Celebration turns to fire inquest

A CELEBRATION of the bravery of firefighters and residents who had been affected by the Mount Archer National Park fires last week turned into an inquest yesterday.

As they munched on their sausages at a barbecue organised by Rockhampton Regional Council, some residents expressed their concerns on the way evacuations and warnings had been managed.

Mayor Brad Carter said the barbecue was organised so council could listen to the views of the community and get feedback on how the incident was handled.

Koongal resident Raelene Auberson questioned whether an emergency procedure was put into place and said she thought emergency services lacked experience for such a major event.

“I don't think they were prepared enough, our road wasn't even blocked off and the firies couldn't get through because of the sightseers,” she said.

“There was no police; one of my neighbours was doing traffic control. It was a danger area.

“There was no plan and I don't think it was thought out.”

Another Koongal resident, Marion Briggs said she wasn't doorknocked and was unaware of how close the fire was because the warnings were not up to date.

“I even called triple 0 for information but they didn't know what was going on,” she said.

Mayor Carter said he thought the situation was managed very effectively by the co-ordination of Queensland Fire and Rescue, but agreed communication was not up to par.

He called for the disaster-response system to be completely overhauled.

“The level of information coming to council was sometimes a bit late and accuracy could have been improved so that is a lesson we are learning,” he said.

“A method where we can more accurately and timely get community messages out is certainly needed.”

Mayor Carter said suggestions by residents, such as warnings and alerts for fire, cyclone and floods, would be looked at as well as an educational program on what to do in a disaster.

“We also need to look at people's understanding of what a fire management strategy looks like.”



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