THE Mount Wilson-Mount Irvine Rural Fire Brigade has welcomed news that a bureaucratic nightmare preventing an upgrade to a track for emergency services vehicles could be resolved.
The federal government will give Hawkesbury Council $100,000 to assess how much money is needed to be spent to upgrade a closed track in the Mount Wilson and Mount Irvine area to the point that emergency services vehicles can use it.
The track, which is off Bells Line of Road near Bilpin, had closed in the mid-1990s because of a lack of maintenance. If open, it would significantly reduce the time required for emergency vehicles to access the Mount Wilson-Mount Irvine area.
Mount Wilson-Mount Irvine Rural Fire Brigade executive member Elizabeth Montano said the brigade wanted the track to be restored to fire trail status, so that emergency vehicles could use it.
She said it had been difficult to find a solution to the problem because the road covered both the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains local government areas and state seats.
“I've been running this for a long time and it is hard to get traction across local government areas,” she said.
“Emergencies don't respect local government boundaries.
“We are so close geographically and yet we are in two separate local government areas and two separate RFS districts.”
The Mount Wilson and Mount Irvine is isolated, with only one road in and out of the area currently. Montano said it meant it was difficult for emergency services vehicles to access it from Bells Line of Road.
“It is much further from Richmond and the emergency services and it is a very vulnerable ridgeline road,” she said.
She said the brigade was not asking for the track to be upgraded enough for public access, because she knew it would be a costly exercise.
She said they simply wanted to be able to attend emergencies faster through the use of a fire trail, which would be unsuitable for most road vehicles anyway.
“We have a really active fire brigade. We help out with rescues, and motor vehicle accidents along bells line of road, as well as the fires obviously,” she said.
“We're not after four lane highways, we're just after a route to fire trail standard which can be used.
“It used to be there and it was viable until the mid-1990s. It is fixable.”
The federal grant money will not be used to upgrade the road, but rather fund an investigation by Council to see how much it would cost to upgrade it to fire trail standard and then maintain it.
“We have vulnerable and isolated communities, and we have over 60,000 people over the course of the year visit the region,” she said.
“We have lost canyoners, lost bushwalkers, lost scout groups and our brigade acts as the state emergency services assisting NSW Police Rescue in those times.
“We've had fires, wind storms, snow storms where that other road being available would have been helpful.
“You can't rely on helicopters. There aren't many of them and there many circumstances when they can't fly. They can't lift fire trucks and they can't evacuate injured or ill people in adverse weather.”