Top threat since Black Saturday

RESIDENTS in many areas of Whittlesea face the biggest fire danger since Black Saturday, according to Whittlesea CFA captain Ken Williamson.

He said houses at risk were in areas such as South Morang and Plenty Gorge where new developments met the bush.

"Even Whittlesea, where the new estates are right on the edge of town, will be at risk," he said.

"But everywhere from open spaces like Eden Park all the way through to suburbia, such as Mernda, Doreen and Mill Park, are at risk.

"It is the rural-urban interface that will be the danger this year, and it's almost too late to burn off in rural areas where it is permitted on land of a certain size."

Mr Williamson said the danger would be grass fires rather than bushfires.

"There's been rain but the grass is starting to turn (dry) and it looks like we will be busy," he said.

"A grass fire is fast-moving and unpredictable and all the things that a bushfire is; throwing off embers and spotting ahead."

He said the municipality had one "neighbourhood safer place" at Walker Reserve, Whittlesea, which was a place of "last resort", but he said this was adequate.

Whittlesea council fire officer David Foster said council had issued 1031 fire prevention notices. People who failed to comply would be fined $1408 and council would send contractors to cut grass at the householders' expense, he said.

Meanwhile,Whittlesea Bushfire Recovery Committee chairman Larry Challis said many of those affected by Black Saturday were still suffering emotionally and financially.

He said that almost four years after the 2009 fire, the state government had "not officially walked away but gives little encouragement or support" to victims.

He said the buy-back scheme - where high-risk properties could be bought by the government - "still has to be sorted out" for many Kinglake Ranges residents. Building regulations were so complex that even many builders did not understand what was required, he said.

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