Image for Burning off: This risky situation is completely unacceptable ...

Ted Mead ...


FRIDAY, October 9 ...

This is an interesting and complex issue. Of course fire has the strong potential to take life and destroy property.

The lax regulation situation regarding fire lighting in Tasmania is completely in contrast to the accepted need for everyone who drives a car to be qualified and licensed. To be trained. In our society we all accept the need to be trained and licensed to drive a car.

But anyone can light a fire and consequently cause massive property loss, pain and even death.  Right now and unacceptably we continue to be in a No Permit Period where, ridiculously. anyone can light a fire.

When it comes to fuel reduction burns anyone is allowed to do it, but a significant percentage escape and that risky situation is completely unacceptable.

(TFS, ABC HERE ) “Mr Freeman ... said the fires in the past few days had confirmed the bushfire season had well and truly started.”

But even so anyone can light a fire in the bushfire season at the moment.

And in another statement from (TFS) Freeman again:  “The reports I’m getting is that fire in the bush is running as if it was summer.”

This is contrary to Petrusma’s claim or is it her second coming. The TFS thinks it is summer type fire conditions but Petrusma on the 7-10-2015 was still claiming: “meaning that Tasmania is better prepared than ever for the coming bushfire season.” (My emphasis) ( Read Jacquie Petrusma’s MR HERE )

Petrusma thinks the season is still “coming”. Why is Petrusma in this job? It is clearly bush week!

Regarding Comment Post #5 firebreaks, exposure of mineral soil virtually requires earthmoving machinery for any sort of rural property scale. It is not regarded as land clearance. It is a solution in some circumstances, as is slashing. There is a range of options in fact.

Many (almost all I would suggest) forestry plantations do not maintain their firebreaks and now are also not reducing fuels on their holdings. An unacceptably risky situation.

Nor is it satisfactory the public pay for fuel reduction on public land to protect plantation sites, which are in many cases covered in untreated rough dead slash.

Comment Post #6’s (Warriner) points are not a reason for avoiding sensible initiatives to improve the situation and making things safer and more reliable. They are nonetheless interesting issues, which Mr Warriner raises. They need to be addressed. The system does need to be overhauled, contrary to the claims of the TFS.

After Dunalley there was an inquiry, The 2013 Tasmanian Bushfires Inquiry. Regarding the Permit System there was a recommendation as well as some criticism. It stated:

“Recommendation 91 – that Tasmania Fire Service conducts a review of the fire permit system in the Fire Service Act 1979, and implements change to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the system by:
• considering whether it is appropriate to authorise persons or organisations to conduct fuel reduction burning during a permit period
• providing a better match between the period, area and fire risk
• maintaining a timely and efficient process for issuing permits
• naming the period in a way that draws attention to bushfire risk
• establishing a reporting and accountability process.”

In 2015 the issues raised by Recommendation 91, listed above would seem outstanding. Why?

The 2013 Tasmanian Bushfires Inquiry also stated:

“An effective risk management strategy for bushfires is to deter intentional, reckless or negligent behaviour that causes bushfires (or increases the risk of those fires) by prohibiting or regulating this behaviour with suitable legislative sanctions.

The Inquiry was not able to examine this matter, but was advised that the current approach was ineffective as the current laws were not rigorously enforced.

To provide some scope for consideration of whether this area warranted further attention, the Inquiry obtained data from the TFS Australian Incident Reporting System on the cause of fires between 1 July 1998 and 13 March 2013. A preliminary analysis indicated there were 31128 vegetation fire incidents reported, and within this data:

• 11 258 fires were deliberate
• 6 105 were accidental–misuse
• 8 393 were undetermined.

The number of deliberately-lit fires appears to be substantial. However, it is likely that many of these were not fully investigated and the true cause identified or at least classified as suspicious. It is expected that this category would include arson as well as regulatory breaches such as lighting a fire without a permit.”

Just the statistics above give cause for considerable concern. The statistics in themselves are unsatisfactory and the high numbers of accidental bushfires indicates a better system and more training are obviously required – NOW.

Go here: to see the quite long list of current bushfires today. That is the ones which are listed.

Worse it has been identified in the Bushfires Inquiry:

“During a permit period, a permit is required for any fire greater than one cubic metre in size. Anecdotal advice to the Inquiry suggests that if a brigade attends a fire where a permit should have been obtained, then one is sometimes issued retrospectively rather than to prosecute a person in breach.”

So it seems anyone can light up one cubic metre of tender dry vegetation at almost any time of the year without a Permit.

It is fairly clear the whole system requires reform and even Warriner’s points (not withstanding his position) point to the need for reform. People who incompetently light fires which escape must be held responsible for the losses and harm.

Andrew Ricketts, Reedy Marsh, is Convenor of the The Environment Association (TEA) Inc.


Fire Permit Review Needed Now

• Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Emergency Management spokesperson:

Changing climatic conditions mean that the No Permit period for burn-offs in Tasmania needs to be reviewed now.

No permit was needed for private property owners to burn off vegetation last Friday, but the following day was a total fire ban in the southern district.

We know that the majority of bushfires around the state in the past few days came from fuel reduction burns in the previous weeks.

Our fire fighters do an incredible job protecting our lives and property. They should have as much information as possible about where fires have been, and will be, lit as well as control over their management.

The bushfire season has come 6-8 weeks earlier than usual. It used to be rare to have extreme fire warnings in early October but, unfortunately, climate change means we have to prepare for these conditions as the new norm.

The government set a fuel reduction burn target of 27,000 hectares in 2014-15.

• Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens Leader and Climate Change spokesperson:

It has now been confirmed that yesterday was the hottest Spring day since the keeping of records began.

Global warming is happening now.  It is a fact of life that all Tasmanian policy makers must have at the front of mind.

The climate science, and now our own lived experience as a community, tells us the bushfire season is starting earlier than it has historically.  We need to respond to this by ensuring the fuel reduction program is scientific, strategic and acutely attuned to a changing climate.

Jacquie Petrusma: Greens’ claims part of thinly veiled opposition to fuel reduction burns

• phil Parsons in Comments: The TFS needs to get real instead of following Gutwein’s attack on Greens cue they should base their permit system on some common sense. No permits for landholders fire reduction burns this time should be a signal lesson in how not to manage. If you don’t know who is lighting up or has lit up then how do you relate that to the forecast, fuel load and the available resources. 3 States and Territories have fucked up just this week and one is Tasmania. Time for permits all year round so the Fire Service know what’s going on on the ground.

ABC: Tasmania’s Chief Fire Officer rejects call for overhaul of fuel-reduction permits after early season bushfires … “The only way we can stop fires coming out of fuel reduction burning is not do fuel reduction burning but the consequences of not doing that is far outweighed by uncontrolled bushfire in the summer through an untreated landscape.” …

Bryan Green: Tasmania Fire Service inquiry is crucial

Jacquie Petrusma: Union dangerous and false scaremongering on bushfire safety

ABC: Record Spring temperatures point to ‘difficult’ fire season for Tasmania, forecaster warns … “Mr Freeman praised the fire fighting efforts. He said the fires in the past few days had confirmed the bushfire season had well and truly started …”

• Chris Harries in Comments: The TFS has got a logistical problem in that the actual ‘bushfire season’ is getting longer, starting earlier in the year and running well into Autumn. This the period when they are having to devote their limited resources and personnel to fighting fires. When you have limited resources its difficult to do both, fighting fires and lighting fires. The windows-of-opportunity for doing successful fuel reduction burns are getting hard to find. The main problem time of year for TFS is Autumn, the most opportune time of year normally to do fuel reduction burning – after the heat, when there’s till enough dryness, and before Winter sets in. That window has been shrinking over time and with climate change the burning off window is becoming harder and harder to manage. Some years it almost vanishes. There’s no good time to do it. Meanwhile it’s sort of good that this issue has come up this year (in a number of Australian states simultaneously) without any major calamity happening as a result. It’s good because there’s often an oversimplified political push to ‘burn the bush so it won’t burn catastrophically’. Sounds ok in theory but in practice it’s not quite so simple. Fuel reduction burning is a sensible strategy if properly done and where appropriate. But doing it properly actually requires a lot of well coordinated planning. Several government and local government agencies have to work together and pool their resources and affected landowners have to be engaged. It’s a tool that has to be used judiciously. It’s not simple, like lighting a match on a nice calm day. If the body politic can understand that, then we’ve at least learned something.

• phil Parsons in Comments: As Harries points out, and all the evidence shows, the climate is changing and including more extremes. The cost of fires [fighting and damage] will rise. His point about a disaster masking the real solution is important. If fire is to be politicized like climate then we will find ourselves in an irresoluble pickle delaying the necessary changes. Fire will be an agent in changing the landscape [plants and thus animals] and the climate as the Carbon sinking capacity of the landscape falls. The last thing needed are Fire Chiefs whose thinking is narrowly constrained until we find out too late that better management is essential in avoiding theses extended fire season costs and damage. The politicians need to fund better manaegment of the fire element in the landscape not sink the $29M they have into burning off to protect the plantations.

• Andrew Ricketts in Comments: … Large scale fuel reduction burns these days cover thousands of hectares of vegetation and are invariably lit with an aerial bombardment of incendries. Hardly mimicking natural processes. The notion of terming nature’s soil based carbon, the humus layer, together with the understorey “fuel” is an intriguing perspective which almost always denies the important life supporting functions those aspects provide to all species, including humans. I disagree that fuel reduction burning is a strategy. Rather it is a tool. It has wrongly become the defacto tool in the absence of a genuine strategy for Tasmania …