Community preparedness and responses to the 2018 Reedy Swamp (Tathra) bushfire
On Sunday 18 March 2018 a bushfire impacted on the communities of Reedy Swamp and Tathra in the Bega Valley Shire on the NSW south coast. The fire, known as the Reedy Swamp Fire, destroyed 65 and damaged 48 homes. 35 caravans and cabins were also destroyed. The fire displaced approximately 700 residents on the day, as well as tourists and visitors to Tathra. Fortunately, no human lives were lost. The NSW Rural Fire Service commissioned the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC to undertake research into issues of community preparedness and responses to the fires. The research involved 87 interviews with 120 people affected by the Reedy Swamp fire. Key findings from the research include that many residents were not aware of the risk to Tathra and that much of the preparatory activity that occurred was undertaken once the fire was threatening. In the absence of adequate emergency information, many people sought information about the fire through direct observation of smoke, flames and the activities of neighbours and emergency services. There was also considerable uncertainty about whether, when and where to evacuate to. Additionally, the research identified issues of concern for residents in the aftermath of the fire, many of which were associated with processes of learning about fire damage and returning home. This paper presents key findings from this research and considers the implications for bushfire safety policy.