What are Community Fire Refuges (CFRs)?
CFRs are purpose-built or modified buildings that provide protection from radiant heat and embers. They are designed to be a last resort option where nearby residents or visitors can seek shelter if they are trapped by a significant fire.
CFRs are not a drop-in centre on a hot day when there are no fires.
The Emergency Management Commissioner endorses CFRs according to performance requirements set by the Building Construction Advisory Panel.
How can I find out if my town has one?
- Find your nearest Community Fire Refuge
- CFRs are clearly identified by road signs and signs at the fire refuge itself.
- Not all townships have a designated CFR.
When will the Community Fire Refuge be open?
Refuges are only opened if there is a serious fire threat in the local area. This will be communicated in accordance with an emergency warning.
Refuges are on stand-by to open on days of Extreme, Severe and Code Red fire danger.
Will I be safe at a CFR during a fire?
Community fire refuges can provide short-term shelter from the imminent life-threatening effects of a bushfire. However, your safety during a fire can’t be guaranteed.
- CFRs are a last resort when all other plans have failed – all last resort options carry a risk of injury or death.
- CFRs are not designed to be an alternative to leaving early, or to replace your bushfire plan.
Leaving early is always your safest option.
What does leaving early mean?
Leaving early is the safest option to protect yourself and your family. Leaving early means leaving the area before there are any signs of a fire – not when you can see flames or smell smoke. Leaving early means avoiding panic, being trapped, making the wrong choices and risking serious injury and death. On hot, dry, windy days, fires can start and spread quickly. If the Fire Danger Rating is Severe, Extreme or Code Red, you’re risking your life if you wait and see. Leaving early if the safest option to protect yourself and your family. Read more about leaving early.
Will emergency services be at the CFR?
CFRs will not always be attended or protected by CFA or other emergency services. Each refuge is designed to be operated by the community.
What do I need to know about travelling to a CFR?
Travelling to a CFR could be very dangerous when fire is in the local area. Roads might be busy or blocked by trees, smoke can make it hard to see, and embers can cause spot fires well ahead of the main fire.
What can I expect when I arrive at a CFR?
If you are the first to arrive, press the entry button at the entry door and follow the voice instructions. If there is a significant fire threat and the emergency services have activated the fire refuge, you will be able to enter.
It's important to be aware that:
- CFRs have limited capacity. You need think carefully about what you will do if you arrive at a refuge and it is full.
- Parking might be limited at the CFR. Parking within 15 metres of a CFR is strictly prohibited.
- Meals and medical services will not be provided.
- Inside, it may be hot and uncomfortable. You may experience distress.
What can I take with me to the refuge? What about my pets?
Because space will be limited, please take only the most essential items. Essentials include mobile phone and charger, medication, food and drinking water.
Pets and livestock cannot be taken into a fire refuge, but may be kept secured outside.
Should I go to the Community Fire Refuge during emergencies other than fire?
CFRs are not specifically 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).
Where should I go if there is no Community Fire Refuge in your area?
Whether or not you have a CFR in your local area, you will need to plan ahead for what you will do if there is a fire in your area and you cannot leave.
If there is no CFR in your area, other shelter options may include taking shelter at a neighbour’s house or a Neighbourhood Safer Place – Place of last resort.
If these options are not possible, consider an open area that is clear from flammable material and as far from vegetation as possible, or a solid structure that will provide shelter from radiant heat.
What is the difference between a Community Fire Refuge and a Neighbourhood Safer Place - Place of Last Resort?
Many Neighbourhood Safer Places (NSPs) - Places of Last Resort are open spaces (such as an oval or paddock), while some are a building (e.g. a community hall). Although NSPs may provide some protection from radiant heat, they are not built or modified to the same requirements and standards as a community fire refuge.
CFRs offer a greater level of protection than NSPs because they are buildings that are specially modified to meet Building Commission performance requirements. However, both should be considered as last resort options.
Where can I find more information about CFRs?
For further information on community fire refuges go to Emergency Management Victoria