With bushfire season still in full force, the kindest thing that can be said about the Victorian Government order to the community of Woods Point that they abandon their fire refuge is that it is very badly timed.

Woods Point is one of the most isolated towns in the state, in a valley in the Victorian high country. Long sections of heavily forested country must be traversed if people are to leave in the case of fire threat and the need for a community refuge is both obvious and necessary.

The following report comes from The Weekly Times, written by Chris McLennan.

Fury as Woods Point bushfire refuge deemed illegal

Woods_Point_Bridge_Street_005A SMALL Victorian town will defy a Victorian Government order to abandon their fire refuge.

Woods Point residents rely on the old gold mine tunnel which has saved the town’s population once before.

Despite the tunnel being the state’s only officially recognised fire refuge for years, new rules governing the construction of refuges have seen the government and local council in the last few weeks refuse to accept legal liability for the structure.

Signs nominating the tunnel as a fire refuge are to be removed and residents fear a gate on the entrance will be padlocked.

”Do they want us to die?” member of the town’s safety committee, Margaret Martyn said.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley yesterday said the tunnel, known locally as the adit, did not meet the new building requirements to be a community fire refuge.

The Country Fire Authority yesterday began an assessment of the tunnel hoping to reclassify it as a “Neighbourhood Safer Place” but the question of legal liability remains.

Mr Lapsley said the CFA, Victoria Police and the Fire Services Commissioner would continue to work with Mansfield Shire Council to resolve the issue.

He said before the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, there was an adhoc and inconsistent approach to the designation of community fire refuges.

You can read the full story here.