HALF of Marysville had no access to water on Black Saturday despite the town's reserve being at full capacity, the royal commission on the February fires has heard.
Robert Bruce Anderson, operations manager with Goulburn Valley Water, told the commission that Marysville did not suffer from a lack of supply on February 7 but rather its pipes were not big enough to meet the extraordinary demand from the town that day.
He said the water authority had estimated that peak demand was three to four times higher on Black Saturday than at any other period. Over the weekend, the town went through 20 megalitres of water - equivalent to roughly one month's supply.
Mr Anderson told the commission that Marysville had a 100-megalitre reservoir, enough water for about six months, with a gravity-fed system. On Black Saturday power to the town cut out around 5.15pm, causing a pressure valve to shut down, which in turn affected the water supply for nearby Buxton.
However, Marysville ran out of water because its pipes were not big enough to maintain pressure to homes at higher elevations, Mr Anderson said. Even those at lower elevations had reduced supply.
This explained previous evidence presented to the commission that fire fighters ran out of water during a backburn along Kings Road in Marysville around 6.30pm.
The water authority did not have precise data about when water flow problems began because a monitoring sensor had failed early in the day on February 7. However, Mr Anderson estimated that the highest flow of water in Marysville would have occurred when houses and other buildings began to burn down.
He warned that Marysville was less vulnerable than other country towns because of its large reservoir and gravity-fed supply, and that in the face of another "megafire" of the kind seen on Black Saturday home owners needed to know they could not rely on their "urban" systems for firefighting.
He urged homeowners to keep a separate 6000-litre water tank for firefighting purposes.
Also yesterday, Marysville police officer Senior Constable Peter Collyer responded to criticism raised previously by a resident of Lyell Street that police did not alert them to the fire, despite warning the family of another officer living in the street.
Senior Constable Collyer told the commission that he and two other officers had gone to the house of acting Sergeant Ian Thompson because they knew his family were home.
"Our belief was that we knew almost for sure that they were still home, so we went straight there to get them out," he said.
"In hindsight there was little point and there was almost no time to knock on people's doors because we didn't know who was home and who wasn't."
Senior Constable Collyer and Woods Point police officer Ken Dwight were at the tail end of a police-initiated convoy of cars from Gallipoli Park oval.
He told the commission that it was "paramount" to get as many people out as possible before fire came through the town. But he said when he surveyed the destruction along the highway to Marysville it became apparent to him that cultivated land had been relatively untouched by fire. And only a small patch of Gallipoli Park had been burnt, he said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.