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Fire Scientist Gives The Green Light to Falls Festival

Written by Toby Smith on October 27, 2009

Australia’s leading fire scientist has confirmed that “the environment around the Falls Festival site is highly unlikely to be dry enough by the time of this year’s event to enable a bushfire”. Dr Kevin Tolhurst visited the site last Saturday and confirmed that “the festival site is located in a wet rainforest environment that would typically be too wet to burn when the festival is held each December”.

Tolhurst advised a group including Country Fire Authority, Surf Coast Shire, Event Fire Services Australia and event organisers that “the condition of the environment and the level of bushfire risk can be measured. Given the timing and location of the festival, the chance each year of a dry environment for a Falls Festival is remote and that case would take time to develop and be very apparent well before the festival took place”.

Gerry Verdoorn, CFA Operations Manager for the region said “The Falls Music and Arts Festival is an exceptionally well organised and accomplished event. The organisers work closely with CFA and other emergency service providers resulting in the development of excellent event management plans and practices. Dr Kevin Tolhurst’s findings confirm what we have always known about the low and manageable fire risk associated with the festival. Because of the extensive work put into place by the event team, CFA and other agencies, patrons should feel safe knowing that the strict approvals required are easily met by the festival organisers.”

Festival organiser Simon Daly confirmed that “in the 16 year history of the event, the environment surrounding the site has never been dry during the event”.

The Otway region refers to some 150,000 hectares throughout which the rainfall, environment and wildfire risk varies significantly. The festival site is located within a very high rainfall part of the Otway Ranges which dramatically reduces the wildfire risk in comparison to other parts of the Otways and Victoria. The year to date rainfall (as at Oct 9, 2009) in the area where the festival is held is 1114mm. In comparison, Aireys Inlet (also in the Otways) is 496.3, Melbourne is 279.2, Geelong is 266.8, Kilmore is 369.6. Despite drought conditions affecting much of Australia during the past decade, annual rainfall at the festival site hasn’t dropped below 1000mm.

Risk management and emergency planning have always been an integral part of staging The Falls Music and Arts Festival, ensuring festival organisers and local authorities are well positioned to respond to the wildfire issues associated with events. Rigorous guidelines developed jointly by the Country Fire Authority and Department of Sustainability and Environment to assess wildfire risk associated with community events and to trigger risk treatments to ensure public safety is not compromised are already in place in the region. The guidelines have already been successfully applied to The Falls Music and Arts Festival in previous years. Sound planning and preparation; the event’s wildfire response capacity; and the location and timing of the event enable the festival to meet these rigorous guidelines and be safely staged each year.

The festival is well resourced with a private professional fire fighting capacity of equipment and personnel permanently onsite during the festival. The festival also has an Incident Control Centre that is in communication with all relevant networks; trained emergency wardens; emergency procedures; a safe assembly area and an ample supply of water.

A new initiative to reduce traffic congestion on December 29th caused by the majority of festival patrons arriving together during peak holiday traffic conditions has recently been announced. To encourage a staggered arrival of patrons, the festival has just added a Funk ‘n’ Soul Revue for December 28th featuring the best Australian artists alongside international icons such as Marva Whitney & The Transatlantics (USA) aka James Brown’s #1 soul-sister. Whilst 16,000 people will attend the festival, organisers have set capacity limits on December 28th and 29th.

The Falls Music and Arts Festival runs December 28-Jan 1 in Lorne Victoria and Marion Bay, Tasmania (Dec 29-Jan 1). Tickets to both festivals are sold out but Dec 28th tickets are on sale to those already holding full festival tickets via www.fallsfestival.com.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs (USA)
Moby(USA)
Grizzly Bear (USA – First Ever Australian Shows)
Chairlift (USA – First Ever Australian Shows)
Hilltop Hoods;
The Temper Trap
King Khan & The Shrines (Germany – First Ever Australian Shows)
Wolfmother
Patrick Watson (Canada – First Ever Australian Shows);
Bertie Blackman
Rodrigo y Gabriela (Mexico)
Emiliana Torrini (Iceland)
Andrew Bird (USA)
Jamie T (UK)
Lyrics Born (USA)
Little Red
Editors(UK)
Dappled Cities
Future Of The Left (Wales)
Kaki King (USA)
Liam Finn (NZ)
Yves Klein Blue
Major Lazor (Soundsystem) (USA)
Seasick Steve (USA)
The View (Scotland)
The Inspector Cluzo (France)
Datarock (Norway)
White Rabbits (USA – First Ever Australian Shows)
Amanda Blank (USA);
Xavier Rudd
Midnight Juggernauts
Little Birdy
Philadelphia Grand Jury
Sarah Blasko
Art Vs. Science
DJ Yoda (UK)
Lisa Mitchell
Urthboy;
KillaQueenz
The John Steel Singers
Washington
Miami Horror
Wagons
Oh Mercy
Jordie Lane
Kid Sam
The Beards.
The Falls Funk’n’Soul Revue on Dec 28 featuring Marva Whitney (USA) & The Transatlantics, The Bamboos, Deep Street Soul, Anna’s Go Go Academy, DJ Kano, DJ Emma Peel, DJ Mohair Slim and comedians Tom Ballard, Xavier Michelidis, Arj Barker (USA) and Steve Hughes.

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