VICTORIANS will soon have access to the new fire danger index with detailed maps of state regions showing fire projections on the Country Fire Authority website.
CFA chief executive Mick Bourke has vowed that the index - criticised by some at-risk communities as too confusing - and maps showing nine forecast districts along with projections for up to three days would be available on the CFA and Department of Sustainability and Environment websites ''within the next week to 10 days''.
In his first major interview since his appointment in September, Mr Bourke told The Age that CFA's key message this summer was to leave early - a warning ''still not getting through in some communities''.
As the CFA moved away from the pre-Black Saturday ''stay or go'' warnings, Mr Bourke said he would talk to the Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry this week to ensure people in high-risk areas could leave their homes for days at a time during major fires without fear of losing their jobs.
Mr Bourke revealed:
■ By mid 2010, all firefighting agencies, police and local governments would align their boundaries, leading to better fire management.
■ An improved warning system would allow incident control centres to instantly send warning messages to various agencies and media.
■ The CFA would have 36 new ''level 3'' incident control centres able to manage long-running and complex fires by the end of December.
■ The number of level 3 CFA incident controllers had increased by 10 to about 75, giving the agency ''enough numbers to do the work'', despite firefighters' claims of severe shortages.
■ He would seek Government funding for better firefighting equipment and more protective gear.
Mr Bourke took the reins of the CFA weeks after the release of the Bushfires Royal Commission's interim report, which found CFA chief fire officer Russell Rees had failed to protect Victorians from the Black Saturday fires.
Mr Bourke told The Age CFA firefighters were privately ''deeply saddened by the loss of 173 lives'' and were working hard to ensure the best possible preparation for the next fire season.
While a national fire danger scale was introduced in October - for the first time featuring a ''catastrophic'' rating - no warnings have appeared on the CFA and DSE websites. The Bureau of Meteorology, which issues the ratings, said the CFA was worried that too many catastrophic ratings would be issued, undermining the impact of the warnings.
A warning system named ''One Source, One Message'' has been installed in all incident control centres. Centre staff can instantly send out a single message to the CFA and DSE websites, emergency broadcasters and other receivers.
Mr Bourke said debate about the creation of a single Victorian firefighting agency - to avoid the duplication of CFA and DSE resources - would be held after the current fire season.
''Our focus this year is … to make sure we get the maximum benefit from all our firefighting forces and our intelligence and information systems,'' he said.
Mr Bourke said the CFA and local governments would not back down from stringent rules for the design and surroundings of ''neighbourhood safer places'' as radiant heat was a major killer.
He conceded that two Victorian communities had no suitable dwelling for such a shelter, while 16 of 52 communities had sites that did not comply with CFA guidelines.
He said he worried that by focusing on neighbourhood safer places, some people viewed them as something they could cling to.
''They are the last of last resort and what we keep getting back to is: have a plan … The big thing is the notion of leaving early and how people will be able to accomplish that,'' he said.
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