‘I’m not giving up my life for mandatory evacuation’
DESPITE an impressive firefighting arsenal protecting three buildings on his Rules Beach property, Tony Bridges still fears Queensland’s mandatory evacuation laws could force him out of defending his home.
Rather than forced mandatory evacuations, Mr Bridges said local government should assess the bushfire preparedness of appropriate properties, to save authorities time in a fire.
All of his life, Mr Bridges said he had worked hard to build his slice of paradise, including a concrete block home, covered freshwater swimming pool and large shed.
In the 2018 fire storm that was the Deepwater bushfires, Mr Bridges said he was arrested for the first time in his life, aged 63, for failing to comply with mandatory evacuation laws.
“Police called in three times and said ‘what's your plan’ and I said I plan to stay,” he said.
“I told police I’ve got plenty of fuel, I’ve got generator backup, I’ve got a powered pump in my dam, I’m staying.
“When the Premier declared it an emergency situation the police called in and said you’ve got to leave.
“I didn’t want to go, but there were five police that came here, and there were 10 police that went to get my neighbour.
“My neighbour said some of the police were big burly guys from the task force.”
Queensland authorities have the legislated power to force property owners to evacuate when a disaster situation is declared, something Mr Bridges said would have resulted in hundreds more homes being destroyed if the same laws existed in the recent NSW and Victorian fire storm.
It was when Mr Bridges snuck back to check on everything he worked his entire life for, that he was arrested.
“I didn’t realise the rural fireys had turned up to check my premises and they just happened to catch me walking in my door as they drove in my driveway,” he said.
“I showed the rural fireys around and they said ‘you’re all over this, you’ve got this covered’, so I said ‘can’t you tell the police that’.
“They would have had mandatory reporting and about an hour later a couple of police cars rolled up.
“The nice sergeant said ‘if you keep resisting we will arrest you’...and I got a ride in the back of a HiLux paddy wagon for the first time in my life.”
Since the serious 2018 Deepwater bushfires, Mr Bridges said he has invested more than $15,000 retail value to defend his property, but he believes the police will still enforce mandatory evacuation laws.
The former plumber now has more than 50 sprinklers, millions of litres of water in a massive dam, a bore, plus a firefighting pump capable of delivering more than 150 litres per minute, instantly ready to douse any fire threat.
“As every person does, they love their property, and we’ve built our little paradise in the wilderness,” Mr Bridges said.
“Since I have gone the whole hog, you just pull the string to turn on the firefighting pump, turn on the valve at the pool, a valve at the shed and two valves at the house and everything is rained on...with the water supply I have it would last for weeks.”
Mr Bridges said he has had his firefighting system examined by high ranking fire fighters from Victoria who have stated it is more than adequate.
“This high ranking officer from Victoria, who knows about far bigger fires than what Queensland gets, said ‘you’re way more than well equipped’.”
Mr Bridges said he wanted councils to assess people who prepared appropriate properties in certain areas to defend themselves.
“This could be mapped or charted so the authorities, in the event of a fire, know exactly what they are dealing with and who to warn,” he said.
According to the Queensland Government’s disaster information, “a directed evacuation under the Disaster Management Act 2003 requires the declaration of a disaster situation”.
“The declaration of a disaster situation requires the approval of the Minister for Fire and Emergency Services and must be made in accordance with section 65 of the Act.
“During a disaster situation, the District Disaster Controller and Declared Disaster Officers are provided with additional powers under sections 77-78 of the Act.
“These powers may be required to give effect to a directed evacuation.”