BUILDING ASSESSMENT: Rural Fire Service northern zone team leader development, assessment and planning north Alan Bawden, SES Coraki member Stuart Holm, senior firefighter Belmont Gavin Crabbe and leading firefighter Shannon Crofton at Bora Ridge.
BUILDING ASSESSMENT: Rural Fire Service northern zone team leader development, assessment and planning north Alan Bawden, SES Coraki member Stuart Holm, senior firefighter Belmont Gavin Crabbe and leading firefighter Shannon Crofton at Bora Ridge. Marc Stapelberg

How officials assess damage to homes, properties post fire

COMPASSION, experience and knowledge are three of the key elements a multi-agency task-force is utilising as they undertake an assessment of the damage to people homes and properties after the bushfires.

Standing in the hot smoky sunshine and buffeted by gusty winds on the edge of the Myall Creek Road fire at Bora Ridge bushfire on Saturday afternoon, Rural Fire Service team leader Alan Bawden is conferring with his colleagues.

This Building Impact Assessment Teams comprises Mr Bawden, State Emergency Service Coraki Unit member, Stewart Holm and NSW Fire & Rescue firefighters from Sydney, Gavin Crabbe and Shannon Crofton .

The quartet have the unenviable job of visiting properties after the bushfires have been through and conducting inspection surveys of homes, buildings and facilities in the area directly impacted by fires.

And there's a lot more to their task than simply working out the damage to houses, sheds and equipment, as people are often still in shock and suffering from the bushfire attacking their property.

It can be heartbreaking to see a farming family who were brought to their knees by the drought, totally devastated by a bushfire ripping through what was left of their livelihood and home.

"Today we have been working in the New Italy sector, we are continuing our building impact assessments in this sector of the Myall Creek fire-ground," Mr Bawden said.

"You have to show compassion, we are there to check on people's welfare as much as anything else."

Mr Bawden said the team work through an off-line database, then take notes to report the impact of the damage, take lots of photos which then get loaded to a database in Sydney.

"Essentially the team goes out to people properties and check on their welfare and their assets," he said.

"This data allows the government the information it needs, "to allocate resource to residents post-fires."

Mr Crabbe and Mr Crofton stressed the importance of being calm when visiting people who have suffered a devastating loss of property.

Mr Crabbe said it is vital to tread softly.

"When people see us it may be the first time they have had uniforms on their land since the bushfires," he said.

"Sometimes we sit down and have a cup of team with the residents if this helps them.

"Then people realise they are not alone."

The RFS reported that as of November 16, more than 300 homes are now confirmed destroyed following the bush fires which have affected large parts of NSW since Friday November 8, 2019.

A total of 303 homes have been destroyed, bringing the total number of homes destroyed this bush fire season to 412.

NSW RFS Building Impact Assessment teams are continuing their inspection of impacted properties and have now surveyed nearly 4,000 buildings.

Crews have confirmed:

  • 303 homes destroyed, 102 damaged
  • 19 facilities destroyed, 29 damaged
  • 577 outbuildings destroyed, 208 damaged
  • More than 2,600 buildings in the direct area impacted by the fires saved.

Across the bush fire season to date, six lives have been lost and 412 homes have been destroyed.



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