WALKERS are blatantly ignoring warnings not to walk Dandenong Ranges' popular 1000 Steps trail on days of high-fire risk — and emergency authorities say they've had enough.
The entrance to the Kokoda Memorial Track car park has been shut twice in the past fortnight because of total fire ban days, but walkers are defying the closures and parking along the Mt Dandenong Tourist Road to access the trail.
Parks Victoria Dandenong Ranges' acting-ranger-in-charge, Michelle Doherty, said the park's closure depended on fire danger, wind speed and availability of staff for potential emergency evacuations.
Acting Sergeant Warren Lechner, of the Rowville police — one of the stations that has been called in to monitor the area — said walkers were putting their lives at risk. "On a high-fire-danger day, if you're caught at the top of a hill and a fire starts at the bottom, it's going to go straight up that hill," Acting Sergeant Lechner said.
Many of the walkers the Weekly spoke to last week said they did not feel in danger. One user, who didn't want to be named, said she exercised there regularly and felt safe because of emergency markers that lined the track.
Authorities say having hundreds of cars parked along the tourist road could restrict access for emergency vehicles.
The CFA's eastern metropolitan community safety manager, Tammy Garrett, said she and other CFA members were shocked by the attitudes of trail users. "Many of them just said 'it's our life'. They don't realise if something happens during their climb, they're putting the lives of volunteers and emergency services workers at risk," Ms Garrett said.
"It now has to be a targeted approach to make ourselves a visual presence and have one-on-one chats. Just two minutes of their time can make an impact."
Ms Garrett said it also made it difficult for volunteers to estimate how many people were in the park if a fire broke out.
Sergeant Herdman, of Olinda police, said officers were frequently booking people for parking illegally along the road. Warnings about potential hazards are also distributed.
Information about park closures is available at parks.vic.gov.au or 13 19 63.