1. #1
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    Dec 2002

    Unhappy Stay and defend or leave early?


    I wonder how many were killed in there homes vs trying to escape.My guess is many were planning to stay and defend.When thing got bad.They attempted to escape at the last minute.The new stay and defend concept for the general public may have failed the test here!I know in parts of califorina there looking at this stay and defend concept as a opt for homeowners.Thats all we need is last minute homeowners bailing during the thick of the firestorm.

    Australian Fire Zone a Crime Scene
    WHITTLESEA, Australia --

    Police declared incinerated towns crime scenes Monday, and the prime minister spoke of "mass murder" after investigators said arsonists may have set some of Australia's worst wildfires in history. The death toll rose to 166.

    There were no quick answers, but officials said panic and the freight-train speed of the fire front - driven by 60 mph winds and temperatures as high as 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 C) - probably accounted for the unusually high toll.

    Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, visibly upset during a television interview, reflected the country's disgust at the idea that arsonists may have set some of the 400 fires that devastated Victoria state, or helped them jump containment lines.

    "What do you say about anyone like that?" Rudd said. "There's no words to describe it, other than it's mass murder."

    From the air, the landscape was blackened as far as the eye could see. In at least one town, bodies still lay in the streets. Entire forests were reduced to leafless, charred trunks, farmland to ashes. Victoria police spokeswoman Christie Pengally said the death toll as of late Monday was 166.

    At Kinglake, a body covered by a white sheet lay in a yard where every tree, blade of grass and the ground was blackened. Elsewhere in the town, the burned-out hulks of four cars were clustered haphazardly together after an apparent collision. Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio reported a car in a small reservoir, the driver apparently steering there in desperation.

    "What we've seen, I think, is that people didn't have enough time, in some cases," Victoria Police Commissioner Christine Nixon told a news conference. "We're finding (bodies) on the side of roads, in cars that crashed."

    But there were also extraordinary tales of survival.

    One man leapt into his pool to escape the flames as they roared over his house, leaving it unscarred but razing his neighbor's. Another woman sheltered with her children in a wombat burrow as the worst of the fire passed.

    Mark Strubing took refuge in a drainage pipe as his property outside Kinglake burned.

    "We jumped in the car and we were only literally just able to outrun this fire. It was traveling as fast as the wind," Strubing told Nine Network television news.

    He said he and a companion rolled around in the water at the bottom to wet their clothing as the flames started licking the pipe: "How we didn't burn I don't know."

    Elsewhere in Kinglake, Jack Barber fled just ahead of the flames with his wife and a neighbor, driving in two cars packed with birth certificates, insurance documents, two cats, four kittens and a dog.

    "We had a fire plan," he said Monday. "The plan was to get the hell out of there before the flames came."

    With their escape route blocked by downed power lines and a tree, they took shelter first at a school, then - when that burned - in an exposed cricket ground ringed by trees, where they found five others.

    "All around us was 100-foot (30-meter) flames ringing the oval, and we ran where the wind wasn't. It was swirling all over the place," Barber said. "For three hours, we dodged the wind."

    The Victoria Country Fire Service said some 850 square miles (2,200 square kilometers) were burned out.

    More than a dozen fires still burned uncontrollably across the state, though conditions were much cooler than on Saturday, when the wind surged and changed direction quickly time and again, fanning the blazes and making their direction utterly unpredictable from minute to minute.

    Local media had been issuing warnings in the days leading up to the weekend, but many people guarding their homes with backyard hoses would have been outside when the wind changed, and thus could have missed the new warnings.

    Jim Andrews, senior meteorologist at accuweather.com, said the combination of record high heat, high winds, gusts and low humidity created a perfect storm scenario for the fires. "I cannot fathom in my mind anything more, hellish, firewise," he said.

    "Last Saturday we had the most intense fire weather conditions we have had in forecast history," David Packham, a research fellow in climatology at the School of Geography & Environmental Science at Melbourne's Monash University, said in an e-mail to journalists on Monday. He said the heat and a recent lack of rain made it clear days before the weekend that "conditions were in place for a disaster to occur."

    At least 750 homes were destroyed Saturday, the Victoria Country Fire Service said.

    Officials said both the tolls of human life and property would almost certainly rise as they reached deeper into the disaster zone, and forecasters said temperatures would rise again later in the week, posing a risk of further flare-ups.

    Police Commissioner Nixon said investigators had strong suspicions that at least one of the deadly blazes - known as the Churchill fire after a ruined town - was deliberately set. And it could not be ruled out for other fires. She cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

    The country's top law officer, Attorney General Robert McClelland, said people found to have deliberately set fires could face murder charges. Murder can carry a life sentence.

    Police sealed off Maryville, a town destroyed by another fire, with checkpoints, telling residents who fled and news crews they could not enter because there were still bodies in the streets. Armed officers moved through the shattered landscape taking notes, pool news photographs showed.

    John Handmer, a wildfire safety expert at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, said research had shown that people in the path of a blaze must get out early or stay inside until the worst has past.

    "Fleeing at the last moment is the worst possible option," he said. "Sadly, this message does not seem to have been sufficiently heeded this weekend with truly awful consequences in Victoria."

    Even if a house is set ablaze, it will burn more slowly and with less intensity than a wildfire and residents have a better chance of escape, he said.

    Victoria state Premier John Brumby on Monday announced a commission would be held to examine all aspects of the fires, including warning policies.

    "I think our policy has served us well in what I call normal conditions. These were unbelievable circumstances," Brumby said on Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.

    Blazes have been burning for weeks across several states in southern Australia. A long-running drought in the south - the worst in a century - had left forests extra dry and Saturday's fire conditions in Victoria were said to be the worst ever in Australia.

    In New South Wales state on Monday, a 31-year-old man appeared in court charged with arson in connection with a wildfire that burned north of Sydney over the weekend. No loss of life was reported there. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

    The country's deadliest fires before the current spate killed 75 people in 1983. In 2006, nine people died on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula.
    Always a day late and a dollar short!

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  2. #2
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    FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Jul 2003


    Knowing what I know......

    I think my reaction would be to tell the wife to grab all the important papers/documents/etc. Grab all our prescriptions, some clothes and the laptops, the kids and the dogs, and GTF OUTTA TOWN!
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

  3. #3
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    EFD840's Avatar
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    Jun 2000
    Eclectic (no, NOT electric), Alabama


    In hindsight, it is very easy to say that everyone should have left early but that wouldn't be fair. As the story points out, stay and defend is not a new concept in Australia. It looks like lots of folks had created defensible space and were armed with pumps and water supplies. This situation was just too much. Go check out the weather reports, watch the videos. This was/is a wildfire perfect storm event. In many cases, it looks like they had far less warning than normal and very few places to run.

    As far as the impact on potential adoption of a 'stay and defend' strategy here, I don't know. I'm not sure most of our citizenry would be willing to do the things needed to make it a viable option.

    My prayers go out to all...

  4. #4
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    Oct 2007


    I think Australia may rethink their stay at home and defend policy.


    As Australia's wildfires claimed the lives of over 180 people, new questions are being raised about a policy many are now dubbing "Stay And Die."

    In a terrifying firestorm all too familiar to California residents, homeowners who stayed behind or evacuated too late found themselves in the path of a series of fires whipped by high winds, hot temperatures and dry brush.

    More than 900 homes and some 740,000 acres have been destroyed in southeastern Australia in the country's worst bush fires in history.

    Residents armed with garden hoses were ill-equipped to protect themselves against the ravaging blazes that tore through towns and were fanned by hot winds and drought conditions. Many residents were found charred in their cars as they attempted to escape down blinding smoke-filled streets. Others met their fate, trapped in their homes when the firestorm raged through and set neighborhoods alight.

    These are just a few snapshots that vividly illustrate the faults of the "Stay and Defend" policy that Australia has been touting since the 1990s. The program teaches the community how to defend their homes using household items like mops, garden hoses and buckets. Most recently, "Stay and Defend" has been the subject of controversy as states including California have been considering implementation of the program, in the wave of budget cutbacks.

    Last month, fire chiefs in Southern California met to discuss the program's potential. Last week, it was part of the agenda at a meeting of Firescope, an advisory panel representing fire services statewide.

    But the current wildfires in Australia and its rising death toll may be the wake-up call that is needed. Australian officials already have plans to review their "Stay and Defend" policy along with its deadly aftermath.

    In the last five years, California has experienced three firestorms of the magnitude and destructiveness of the Australian blazes, with only a fraction of the loss of life. In 2008's record-shattering lightning firestorm that charred more than 1 million acres, the civilian death toll was three -- all individuals who stayed behind rather than heeding evacuation orders.

    "Sadly, we are all too familiar with this type of event in our state," said CPF President Lou Paulson. "Leaving early is the only rational life-saving alternative. The possibilities for error are too high. The stakes are too great. And the last thing that California needs is a repeat of Australia's tragedy."
    Last edited by localtrainer75; 02-11-2009 at 05:52 PM.

  5. #5
    Back In Black
    ChiefKN's Avatar
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    Feb 2003
    The Nice Part of New Jersey


    Quote Originally Posted by coldfront View Post
    "We had a fire plan," he said Monday. "The plan was to get the hell out of there before the flames came."
    Seems like a good plan.

    What an amazing and devastating weekend. The power of mother nature (even if it was arson) is simply stunning.

    Thoughts and prayers for the Aussies.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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