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Devastated town not warned on Black Saturday -

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Reporter: Samantha Donovan

PETER CAVE: To the Royal Commission into the Victorian bushfires now.

And the chief of Victoria's Country Fire Authority (CFA) has admitted this morning that residents
of Strathewen never received an official warning that fires were approaching.

Twenty-seven people died in the town.

Samantha Donovan has joined me on the line from Melbourne.

Sam, why wasn't there a warning?

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Well Russell Rees, the chief officer of the Country Fire Authority, wasn't able
to say why a warning wasn't posted on the CFA website, Peter.

In his evidence yesterday Mr Rees emphasised that as chief officer he is not directly responsible
for the issuing of local warnings. His job is more to oversee what's happening across the state.

But on Strathewen, this is some of the exchange counsel assisting the commission Jack Rush QC had
with Russell Rees this morning.

JACK RUSH: Strathewen didn't get a warning, wasn't mentioned in any of the CFA material. Would that
suggest that there was a lack of knowledge as to where the fire was?

RUSSELL REES: No, I can't say that. As you are aware there are locations that cover between
Strathewen, you know, for example Whittlesea and St Andrews and Strathewen is in-between. Arthur's
Creek is mentioned at 16:35 hours and Strathewen is very near Arthur's Creek.

PETER CAVE: Russell Rees there.

Have there been other concerns about warnings raised this morning?

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Yes, it has certainly been the focus of the hearings again this morning. We have
also heard from Ewan Waller who is the chief fire officer with Victoria's Department of
Sustainability (DSE), which is responsible for fighting fires on crown land like national parks and
the delay in getting urgent threat messages out was also raised with him.

This is what some of what Jack Rush QC put to Ewan Waller about the time it took to get one message
on the website.

JACK RUSH: What I want to suggest to you is that DSE gave out an urgent threat message at 19:10 but
it didn't appear on the CFA website until 19:40.

EWAN WALLER: I can't comment. That may be correct. I would need further work to analyse that.

JACK RUSH: On the face of it, it would demonstrate a delay of some 30 minutes in relation to the
urgent threat message to those communities.

PETER CAVE: Ewan Waller there.

What other issues have been raised during the hearing this morning?

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Well, aside from warnings Peter, the issue of personnel has also been touched on
today. Ewan Waller who we just heard from explained the incident, the role of the incident
controller and they are graded from levels one, two to three.

For a very serious fire, they need to have a level three incident controller in place and he
described how at that very serious Kilmore East fire, that as we know swept through Kinglake, they
were having to divert incident controllers very quickly and it took them a while to get a level
three incident controller who is able to cope with that large complex fire onto the scene quickly.

And he was asked if they have a shortage of incident controllers of that level and he didn't say
they have a shortage, he said they have a reasonable state coverage but they certainly would like
more highly qualified incident controllers.

So that issue of personnel I think is something we are going to hear more about in the coming

PETER CAVE: Samantha Donovan live on the line there.