Anger and frustration at unanswered questions

ANGER and frustration swelled outside a community meeting in Dartmoor yesterday morning about the huge blaze still threatening the township.

About 100 people gathered in the town hall expecting answers on the size and direction of the fire burning little more than 12 kilometres away in the farming region of Drik Drik.

But many of the nervous questions from the audience went unanswered at the meeting, which was not attended by the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

Representatives from six organisations did speak, including the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), Victoria Police, Department of  Primary Industry (DPI), Ambulance Victoria, Glenelg Shire and Department of Human Services. But many had only limited updates on the status of the fire.

Addressing the audience, DSE representative Peter Cudd said containment lines had been built and efforts had been made to suppress offshoots of the blaze.

There was also anger over delays in updating online fire maps and concern was also voiced over whether police would close the Princes Highway to traffic.

Victoria Police’s Acting Inspector Steve Thompson sought to ease any fears, saying police would let residents know if they needed to evacuate.

Speaking after the meeting, Winnap beef producer Russ Kerr did not hide his feelings about its worth.

“No one knows where the fire is likely to go,” Mr Kerr said.

“I know the area well. All I wanted was some information. It’s been the biggest waste of half-an-hour in my life.”

Mr Kerr, whose 202-hectare property was in the line of fire earlier this week, said information had been slow coming to farmers who had little or no internet connection.

Dartmoor Community Progress Association president Wendy Dowling said many residents had opted to remain in the community.

“I think it’s disappointing that there was no one from incident control or CFA,” Ms Dowling said.

Speaking to The Standard yesterday, DSE deputy incident controller Andy Cusack conceded organisers had not anticipated the large number of people who attended.

“I think we were a bit embarrassed by the numbers that turned up there,” Mr Cusack said.

“Unfortunately, that meeting wasn’t designed to be a meeting. We sent people up there to provide an information point.”

A DSE public affairs officer will be based at the Dartmoor general store today to offer information.

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