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South Mitchell fire preparation challenge set

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Grace Frost
Grace Frost
Hi, I'm Grace Frost. I was honoured to report for the Review as their Digital Journalist from mid-2022 to the beginning of 2024. Ive since made a move to the Herald Sun.

SOUTH Mitchell Neighbourhood Watch kicked off its fire preparation challenge on Sunday, aiming to encourage the community to prepare their properties ahead of fire season.

Organised by the Neighbourhood Watch group with the support of the Country Fire Authority, CFA, State Emergency Service, SES, and Forest Fire Management Victoria, FFMV, the challenge requires participants to submit photos of their properties before and after cleanup efforts, with the photos to be judged by representatives from each of the emergency services to determine the best-prepared property.

While all participants will have a chance to win a $300 Visa gift card, the main priority of the competition is encouraging people to prepare effectively for fire season – especially with anticipated dry conditions ahead.

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Wandong Fire Brigade members Susan Peake, left, and Kylie Shingles with Community Safety Presenter Kylie Comte.

South Mitchell Neighbourhood Watch secretary Carol van der Ree said the challenge came about through a collaboration with the Mitchell Shire’s Safer Together Project.

“They’ve determined certain communities are more vulnerable and we’ve created this challenge in order to motivate people to get in there and clean up their yards to make themselves safer,” she said.

“We encourage people to join in, basically because you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. The greater community will gain as well by everyone doing their part.”

Sunday’s launch at Wandong Hall marked the official beginning of the competition for the Wandong, Heathcote Junction and Upper Plenty communities – all of which have been deemed vulnerable during fire season.

Kilmore SES member Jo and Unit Controller John Koutras.

A similar competition has also been launched for the Reedy Creek and Clonbinane areas to help mitigate fire risk in the shire’s less populated areas.

“There is a slow uptake at the moment. Probably straight after the fires, people were more aware of what they had to do, but this many years down the track they’re a little bit complacent and there’s new people in the area that just don’t know what to do,” Ms van der Ree said.

“It’s everything from preparing emergency kits to actually preparing their properties, which this challenge is all about.”

Ms van der Ree said Neighbourhood Watch were aware that some residents were not able to clean up their own properties but there were measures in place to assist, while Mitchell Shire Council was also offering free green waste disposal to participants.

“If you fall into that category or you can’t do your own clean-up, you can contact us and arrange for volunteers to come in and do it,” she said.

“Likewise, if you want to volunteer to clean up somebody else’s property, you can go to the Mitchell Shire website and register as a volunteer. There’s plenty of opportunity to help out in whichever way you want.”

Registrations for the competition are free and close on October 6, with winning properties to be announced on October 16.

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For more information, contact Safer Together project officer Justine Gard on 5734 6250 or email justine.gard@mitchellshire.vic.gov.au.

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