By Derek Schlennstedt
After Black Saturday the Dandenong’s were identified as one of the most high-risk locations in Victoria.
One way to reduce that risk is planned burning and although the CFA and Forest Fire Management burn large swathes of land in the Dandenong Ranges every year, it’s equally important to have a plan in place for an extreme fire risk day.
Principal Stacey Goodger at Sassafras Primary School knows just how important it is to have a fire plan.
According to Sassafras CFA Captain John Schurink, if a fire started in the Basin the school would only have around ten minutes to prepare, which is why on extreme days the students are relocated to Boronia West Primary School.
Ms Goodger said that the school upgraded its fire refuge last summer, but that after consultation with parents and students, it was decided that on extreme days the school would relocate to a safer location.
“On extreme days we travel to Boronia West Primary school,” she said.
“Students get dropped of there for the day and we run the school day at Boronia West.”
She said that although they haven’t had to put it into practice as there have been no extreme days since its integration, the school still engages in a practice every December.
“Towards the end of this term we have a practice day and will visit the school to practice so that parents will know what to do.”
“It’s just so everyone knows what happens and where the school is.”
“For at least three years we’ve been organising this but luckily we haven’t yet needed to go down there as we haven’t had a extreme day since we’ve been doing it.”
She said the students enjoy the practice days as they get to make new friends and explore a new school.
“The students enjoy going down there and it’s a totally different environment … a different yard and different play equipment and they get to meet and make new friends.”
In 1977 a fire lit in the Basin decimated the town of Ferny Creek.Ms Goodger said that safety was paramount and that it was recognised by all students, staff and parents that the best place to be was off the mountain.
“On a day like Black Saturday we wouldn’t have much time to even get into the fire refuge, so relocating the school is too make sure we’re as safe as possible,” she said.
“We’re off the mountain and out of the fire danger area.”
“We do it to be as safe as possible.”