Image for Fighting Tasmanian Fire Service website incompetence is harder than fighting the fires ...

THURSDAY February 25 ...

Mercury: Tasmania’s fire chief furious at critics ...

For those who came in late: Ivo Edwards (armchair critic) said in comment 16:

“Re #12.  That is great that you concede that the TFS website needs improving.  Can we fix it straight away then please, along the lines that I suggested, and incorporating Mr Robin Charles Halton’s ideas? (#11) We can then start working on the improved fire detection and early intervention issues.  No one is saying that will be easy.  People are saying though, that we seem to need some serious money spent on better resourcing bush fire control”

Robin Charles Halton (former section leader on campaign wildfires) replied in comment 17:

“Ivo, I spoke with a senior TFS Officer in person at their Hobart HQ yesterday.

According to the officer TFS are not intending to change the present system of reporting fires to the public as they use free Google mapping and are not prepared to use more sophisticated forms of mapping (licenced!) which adds to costs associated with TFS budget.

Using some of my 1;25,000 maps I demonstrated the need for better detail on their fire site, road naming and topographical features, especially on larger fires on which the maps are vague on location of boundaries and fire coverage which is blurred out in grey colour.

The officer argued the fire reporting system is kept simple and felt that too much information is not necessary!

I suggested public input before next fire season to continue to improve the fire site, the officer said if there are concerns form the public they should write to the TFS!

Ivo if in fact the public would like to see better fire reporting via maps and up to date info then it would require letters in the newspapers and pushing the important issues with both political parties especially the government, failing that letters to the CEO’s of SFMC, FT, SES and PWS.

Currently there is no intention to alter the current system.

Ivo, what do you think! “

Here is what I think:

#17. Thanks so much for that information Robin.  That is staggeringly arrogant of them!  It is not as though it would be a major task to scan in information from an available detailed map, available for just a few dollars.

It is also not just the map details that are hopeless about the site.  There are issues galore such as lack of information about active fire spots on their grey burnt areas, and such as no timely change in the grey areas depicting where the fire has burnt. Description of number and type of fire fighters present at each fire, each day, is lacking, there is no information of exactly what they are doing, and just rudimentary information about some of the control vehicles used.  Nothing about bulldozers being used, no information about specific large or small capacity water bombing aircraft deployed, nothing about weather conditions at the fires, and no information whatsoever about the varying status of “active”,  “going” and “on patrol”  fires apart from their listing on their map.  Another issue is the general lack of information about the state of play of fire-fighting in the State.  In fact “The Mercury” and the ABC are streets more useful for obtaining information than the TFS site.

We then have people like Stu berating us so-called armchair critics for being “completely ignorant”.  Well Stu, if we were provided with detailed information on the website, we wouldn’t be ignorant!  We would know exactly how long it took to spot each fire, how long to start fighting it, exactly how the logistics of the attempted extinguishment preceded and which equipment worked usefully and which didn’t.

Move over TFS, your site is beyond terrible and you are blocking the future. You provide no confidence that we can trust you to competently fight fires if you can’t even run a decent website!  I will do you a deal – next year let me run the website for you.  I will do it for free for the fire season. 

All you have to do is provide me with all the information about the fires as I request it, and what you are doing at each fire each day?  You will though, have to be totally up front with honesty and frank with assessments. 

The site will be the envy of the fire-fighting world, with very detailed daily information, guest articles such as about usefulness of various water bombing aircraft and off road fire fighting equipment.  There will be a section for comments, just like Tasmanian Times, and proper discussion of what is working satisfactorily, and what needs improvement at any time. There will also be interviews with actual fire fighters doing the real work, discussing matters from their viewpoint.

As for writing to TFS with suggestions, I have tried that in my recent article and a couple of years ago, all to no avail.  I am sure you are right; it will take some real leverage from people in high places to change things significantly.

*Ivo Edwards   is an independent research scientist whose current area of interest is exploring interactions between the public and publicly funded government departments.  His focus is on mechanisms and thought processes adopted by the government departments to justify secrecy and thumbing of noses at the public, when they actually are financed by the same people they treat with distain.

ABC Science: Tassie fires linked to human-induced climate change, study finds

David Bowman, Professor, Environmental Change Biology, UTAS in The Conversation: Aboriginal fire management – part of the solution to destructive bushfires As destructive bushfires become more common there is increasing political discussion how we manage them sustainably. Inevitably these debates raise questions of the past ecological effects of Aboriginal fire usage. There are two well-known narratives about Aboriginal fire use. One, popularised by Tim Flannery, stresses the ecologically disruptive impact of Aboriginal fire use. This storyline argues that the megafauna extinctions that immediately followed human colonisation in the ice age resulted in a ramping up of fire activity. This then led to the spread of flammable vegetation which now fuels bushfires. Another, promoted by Bill Gammage, suggests that the biodiverse landscapes that were colonised by the British were the direct product of skilful and sustained fire usage. Such broad-brush accounts give the impression that the specific details of Aboriginal fire usage are well-known and can be generalised across the entire continent. Sadly this is not the case. So rapid was the socio-ecological disruption of southern Australia that researchers have had to rely on historical sources, such as colonial texts and images, and tree rings, pollen and charcoal in lake sediments, to piece together how Aboriginal people burned the land. Such records are open to interpretation and there remains vigorous debate about the degree to which Aboriginal people shaped landscapes. … However, there are key differences. Aboriginal people burn country by travelling on foot, meaning that they had much greater situational awareness of likely fire behaviour and impacts. Also, given they were present in the landscape 24/7, they could choose the timing and carefully influence the likely spread and ecological effects of fire. By contrast, most planned burning programs have much less flexibility. They are typically constrained to the working week, specific seasons and weather conditions, and often rely on starting fires from the air to get sufficient landscape coverage in remote areas. This style of fire management is a poor facsimile of Aboriginal fire. Fire agencies can only drop incendiaries under specific weather conditions in the middle of the day, when flying is safe. This results in bigger fires and consequently much coarser burn mosaics than was achieved by Aboriginal people burning their estates on foot. In principle, well-trained field crews traversing the landscape can carefully use fire to create very localised fuel reduction, using specific weather windows (such as foggy conditions) and times of day (such as the evening) to maximise the likelihood that that fires remain under control and do not damage fire-sensitive habitats. … Returning to, and managing, country has been shown to have measurable health benefits, an important consideration given the unacceptably poor state of Aboriginal health. …

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