CFA-designated safe-house failed on Black Saturday

12 April 2013
Bushfire trial witness Jenny Clark, who lost family, friends and pets in her CFA-designated safe-house during the Black Saturday Kinglake/Kilmore-East fire, has given evidence this week that the CFA had convinced her it was safer to stay, rather than leave during a fire.

Despite having previously had a fire plan that saw the family evacuate during dangerous times such as the 2006 fires, Ms Clark told the court that her house had been designated by the CFA as a safe-house in 2008 and that she and nearby friends were to gather there during a fire for safety.

Ms Clark told the court that despite the new plan, if she had have received adequate warnings about the ferocity of the Black Saturday fire, she would not have been happy to stay and defend, saying;

"Well, we would have liked to have had some warning and then we could have left early."

During the fire there were eight people at the Clark safe-house, including Jenny, her husband Mick, her son Danny, three grandchildren Mackenzie, Aidan and Neve, as well as neighbours Melanie and Penny Chambers.

The court heard Ms Clark re-live what she described as a "horrific" situation that unfolded at the house on Black Saturday, which resulted in only herself, Mick and Aidan surviving.

Ms Clark told the court:

"I didn't see the fire coming towards us. I just - the front door caught on fire and that was the first we knew, really."

"It was pretty horrific. It was… the front windows of the house exploded inwards and the curtains caught on fire, and then it ran across the floor and the carpets. My dog caught on fire, the smoke alarms were going, cat was screaming, yes."

Ms Clark described how she, Mick and Aidan tried to get to the others trapped inside the house, that she could see them and was yelling to them to "get out", to no avail.

"Then we ran around the back and tried to get through into the laundry, but the flames were just too big and ferocious and we just didn't - couldn't get there. Couldn't do it," she told the court.

Ms Clark suffered burns to 40 per cent of her body on the day. She is one of a group of around 10,000 people in a class action suing electricity company SP Ausnet for damages over what occurred on Black Saturday.