Community Fire Refuges will be piloted at three sites in the Yarra Ranges this fire season as the Victorian Coalition Government continues to implement measures to better prepare Victoria for the threat of bushfires.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Bushfire Response Peter Ryan said the pilot sites would be located at primary school campuses in the high-risk communities of East Warburton, Millgrove and Ferny Creek.
"The identified sites at each school have all been built since the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and take account of local bushfire attack levels (BAL)," Mr Ryan said.
"Preliminary assessments have been done at each of the sites, however additional work to harden the structures will also be undertaken to ensure each site meets stringent performance standards for fire refuges recently released by the government."
Mr Ryan said Victoria was leading the development of community fire refuges in Australia.
"This important pilot program will test structures, practices and procedures and see exactly how they operate in real life drills, before any of the sites can be formally designated as refuges," Mr Ryan said.
"Information from the pilot program will shape the future roll-out of community fire refuges to other high-risk communities across Victoria."
Mr Ryan said schools were a valuable community asset that could provide a suitable base for community fire refuges in high-risk areas.
"The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Yarra Ranges Council have supported the use of the school sites as community fire refuges during the pilot," Mr Ryan said.
"Community fire refuges will provide a valuable shelter option for these communities, however they should only be used as a last resort when all other plans have failed.
"Leaving early on high risk days is always the safest option for people living in high bushfire risk locations."
Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government had allocated $3.5 million to support the establishment of community fire refuges and to the operation of a refuges pilot.