A bushfire safety scavenger hunt comes to Montrose

Captain Koala needs help finding his friends in Montrose during the month of October. Picture: CFA.

By Mikayla van Loon

Understanding the risk of the summer fire season as adults means preparing a safety plan and clearing properties but for children it’s possibly a difficult thing to comprehend.

Having those conversations about fire danger and what needs to happen should a bushfire break out allows children to manage the situation better and prepare themselves for the worst case scenario.

Montrose CFA paired with the Montrose Township Group to bring kids a fire safety treasure hunt for the month of October and Captain Koala needs help finding his friends at seven locations across the Montrose township.

At every location, a fire safety message has been left behind to spark conversation and really involve children in the preparations for the fire season.

Montrose CFA community engagement coordinator Eddie Tichelaar said the Fire Safe Kids program is usually run in schools but with Covid-19 restricting the teaching of this, the CFA wanted to come up with a way to still get the message out there.

“It’s focused around bushfire safety and things that younger kids, five to 15 may start thinking about as they’re growing up. Safety around bushfires, when’s the time to leave, what are the triggers to leave,” he said.

“These are things that we try to educate the kids in the schools but of course, we can’t do that right now. So that’s why we have created the fire safety treasure hunt.”

Montrose Township Group president Chelsey Cooper said not only was this a great way to get families out but also really prompts the need to start thinking about bushfires this summer.

“It was just such a brilliant idea to get families out to do this wonderful scavenger hunt but as you go, sprinkled in there are little tips to keep us more aware of how we prepare for fire season,” she said.

Mr Tichelaar said by starting to introduce children to fire safety in this way, it also prepares their parents for the fire season.

“We sometimes just start with the kids, just start with the ideas, which then obviously gets parents thinking about it too,” he said.

Ms Cooper said the treasure hunt is also a great conversation starter for everyone but in an interactive way.

“It starts conversations, a conversation with other people and a conversation with your kids. I think sometimes all it is is just starting to talk about it makes you more aware of ‘Oh I have to be thinking about this and it’s coming, what do we need to do?’

“I think the CFA has been brilliant in the way that they’re trying to be creative to get their messages across.”

The treasure hunt will also flow into the upcoming bushfire planning workshops the CFA will host in November, December and February.

“That’s more of an education program for the grown ups because a lot of people don’t really understand the safety risks around bushfires in the area,” Mr Tichelaar said.

“People move in from the suburbs, they love the bush but a lot of people don’t understand the risks involved in living in this area.”

After storms last October, Ms Cooper said it generated the need for the township group to establish a plan for bushfires and other emergencies.

“We realised that we needed a plan of our own, how do we work with the community to be prepared for emergencies, bushfires, storms, whatever they might be. What role do we have in the response but also the recovery.

“So this integrates beautifully. What the CFA did organise, it’s fantastic. It’s helping people to be educated on what you can do and kids obviously play a role in that.”

Montrose CFA will host a face to face fire safety session on 16 November and one on 15 February, with an online session scheduled for 12 December.