Bushfire dugouts.

In addition to building dams and water points, the Stretton Royal Commission recommended expanding the use of bushfire dugouts.

Well-constructed dugouts had saved the lives of many sawmill workers and their families during the 1939 bushfires. But in some locations, they had proved fatal.

Dugouts became mandatory for those few sawmills that remained in the forest after the 1939 fires. Many remote logging coupes and FCV roading camps also had dugouts.

The local District Forester was required to make annual pre-season inspections of all dugouts on State forests and those within the Fire Protected Area (FPA).

Some were built privately on private land.

Most were primitive construction with a log or corrugated iron roof covered with earth. A hessian bag often hung at the entrance to keep the heat and smoke out. But they were dark and damp with snakes and other creepy crawlies often lurking inside.

By 1940-41 there were 19 new dugouts constructed by the Commission and a further 128 by forest licensees. Ten years later there were 8 new Commission dugouts and 21 new ones built by other interests. By 1960-61 the rate of new builds was declining but the Commission still managed 103 dugouts while 127 were looked after by others. 

However, as the forest road network improved and gave all-weather access to modern two-wheel-drive vehicles the reliance on dugouts receded.

In 1970 the Commission built a reinforced precast concrete dugout near Powelltown to house 30 people. But the number of dugouts maintained by the Commission had fallen to 61 with another 73 by others.

By the time of the 1982-83 bushfires there were 32 Commission dugouts and 18 others.

There are even still a few remaining in the bush.

The use of dugouts came into focus again after the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires.

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