Resident turns heat on fire app after Black Hill blaze

images (2)Residents in bushfire-prone areas are being reminded never to rely on one channel for emergency information following complaints about details provided by the FireReady smartphone app during this month’s Black Hill blaze.

Noel Harvey, who was helping a friend near Baynton as a fire raged on January 7, said many people in Kyneton were confused when they received notifications they might be in danger.

Mr Harvey, who could see smoke from the main blaze, said other alerts were clearly out of date by the time they came through.

Several other regular users of the app complained that the listed location of fires and other incidents was often incorrect.

Mr Harvey said he would like to see a feature of the NSW app allowing users to track the spread of fires via an interactive map, to also be part of the equivalent Victorian app.

‘‘In that area between Black Hill and Kyneton, hundreds of houses surrounded by bushland would have been relying on that information to direct their response,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s not a criticism of the authorities; they do an extraordinary job all of the time. But I just hope we can learn from it.

‘‘They’ve spent squillions on it [the app], but when you look at the NSW app, there’s no comparison.’’

Mr Harvey said the app and emergency authority websites sometimes provided different information regarding the placement and spread of fires.

‘‘There were a lot of inconsistencies between the various platforms,’’ he said.

‘‘I appreciate there was lots of lightning on that day and there were several smaller fires, but if you relied only on that app you could get into trouble.’’

In a statement, Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) said the FireReady app was just one of the channels people were encouraged to use, along with ABC radio, Sky News TV, the EMV website and the Victorian Bushfire Information Line.

‘‘In the case of the Kyneton fires, initially there were multiple calls to 000 because of three fires starting,” the EMV statement said.

‘‘This was reflected on the app and Warnings were then issued for the incident, including specific information on where the fire started and was travelling…

Read more by Matt Crossman, Star Weekly 27 January 2015

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