Bushfire Bunkers a Royal Commission Hot Potato

The Sydney Morning Herald headline screamed: ‘In the dark ages’: Stoush brewing over use of bushfire bunkers.

The story stated that Craig Lapsley succeeded in getting formal safety standards for bunkers during his time as Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner and says his former counterparts at the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) remain “dead against them”.

Drew Gordon in his fire bunker in North Warrandyte on Melbourne’s forested fringe. Different rules apply in different states for such shelters.

The RFS looked to Josh Whittaker of the University of Wollongong to explain that people might use them as a first resort. The RFS went on to say that: “Inadequately designed, badly located and poorly maintained private bushfire shelters are extremely dangerous.”.

Well, one could be forgiven for thinking that this would be a good reason to establish the same standards as have already been approved in Victoria.

The Herald then goes on to interview Kangaroo Valley’s Captain Matt Gray, a senior Qantas pilot who also heads the Kangaroo Valley bushfire committee.

Matt Gray

Captain Gray is fighting opposition from the local Shoalhaven Council to install two six-person bunkers – one for his family and one for his prized possessions – on his property south of Sydney.

“Other bunker builders and owners have not hit roadblocks because they have taken the back roads which avoids both the council and RFS,” he said. “NSW has to get out of the dark ages,” Captain Gray said. “This is one of the ways we can [change NSW] by highlighting at a very personal level, what outdated policy and thinking does in perpetuating poor strategic management.”

Lionel Buckett

Notwithstanding the lack of a standard in NSW, Bilpin identity, architect and owner of the Wollemi Cabins had almost finished his 20 person bunker when the fires hit last summer. The bunker was missing the door seals and a proper latch on the door. It still saved his partner Kooryn Sheaves and a friend who were forced to shelter there. They had to hang on to the door and were both OK.

The ABC had previously done a story on Lionel’s bunker when he was building it. Here’s another pic of Lionel at the building stage and this is a link to his beautiful cabins..

One bunker manufacturer to comply with the Victorian code is Wildfire Safety Bunkers, which is owned by Anthony Tratt. Their bunkers have been accredited by the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) and they offer a 6 person bunker and a 12 person one.

This is a 12 person bunker being installed.

The complete Sydney Morning Herald story can be read here:


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