat assessment report analysed bushfire risks and ramifications and used fire modelling based on various levels of fires and conditions. It revealed there are two parallel north-south fire corridors in South Katoomba and there are certain locations where there is no vehicular access.

“A fire can spread in a triangular shape and also generate spot fires so you’ve got to protect your homes and businesses as best you can wherever they are located, have a fire emergency plan in place and take preventative measures to protect properties.

“The long rainy spell we’ve been having can put people into a sense of complacency but land can dry out very quickly due to strong westerly winds. We look forward to engaging with residents through Operation Koonje and our partnership with KCCC and we have set up a website for our brigade with information, advice and a live news feed of fire incidents as they develop.”

Operation Koonje will see the South Katoomba Rural Fire Brigade and KCCC plan an intensive week-long education program to be implemented in the second half of this year. For more information, visit or call the volunteer-run brigade on 4782-2424.