The Country Fire Authority Act 1958 defines a Community Fire Refuge as a place that is to be used by the public for short term shelter from a fire front during a bushfire.
There are currently no national construction standards for Community Fire Refuges. To address this gap, the Victorian Government has requested the Australian Building Code Board develop standards as a matter of urgency. The Board has provided an indicative completion date of late 2012 for national standards.
In the interim, a Community Fire Refuge must meet the performance requirements for refuges in the Victorian Building Regulations 2006 and the Building Code of Australia.
In October 2011 the Fire Services Commissioner published the new Community Fire Refuges Policy, replacing the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioners 2005 Refuges Policy and Practice document and developed an Interim set of Practices and Procedures for establishing Community Fire Refuges, to be updated in 2012.
Following the introduction of the new Policy and the Interim Practices and Procedures the Fire Services Commissioner announced a Community Fire Refuges Pilot Program to; assist the development of the final Practices and Procedures document in 2012; and to identify and establish Community Fire Refuges in high bushfire risk areas in Victoria.
Community Fire Refuges will have the following attributes:
- Purpose-built buildings or modified buildings in accordance with the performance requirements specified by the relevant provisions of the Victorian Building Regulations 2006 and the Building Code of Australia.
- Formal designation
- Annual auditing and inspection regime to determine continued suitability (to be determined by the Fire Services Commissioner)
Community Fire Refuges have inherent limitations. They do not guarantee of safety.
Please be aware of the following risks associated with travelling to and sheltering at a Community Fire Refuge:
- They have limited capacity
- There is a risk of injury or death, especially if there is the need to travel through fire-affected landscape to reach the refuge, either by vehicle or on foot.
- They do not cater for pets or livestock
- They may have limited vehicle parking
- They will not always be attended or protected by emergency services
- They provide basic shelter only - community services such as meals and medical services will not be provided
- They are not necessarily designed to be a place of shelter from other types of emergencies (e.g. to escape rising floodwaters or as a shelter from severe weather events).
Prior to the introduction of the new Policy, there was one Community Fire Refuge designated in the State of Victoria listed below:
|Mansfield||Woods Point||The Adit||Scott Street, Woods Point|
This site remains a Community Fire Refuge until such time that it is decommissioned by the municipal council.
For more information on Community Fire Refuges please read the Fire Services Commissioner's Policy Overview and Questions and Answers.