Tasmanian Times


Zero tolerance of fires in Australia: a new paradigm for want of new technology and tactics?

*Pic: Isla MacGregor’s superb picture from the top of Kunanyi (Mt Wellington) … view to Western fires area tonight (Friday January 22, 2016).

Enough is enough.

This summer (2015/16), we’ve already had several very large – some even deadly – fires in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. Numerous fires have also been burning in New South Wales. But it was a monster of new proportions which tore through the little township of Yarloop in Western Australia – the second catastrophic fire in that state in the one season (so far) – that really made me sit up and take notice.

And now there are the many tens of fires burning simultaneously across Tasmania as well. What a shocking and terrible sight.

No more. We must no longer accept these annual wildfire events as a fait accompli; or as if part of some romantic view of Australia in a Dorothea Mackellar poem. We have to tap into our critical thinking; take a step back from the emotional responses and blame-gaming; identify where we’re failing and find the solutions.

Examine the root cause of large, mature wildfires. Identify the point at which we can have the most powerful influence and control. We cannot control the fire-weather – the fire’s principle engine, amplifier and driver; or the dryness of the fuel; or any ignition source which sparks a fire. But we can control an immature, budding fire.

We also know that controllability of fire decreases with time-since-ignition whilst, conversely, effort, resources, costs, damage and risk increase. Regardless of the fuel load, weather conditions or how the fire started, if we could detect a fire in its early, incipient stage and respond rapidly with potent force, then it could be extinguished and we’ve therefore prevented a wildfire from developing. After all, a wildfire is essentially the product of an early-stage fire that has not been extinguished.

‘Zero tolerance’ for any unplanned fires makes sense. To accomplish it, we just need to detect and effectively treat all fires within this narrow window of opportunity. This is critical for wildfire prevention.

So how come we allow so many small fires to become big ones?

One major reason is a technical one which remains an unresolved problem. (There are other possible and relatively easily resolved management reasons as well, which I’ll get to later).

Wildfire prevention can only be attained via both early fire detection and rapid potent response. We already have the necessary resources for the latter (if used to their best advantage). However, there is a lack of technology that can accurately and reliably detect and locate all new, small and weak fires in the landscape. This leaves a risky and glaring management gap in our ability to prevent the development of wildfires, and it represents the key Achilles heel of the zero tolerance approach to wildfires.

This gap has the potential to cost lives.

Currently our ability to detect wildfires is partially based upon American satellite technology. The Australian system is the ‘Sentinel Hotspots’ mapping system using data from multiple satellite sources. The Hotspots mapping system is used by fire and emergency services across Australia. But the technology is not up to the task. The data is mostly only useful for a much broader overview of fire patterns in the landscape, and is not accurate enough to be relied upon for the time-critical detection and location of individual small fires. In other words, Hotspots is not a dependable ‘early warning’ system to prevent wildfires. The system has many known limitations such as:

• False positives (no underlying cause)and false negatives are possible

• Hotspots may indicate other phenomena e.g. black soil, gas fires, industry, hot rocks, jet contrails

• The location of the Hotspot on any map is only accurate to at best 1.5 km.

• Not all fires will be detected as Hotspots e.g. factors such as smoke, cloud, distance, topography, fire is too small or too cool. (Geoscience Australia 2015).

This leaves a risky and glaring gap in our ability to prevent wildfires. The fact that the national Sentinel Hotspots mapping system is unable to detect small or cool fires means that authorities are not able to automatically and rapidly respond to these new and controllable fires, and that there is a risk that they can develop into uncontrollable wildfires.

Is our reliance upon this satellite-based technology making us complacent and we think we’ve already got this aspect of wildfire prevention covered?

We need to wake up. We must urgently rise to the technological challenge and fulfil this critical need in our wildfire prevention defences. Without a fully-functioning early fire detection system, we cannot always deliver the most effective initial attack i.e. within the pivotal and time-critical early stage of fire development.

Thus, we urgently need:

• A national 24-hour, accurate, reliable, continuous, automated, high spatial resolution technology that can detect and precisely locate small, weak fires in various landscapes (i.e. vegetation and topographies) under various atmospheric conditions (e.g. cloud and smoke).

• Real-time data analysis at 1-2 minute intervals.

So what are the possible management reasons why so many small fires become wildfires?

Without being familiar with the policies and operational systems in each state and territory, it is impossible to be specific here. However, in general, there appears to be a pattern which probably stems from common causes. They likely are one or more of the following:

The emergency prioritisation hierarchy applied to each fire incident

This determines the urgency and type of response; some fires are deemed low priority (i.e. remote with no imminent danger to life, property etc) with a possibly delayed or muted response. Note that it is appropriate that the preservation of life is paramount and is the first consideration in the decision-making hierarchy to form the appropriate emergency response to fire. This highest strategic control priority is not in question here. If life is in imminent danger, then absolutely we should immediately respond with any requisite resources – even if that necessitates the diversion of ‘stretched’ resources from other fires to match the priority of the task.

However, I suspect that the priority hierarchy also determines that a new fire in a more remote area is sometimes treated with less seriousness, and consequently, with less urgency and/or resources.

But any fire has the potential to become a wildfire – we’ve no way of telling beforehand – and there is no way of knowing where that wildfire will end up. It could become one like in the suburbs of Canberra in 2003; it too started in a remote and mountainous area and burned for many days, but ended with four deaths, over 490 injured, over 200 houses destroyed, hundreds more houses damaged, the destruction of Mt Stromlo Observatory, and almost 70% of the Australian Capital Territory’s land mass (rural and natural environments) severely damaged (Wikipedia).

The policy and operating procedures for use of aircraft and other task-specific resources

Aircraft don’t appear to be regarded by fire management as resources for first response. Instead, they are routinely used for fighting futile battles against uncontrollable wildfires or for strategic asset protection.

Yet aircraft are at their most efficient and effective when used for initial attack upon small incipient fires (i.e. <10ha and <800m perimeter) (EMV 2015). They can attend on-scene very rapidly – which is especially advantageous in remote or inaccessible areas; their prompt attendance and large first response ensures that the fire is curtailed whilst still undeveloped and weak; and they can swiftly return for multiple treatments or quickly deploy elsewhere when there are multiple fires.

Even though first response to small fires might seem an expensive use of aircraft, the value gained is pre-emptive in that the fire is extinguished shortly after it first started. In other words, the fire can be nipped in the bud before it turns into a protracted, damaging, costly and resource-hungry wildfire.

If the fire is in an inaccessible area with closed-canopy tall forest such that aircraft water bombing would be ineffective, then rappelling crews (delivered by helicopter) should be deployed as first response.

Further, procedures for deployment of aircraft in Victoria, for example, requires additional processes/requests and therefore consequent time delays. This hampers their most effective use to attend small fires rapidly within the time-critical period of the incipient fire.

• Post-fire patrols and fire detection

Patrols after fires (planned and unplanned) are meant to ensure that there are no remaining hotspots. However, human visual observation for fire patrol has inherent limitations and it is unrealistic to expect that all potential ignition sources will be seen. Consequently, smouldering material can often go (and has gone) undetected and potentially lead to another fire developing, even several days later.

In remote areas or for multiple concurrent fire-ground suppression sites, aircraft with infrared capability must be used post-initial attack. In the more accessible areas, ground crews also using infrared cameras could conduct patrols, provided they can search the entire fire-ground rather than just the perimeter. Infrared technology must always be used as standard procedure for all post-fire (unplanned or planned) fire-ground patrolling.

Procedural ‘red tape’

Line-of-command etc within and between departments and authorities tend to create layers of procedural requests/permissions that may be convoluted and ‘bureaucratic’, and consequently time-consuming. Therefore, these procedural delays may cause time-critical operational delays in response to new fires. Delays of this kind must be addressed by stream-lining the system.

Siloed resources; requirement for a formal request for assistance with 24 hour delay

Each state and territory has its own resources. Federal government also helps to provide aircraft support. However, as has been demonstrated in Tasmania this year, some events are at such a scale that no one state could be expected to have the capability of responding to all fires at once. This can lead to some fires going unattended (or attended but under-resourced) and effectively allowed to develop into wildfires.

We should have a national pool or ‘co-op’ of resources where everyone responds to the emergencies in a fully co-ordinated manner without the need for formal (delaying) requests for help. Wildfires should be treated as national emergencies; and even federal resources e.g. defence forces, should be a possible part of the nationwide response.

Prescribed burning

State governments for many years have conducted annual fuel reduction burning across many hundreds of hectares on public land. Yet despite this age-old practice, we STILL have regular wildfires.

Analysis by Price et al. (2015) found that the majority of the 30 bioregions studied in south-eastern Australia gained no ‘leverage’ as a result of fuel reduction burning. (‘Leverage’, as defined by the authors, is “the reduction in unplanned area burnt resulting from recent previous area burnt”). Within some of these bioregions, there was even an opposite, counter-productive effect (the so-called ‘fire-follows-fire’ effect). Only four bioregions out of 30 gained leverage (and even then with some qualification). The authors concluded that in all bioregions the stronger predictor of unplanned fire was weather, not the area’s recent burn history.

Therefore, there should be a review looking at the efficacy of prescribed burning practices which are currently applied blindly across the entire landscape with no recognition of bioregional differences; and which, is also giving fire managers and the public alike a false sense of security about wildfire mitigation.

So, in closing, what does all of this mean?

I’m calling for a new paradigm for fire management; a zero tolerance approach to fire. The urgency for change is already apparent, judging by the number of long-running and damaging wildfires we’ve already experienced across southern Australia this fire season. But with climate change still developing and becoming more manifest into the future, the urgency is even more pressing.

These events this summer are too awful to accept passively as the ‘new normal’. We must recognise the need for a new paradigm and create a completely new set of tactics and technologies for early fire detection and wildfire prevention.

We are capable of preventing these wildfires in our landscape. We simply need to shift our focus and suppression efforts to where we can have the most influence and actual control – that is, at the very beginning of a new fire.

We must adopt this risk-averse ‘zero tolerance’ policy for any new fires that start during weather patterns favouring fire. We must rapidly pounce on these potential wildfires with enough force necessary for them to be completely extinguished. We must not squander this narrow window of opportunity whilst the fire is still new and easily overpowered.

This is our only chance to prevent a wildfire with as much certainty as is possible.

So what’s stopping us?


EMV 2015 EMC Guidance Note. Factors to consider when allocating firefighting aircraft to bushfires. Version 1, January 2015.

Geoscience Australia 2015 Sentinel Hotspots Product Description. Document V1.3, 28 August 2015.

Martell D.L. 2015 A review of recent forest and wildland fire management decision support systems research. Curr Forestry Rep (2015) 1:128–137. DOI 10.1007/s40725-015-0011-y

Price et al. 2015 Biogeographical variation in the potential effectiveness of prescribed fire in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Biogeography V42, 11, 2234-2245. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jbi.12579/full

Wikipedia. 2003 Canberra bushfires. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_Canberra_bushfires

*Lyndall Rowley has worked in the biodiversity ‘industry’ since graduating from uni as a mature-aged student in 1993. Disillusioned with lack of enlightened environmental progress (in a local, regional and global sense) – despite everyone’s hard work and good intentions – and coupled with the seeming freight-train that is climate change – all being effectively ignored by governments – I decided it was game over and quit. Then the Lancefield-Cobaw Ranges fire started late last year in Victoria. I observed as the calamity (what had begun from a previous prescribed burn) unfolded over many days into weeks. Without me realising, my passion for the environment had returned. My questioning of what I thought were farcical management actions has led me to delve deeper into the mysterious world of fire management in an attempt to find reasons why …

Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies in the School of Land and Food at UTAS, Mercury Opinion: Charred heritage the burning issue … It is easy to rapidly rebuild houses and bridges. It is impossible to rebuild the Huon pine and King Billy pine forests that make Tasmania so special and attract people from all over the world to admire their beauty. The East and West of Tasmania are different worlds, but in both areas our floral natural heritage is in danger. In the grasslands, heaths and dry forests of eastern Tasmania, a reduction in fire frequency has resulted in local losses of biodiversity, while protections against clearing and degradation of significant places for threatened vegetation types and plant species have been politically subverted. Forest and woodland dominated by black gum picks out the most fertile and moist ground in eastern and northern Tasmania, so only 4 per cent of its original area was uncleared in 1997, the time of the Regional Forest Agreement, which therefore “protected” it. Yet a casual perusal of the reports from the Forest Practices Board, which monitors forest clearance, reveals a continued substantial attrition of this vegetation type, all politically approved, if not encouraged, as in the case of the Meander Dam. The smoke screen of offsetting has been used with much of this clearance. …

• Isla MacGregor in Comments: I applaud Lyndall and Jamie for speaking out about this devastating problem of fires in our landscape and agree [i]enough is enough[/i] with prescribed burning.

• WATCH Wandering Foxbat’s aerial pictures of the fires, captured February 1: HERE

• Download Expert Papers …







• Simon Warriner in Comments: … Unfortunately the TFS play a major role in the SFMC and as can be demonstrated comprehensively, that organisation does not understand the mantra “a stitch in time saves nine”. A member of the government has sufficient details to institute a judicial inquiry into the conduct of the TFS management going back at least a decade, and while some of those responsible have retired, there are current officers who stood and watched and did nothing while bad things happened, and that calls into question their judgement and thus their suitability to be involved in such a critical role. It is clearly time for the government to differentiate between the TFS management and the firies on the ground, and hold the management to account for their actions. At present they use the rightful public appreciation of the actions of the troops as a shield against proper scrutiny. For our government to fail to properly scrutinize is to fail in a clear duty to the public good, and right now many in the public realm can see the problem very clearly and are getting more than a tad pissed off with the delay in addressing it. Clear enough? (I admit some culpability, in that I could have taken the facts to the media back in 2013 but elected to work through “proper” process because I was concerned that if the public knew what was going on in the TFS at that time the volunteer force would have been negatively impacted. That was a mistake and my family has paid a very high price for it. )









• Jack Jolly in Comments: #62 It seems to me that Lyndall Rowley has stayed on topic in this thread with commendable focus on positive discussion. Despite two unfortunate attacks on her very right to contribute to this topic she continued to engage rather than return fire in same. A rare bird on this site indeed. If one cares to read back the substance of the two most conspicuous attacks there may be a few take home lessons. These jump right out and smack you in the face if you have been sitting on the sidelines reading this thread like I have – and quite a few others by the look of my inbox. A review would be good. Gee, it might even be nice if people like Lyndall were included in the process.

Download (Comment 97, 98) …


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  1. Russell

    November 10, 2019 at 8:16 am

    I wonder what the result of a QLD, NSW State or Federal election held now would be?

    Seems like a lot of angry punters out there surrounded by bushfires, and it’s not even summer yet.

  2. Lyndall Rowley

    February 25, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Perhaps this new balloon technology can be adapted for use for early-stage fire detection using IR sensors; or perhaps even government could pay to ‘piggy-back’ on the existing Loon project network (if feasible)? These balloons operate at around 20 kilometres above the earth compared to average satellite geostationary orbits at around 35,786 kilometres – so perhaps (highly likely?) the much lower Loon balloon height will enable the detection of small and cool fires using IR? Even better would be to set the IR sensor to include the band widths (if possible/still applicable) described in Sun 2006. http://www.google.com/loon/faq/

    Meanwhile, however, I still think that in the interim we could do better than presently by using current technology. If an optimally-designed lightning detection network was established, we’d at least be able to accurately detect and locate ground strikes (and then validate for actual ignitions). Although there is the currently operating privately owned GPATS lightning detection system (from which BOM leases data), I have doubts regarding the adequate number of sensors & consequent inaccuracy beyond the more populated areas. A community lightning detection network (using also fire towers & other infrastructure such as TV/radio repeater towers etc for remote areas) would put the information freely in the public domain (website access), and hence create the potential for numerous free fire spotters throughout the landscape. (The use of small drones with IR sensor, camera & wifi would be handy to validate any actual ignitions). Community involvement in lightning detection might also have the added benefit of keeping the authorities on their toes, seeing lightning strike data is in real-time (down to one minute) and public knowledge.

  3. Lyndall Rowley

    February 25, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    #91, 93, 94, 95, 96 Steve and Simon: Obviously I advocate that the dynamic duo of BOTH early-stage fire detection and rapid potent first response is required to extinguish a fire before it turns into an uncontrollable wildfire. Suitable technology is lacking for the first; humans and their various faults and management flaws observed by Simon and evidenced by numerous bushfire inquiries is the more fraught and complex barrier to the latter.

    I’ll leave the human conundrum for others to battle with; it’s way beyond me…

    However, today I think I might have stumbled upon a couple of real (new) possibilities on the early-stage fire detection front.

    As we’ve read in the Sentinel Hotspots product description, and discussed in previous posts, the current (and even oncoming Himawari) satellite IR technology is not a suitable method to detect small and cool (feeble intensity) fires – the very ones we need to know about to enable definitive initial attack. BUT, I have stumbled upon some 2006 research which looked at the spectral characteristics of infrared radiation from forest fires. The author experimented with small circular fires (1 x 100m2 and 2 x 200 m2) and took various measurements at ground level as well as data from two satellites. Now here’s the surprising (drum-roll) essence of the work:

    “The measurements showed two emission peaks in middle infrared band that corresponded exceptionally to the combustion strength. One of the spikes at 4.17ȝm reflected the CO emission peak. The other peak spanned through the wavelengths of 4.34-4.76ȝm, which exhibited a much stronger response to the fire than the commonly used channel 3.5-4.0ȝm for fire monitoring in remote sensing. The results suggest that the wave band 4.34-4.76ȝm is probably more sensitive and more effective than the common-used channel for wild fire monitoring using satellite remote sensing techniques.” Whereas, in comparison “The current technique for fire monitoring by satellite remote sensing is based the data from middle infrared channel (3.5-4.0μm) and far infrared channel (10.5-12.5 μm) or from two split windows (10.3-11.3μm, 11.5-12.5μm)”. (Sun H 2006).

    So, it appears that apart from the remaining intrinsic limitations of satellite IR – e.g. cloud, smoke and dense closed canopy hampering detection – this experimental work indicates that a slightly different and more sensitive IR band width could enable small and weak fire detection!

    (Paper posted above)

    Regarding other methods of detection (other than for lightning) – that’s where I’ve been scratching my head until today. Previously, I had come across a radio-acoustic system which, in theory, could be useful but limited by line-of-sight; current electronic nose technology seems to be limited by proximity to fire (i.e. not applicable to broader landscape detection); or Wifi and so on… all show some promise but also many limitations. The only thing left, I thought, was regularly-launched balloon-mounted IR or even tethered aerostats to gain a more landscape-wide surveillance capability during the fire season.

    However, today I came across something experimental and still in development which may be more feasible and easily adapted – the ‘Loon’ balloon. The Loon balloon project is a network of high altitude balloons which are capable of internet service provision. “Project Loon began in June 2013 with an experimental pilot in New Zealand, where a small group of Project Loon pioneers tested Loon technology. … subsequent tests in New Zealand, California’s Central Valley and in Northeast Brazil, are being used to improve the technology in preparation for the next stages of the project.”

    cont …

  4. Steve

    February 24, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    #95; Simon, I fully understand the situation, however I do not accept the limitations that you are so happy to embrace.
    Apparently Google can now use face matching technology to target people from your house warming happy snaps. If that is possible, it is surely possible to detect an average patch of forest that is fractionally too warm for that vegetation, at that time of the day and for that climatic condition. Bingo; now focus precisely on that patch. Nothing happening, move on. All done in a fraction of a second.
    With regard to the response time, I’m not arguing with you, but as I said before, it’s a political question and I don’t believe it should interfere with trying to locate fires as fast and as effectively as possible.
    Given solid factual data as to the immediate time and location of an embryo wild fire, the political pressure for immediate and effective response would be irresistible.
    At the moment they hide behind obfuscations and generalities.

  5. Simon Warriner

    February 24, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Steve, I detailed the limitations of IR earlier in this thread. Basically each element of the detector array sees a corresponding area on the ground. The actual ground area is a finction of the lenses used and the distance. To see a small, cool fire the fire needs to alter the average temperature for that detector enough for it to stand out from its surrounding detectors. Add in obstructions like water vapor in its various forms, tree canopy etc and the limitations become obvious. Not saying we should not try, but be realistic.
    As for response, the problem is not physical, it is mental and it exists between the ears of those making decisions. That is why distractions are not helpful, because they allow those making unpleasant decisions to sidestep their responsibilities by arguing they are doing something else important.

  6. Steve

    February 24, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    #93; Simon, I always do my best to read everything carefully and I’m lucky if I see one movie a year but I’ll take your advice on board. You have me wondering what law of physics it is that places an absolute limitation on thermal imaging?
    It’s obvious that the current technology is limited in it’s ability to spot small fires but I wouldn’t call it wishful thinking to suggest that a serious research effort wouldn’t pay dividends.
    It may well be that satellites aren’t ideal, and better results could be achieved by scanners mounted on the old fire towers, or perhaps a combination of all methods. The point that I have been attempting to make for some time now is that, viewed in the context of the cost of large fires, research investment into early fire detection methods, has the potential for huge returns.
    Tasmania with it’s relatively small area and it’s large amounts of bush, would seem to be an ideal place to conduct such research. Certainly a better use of money than building a worse submarine!
    I do agree with you that the rapid response question needs addressing but I wouldn’t describe improving early detection as a dangerous distraction. There’s little research needed to work out the best ways of getting to a fire quickly. I would suggest that is more of a political than a technical question.

  7. Simon Warriner

    February 24, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    re 91, Steve, read carefully what I have written about the limitations of thermal imaging technology and disregard everything you have ever seen in movies. Physics imposes limits that cannot be ignored or subjected to wishful thinking. Yes better can be done by increasing scanning frequency and focus, but it comes at the price of mass coverage. Until a quantum leap in tech comes along we are stuck with what is there. I expect the IR tech to reduce in price but not in ability for the next little while. The achievable outcomes are to be had in improving the rapidity of response so that maximum effort is focused on the smallest area of fire possible. Why we are not yet doing that in every case is the question that needs all our focus. Once that is resolved then we can take the next step, but until we address the psychological, social, organisational and resource constraints that prevent maximum effort being used up front everything else is a dangerous distraction.

  8. Clive Stott

    February 24, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    After speaking with Geoscience Australia re their Sentinel Hotspots website http://sentinel.ga.gov.au/#/main I am told 10 minute Himawari satellite data will be available 30th June this year. It will be coarse data so will show big fires.

    It will be fully up to speed for the next fire season October to March 2016/17

  9. Steve

    February 14, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Many thanks for this thread Lyndall. It really needed someone to sit down and write a proper article and I am most grateful.
    Some of the comments above are ridiculous. It’s patently obvious that the current system is not working. I’d give some credence to those whose counter to innovation is evidence that the current arrangements are satisfactory, but who could claim perfection for Tasmanian fire control?
    Lambaste your comments as not originating from a professional in the field? Ummm, historically most important advances have come from amateurs? Professionals are really good at developing ideas presented to them but coming up with anything new is not their forte.
    On the technology front, I’m quite sure there’s huge potential for advances. My phone now susses out my finger prints every time I pick it up. It cost me $250! I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t be possible to set up a serious fire detection system, concentrated on our 91,000 sq km, that could detect every heat source and subject it to a filtering process based on location and previous history. The results passed on to a human operator with the power to dispatch immediate fire response.
    My feeling is that our small State, with extensive bush areas, would be the ideal place to perfect such techniques, which would then be very marketable IP. It only requires a bit of political will, and a whole lot less of “can’t be done”.

  10. Robin Charles Halton

    February 12, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    # 39 Jack Jolly, Did you manage to oversight FT’s effort with NVG’s in 2013, ref my #79.

    There is also a $20,000 portable Infra Red gizmo probe that some fire crews use but is limited by the time of the day to use effectively, requires a sufficient temperature differential, Ok early AM or late PM and within 3 meters of potential hot spots.

    Ground crews in my day 1960’s- 1970’s specialised with their natural senses, smell sight and touch, mid PM when daily the temperature reached its maxiumum was the best time for either sighting, sniffing about and digging out suspected hot spots and using the senses of feel with the back of the hand not the finger tips, limited water from a knapsack/ safety helmet or enamel mug waiting for that psst sound when water hit hot coals when an unseen hot spot was found.

    Very basic but an absolutely reliable method with the essential component of having boots on the ground, working back and fowards moving in from the fire perimeter which could be patrolled for days if required until the fire was declared as out.

    I’ll leave the advances in fire hot spotting technology to the scientific lobby and good luck with it too.

  11. Lyndall Rowley

    February 12, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Oh Jack #88. I can only but imagine how terrifying that time must have been for you. It must leave you scarred emotionally for life.

    Your life-threatening experience goes to illustrate the point I raised in my post #63 to William. That is, despite any individual differences of opinion or any history of bitter tensions between warring groups, we nevertheless all share an interest in the prevention of wildfires.

    Thank you for giving me that insight to your life. It reinforces my determination to push on for change.

  12. Jack Jolly

    February 12, 2016 at 1:48 am

    Thanks Lyndall (#86)

    It may well be the case that some group is doing some wonderful work keeping track of it all. I searched and could not find them though. That seemed a bit strange to me as published reviews are always a good indicator of an active area of research and technology.

    Maybe I am using the wrong search engines? Perhaps the CFA has an entire brigade of researchers who are all over this like a rash? I would not have a clue I am ashamed to say.

    It sounds like Simon W and your good self could possibly be a good team to write to one of the CFA, TasGov or CSIRO groups and find out who is the person overseeing advances in fire sensor technology? Simon seems to have a lot of practical experience.

    Your ideas also seem to make sense to me so long as there is a potential to quickly detect and respond to fires. So, in my very uninformed opinion it seems as though this is really a question of technical capacity.

    I’d hoped that your detractors would respond to your initial concept properly because like many people I have a serious amount of self interest invested in this. In 1983 came within a few minutes of being roasted alive in the Ash Wednesday fires in Victoria. I stood on a hill and watched a fireball running across the top of the forest canopy towards me. Then the wind changed. You can’t stop that sort of thing once it gets going. You can only nip it in the bud. Maybe.

  13. Simon Warriner

    February 11, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Lyndall, given some of the self inflicted injuries I have seen nursed back to financial health by crowd funding from gullible suckers lately (a certain organic cheesemaker springs to mind), I am fairly confident a comprehensive network could be set up with minimal effort. I offer my property as a location, and my services as a spotter.

    Jack’s comment about reviewing technology neatly brings us back to where I came into this thread. Unless the leadership problem is addressed first, there will be no fixing of the identified problems and all we will get is business as usual, which quite obviously is not good enough.

    Time for our elected representatives to step up to the plate and start using the information available to them to weed out the sociopaths and bullies who think they are beyond reproach.

  14. Lyndall Rowley

    February 11, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Dear Jack #85 – yes, it’s a bit of a shock to realise that our Australian Government is settled on the national Sentinel Hotspots mapping system, seemingly without the realisation that it isn’t suited to preventive fire management. After all, as you’re probably already aware, the Australian Government Geoscience Australia Sentinel Hotspots homepage says:

    “Sentinel is a national bushfire monitoring system that provides timely information about hotspots to emergency service managers across Australia. The mapping system allows users to identify fire locations with a potential risk to communities and property. “

    ‘Timely’ for emergency management? The proposed upgrade to 10-minute data refreshes slated for later this year is something at least. But the current 6-hourly data refresh intervals seem ludicrous to me given that this is the only system that emergency services have across Australia. Even 10 minute intervals isn’t good enough in this day and age.

    In addition, I wonder if fire managers and others are aware of the critical limitations of this technology? Or – as people are prone to do – do they take the mapping literally for their emergency management, trusting that the national Hotspots system is accurate and reflects reality? That’s potentially dangerous.

    You ask if someone is charged to review our needs and match with any new or emergency technology? Obviously not. Otherwise we would have seen moves to replace or complement Hotspots with other technologies.

    I’m with you on this. We have brilliant scientists in this country, and we have an urgent need. CSIRO and others in academia have proven they’re up to such problem-solving and innovation in the past; so I wonder if it’s just a case of them not being aware of the need? Perhaps the existing Hotspots system creates a ‘job’s done’complacency.

    Ideas anyone on how to progress this?

    Meanwhile, to plug some of the gaps, I’d like to pursue the idea of a community lightning network or hybrid as I’ve described in my post to Simon (#69). The advantages and opportunities afforded by a community network are many, including ‘ownership’; knowledge of ground strikes and their accurate location within your area; the ability to immediately respond and check for ignitions (i.e. lots of extra spotters throughout the landscape); shared landscape-wide data displayed on a website on a map base for both the public and fire authorities to access for free; peace of mind that you at least can keep an eye on local lightning activity & possible ignitions.

    I’d be interested to hear if anyone thinks a community lightning detection network might have enough interest amongst the Tasmanian community.

    Thanks Jack for the calm and clear mind you bring to this forum.

  15. Jack Jolly

    February 11, 2016 at 1:56 am

    After a good half hour on several search engines I can report that there is a metric crap load of research (100s of papers) being undertaken world-wide on fire detection sensors for terrestrial and satellite use.

    Interestingly, I found very little of it has come from Australian institutions. We don’t seem to rate in this sort of technology at all.

    Why not given the importance to us?

    I am in no position to offer advice concerning the merit or practicality of these approaches and have only one question. Is there someone in Australia charged with the responsibility to review the potential of these new approaches with the view to develop new sensors – or at least to ensure that Australia is on the cutting edge of adopting new fire detection technology?

    I might be wrong, but long wave IR (thermal) detection alone does not seem to offer the best potential for detecting small fires from a distance according to the physics involved.

    Over to the experts.

  16. Robin Charles Halton

    February 10, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    Lyndall thanks for your interest in fire fighting across the Australian landscape.

    Unfortunately you initially managed to dive bomb us with too many aspects of bush fire control in the one article.

    Probably #28,#38,#46 Mark Poynter comments from a professional forester who has worked in Victoria and Tasmania has simplified your article and brought it down to earth so to speak allowing everybody can construct their point of view.

    Information dive bombing does not work in Tasmania especially from some one like yourself who nobody has never heard of before, dont take it as an insult either, its simply the nature of our mob.

    I did some research and from the National Firefighting Fleet 2013 and noted that of the 22 AT802 F (or similar) Air Tractor fixed wing aircraft only one is a AT 802F FIREBOSS amphibious aircraft capable of landing on water and drawing water by scooping.

    The 2 Air Tractor 802’s that FT trialled with PWS at the Mussleroe Bay fire in 2013 prior to the Dunalley disaster were airstrip based as far as I can recall but only one was allocated for Tasmania.

    An interesting observation by Mike Adams #68 who actually saw the Canadair in action while in France.

    Re reading between the lines of your #74 i recognise your enthusiasm for the use of Canadair’s upgraded replacement the Bombardier 415 super water scooper that could be used in either coastal regions or where there are larger bodies of water and wide rivers to cover firefighting operations.

    I think that is a worthwhile point to consider these smaller and more versatile aircraft could be useful in these situations.

    After this fire season is over there is always hope the fire agencies and fire authorities in many of the State should consider an increasing more flexible but budget conscious distribution of a variety of fire fighting or easily adaptable aircraft available.

    I cannot see Tasmania being allocated a Skycrane or a dedicated DC10 water bomber our requirement appears to be for smaller aircraft that can be manageable under a variety of conditions at short notice.

  17. Simon Warriner

    February 10, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Lyndall, Ir radiation will be detectable if it is not attenuated or averaged out. The question is whether the satellite you are using is capable of resolving down to a small enough FOV to prevent averaging out a difference in temperature you are seeking to detect. So yes, basically you have understood it correctly. It is a function of distance, in part. And yes, in theory we could detect those small fires, but lightning dose not often occur in a clear sky, although Jan 4th 2013 was a rare exception, where the front was a very narrow ribbon of clould in an otherwise clear blue sky.

    Are satellites appropriate tools for small cool fires? Probable not.
    Are there other ir frequencies? Long wave and short wave, long wave would be the preferred from memory.

    I have used IR to detect issues down to 0.1 deg c difference and have a contact in Melbourne who uses it to detect mould in building envelopes, where the temp difference is of that order. It can see the tread of a person walking across a floor for a brief period of time if the imager is of sufficient resolution and sensitivity.

    I think timely deploying or airbourne imagers to areas of likely ingnition points is probably the most accurate system, guided by the lightning detection systems to have identified, or the other methods flagged by others.



  18. Lyndall Rowley

    February 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Dear Simon #77. Oh dear, I didn’t realise there were possible issues with internet speeds affecting access to information. (Yet another possible barrier to 21st century fire management in Tasmania, I wonder?).

    Meanwhile, I want to give feedback to make sure I understand you correctly about satellite IR. You provide details about fov and the relationship of pixel size and the ability to ‘see’ smaller objects. I think I understand this, as back in the early 1990s the older satellites which had 30m x 30m pixels were too course to accurately detect sparse woodland or single paddock trees, for example. Like you indicated, the points of vegetation would often be ‘averaged out’ to become effectively non-existent.

    So, pixel size does matter. Nevertheless, I had the impression that regardless of how small the fov/pixel size, the IR used from satellites is still hampered by atmospheric conditions (e.g. cloud; smoke; particular angle of sunlight bouncing off jet contrails; etc). Further, even if atmospheric conditions are favourable, satellite IR still can’t detect ‘small’ or ‘cool’ fires. So I assumed this was a product of the long distance with the intrinsic physics of the IR being used from satellites. I assumed distance was making the difference because IR used back here on earth can certainly pick up on small hotspots that aren’t obvious to the human eye, and can even detect temperatures which aren’t ‘felt’ by humans even within close proximity. (For example, when your internet speed recovers, check out the below; especially the 2nd video).

    However, my assumption about the role that distance plays in IR physics may be jumping to an incorrect conclusion? In other words, in theory, if we could have extremely narrow/minute fov/pixels in satellites, then we could detect these small fires (provided the atmospheric conditions were favourable)?

    Physics and other similar heady subjects are way beyond me. So this is what I’d like to know definitively: is satellite IR simply an inappropriate method for use as cool/small fire detection in general regardless of how fine the fov/pixels? Or, are there different wavelengths of IR that could be used from satellites which could pick up on small and cool fires? Alternatively: are there other frequencies that could be used as a surrogate for the satellite detection of small and cool fires? (Even just yes/no-type answers will do).


    The U.S. Forest Service has two helicopters they call Firewatch Cobras which are retrofitted Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters. The USFS has them outfitted with infrared sensors so that they can be used for close in intelligence support for ground troops, GIS mapping, real time color video, geo-referenced infrared, and infrared downlink.

  19. clive Stott

    February 10, 2016 at 1:55 am

    Re lightning strikes: Counting cloud to ground strikes is nothing new but has advanced tremendously since I worked for the Electricity Commission of NSW.

    No need to reinvent the wheel, those interested might like what they find at http://www.gpats.com.au/

    Actually, lightning data are supplied to BoM for forecasting and monitoring purposes, but they do not have third party permission to on-supply these data.

    Mike earlier in comments I mentioned the DC10. Guess I threw this up because it makes me wonder why we don’t actually attack our fires and put them completely out?
    Scoopers as you mention could be a great contender.

    There was a legend about a water bomber, or a helicopter with a dangling water bucket, scooping up a scuba diver and dumping him on a wildfire site but this has been debunked.

    It seems to me, after looking for years at various burns, that they go on for far too long.
    But we are told. “We are monitoring it.”

    The harmful effects of environmental smoke need to be addressed quickly as it is costing our population health severely.

  20. Robin Charles Halton

    February 10, 2016 at 1:41 am

    #58 Simon thank you for pointing out my error as it is the upper echelon of the Fire Service that I was referring to as a Dads Army outfit, I am generally OK with volunteers most of whom do a fantastic job.

    That was certianaly the way it was leading up the Dunalley fire in January 2013 as to whether TFS has improved its fire management and planning under Gavin Freeman as Acting Fire Chief, hopefully something has been learnt from the Dunalley stuff up when I had reports at the time from the then FT FMO Tony Blanks that Fire service when too slow to comprehend to prepare for the severe Fire weather warning and muster as many aircraft as possible and hit any fire emergencies early in the day.

    Really is is pretty basic stuff in this day and age of fire prepardeness with reliable fire weather forecasts update at our finger tips.

  21. Robin Charles Halton

    February 10, 2016 at 12:43 am

    Lyndall Rowley, you might be interested to know that during the 2012/2013 fire season that Forestry Tasmania spent 350hrs of aerial fire mapping, including NVG work.

    NVG’s was one of the advances that was put into practice this year to improve FT’s capacity to monitor major fires and gather information overnight.

    FT’s night vision has been developed with Rotolift which is the only company in Australia qualified to train military and non military NVG pilots and aircrew.

    According to Rotolift, FT is the only agency in Australia which combines NVG’s and Infrared Camera’s to map hot spots at night time.

    The FT NVG crew Dave Erwin ( Rotolift Pilot) and Graeme Bowerman- FT’s most experienced Infrared camera operator- who was joined that year by Australia’s first civilian NVG qualified female, FT Fire Management Officer Rochelle Richards.

    The team plans and conducts NVG reconnaisance mapping the infrared scanning of fires to locate areas requiring further suppression.

    Conducting these operations at night allows for more time to accurately scan large fires and free up Incident management Staff to do other work.

    In future FT will be investigating the use of NVG’s to carry out back burning.

    Extract from FIREGROUND SPRING 2013 edition, Tasmania’s Fire Service’s Newsletter

  22. Mike Adams

    February 9, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    ‘ere we go again…

    Those Commentators really interested/ intrigued by the scooper saga may find that once again history is repeating itself.

    Googling ‘Project Aquarius’ and scrolling down to ‘The New Normal. Tasmanian Times’ of ‘First Published Monday January 7th, 2013’,
    I was hit by large amounts of déja vu.

    The impression, constantly renewed, of state organisations vigorously defending their patch has been today exemplified by the rebuttal
    by the T.F.S. of defence forces help.

    Sure they may not be trained in firefighting, but other more humdrum jobs, even field kitchens, could be within their capabilities.

  23. Simon Warriner

    February 9, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    Lyndall, there is one more characteristic of IR Imaging that anyone assessing its abilities should be aware of. An IR imaging system is comprised of a detecting element, or elements, and associated lens arrangements. The Lenses are made of materials transparent to the IR spectrum being observed, typically germanium from memory.

    Earlier IR systems used a single detector element stabilised by cooling to 0 deg Kelvin with liquid nitrogen or a stirling cycle refigeration pump. The image was built up by using a system of mirrors to chop the field of view (fov) into a series of single pixels each with its own temperature. The modern systems use a panel of detector elements known as a staring array which avoids the complex, delicate and expensive rotating mirror systems. The calibration of the individual elements is done by complex software and electronics rather than use of a reference temperature.

    The point of this is that for a given fov there are a finite number of pixels and each pixel corresponds to an area of the image. This is known as the resolution and the more detector elements in the array the more sensitive the imager becomes, and the smaller the area on the observed scene it is able to discretely measure.

    The resolvable temperature is therefore a function of the detector, the lens arrangement, the distance to the scene being observed, and any atmospheric interference present. Increasing the accuracy and sensitivity of a given system requires a reduction in the fov, which reduces the area that can be surveilled by each pass of the satellite. You want to be able to spot a fire pot in a camp ground? Then your surveillable ability might be reduced to a 250m wide strip. Open the surveilled strip out to 10000m and the fire pot could well be averaged out to the point where it becomes invisible, or insignificant.

    I hope that is clear enough.

    The information you have posted in response is certainly interesting and I will follow it up in a few days when my internet speed hopefully returns to something usable.

  24. William Boeder

    February 9, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    #72. Dear Lyndall, in relation to the Australian data collection sets that appear to lack any conclusive findings, it is not out of the realms of possibility that the persons conducting this research were mere academic drones merely attempting to satisfy the disinterest of their higher ranked colleague.
    Government employees often worry more about the removing the volume of matter on their desks rather than concern themselves as to the vital portent of that which they have been tasked to undertake.
    (I once experienced the receiving of a begging pleading telephone call from an employee of the ATO, he stating to me, ‘just invent what ever figures I desired into a taxation required return form’ so that this matter can finally be removed from his to do list or his to be completed basket.
    Yes he was actually begging me at that former time to complete either a MYOB form, or it may have been a PAYG form that was at that time of complete disinterest to myself.)

    Surely the researches undertaken by the appropriate persons in the Countries now utilising these special-purpose aircraft, would only have purchased same by their being fully convinced as to the capacity and application of these fire-bombing types of aircraft.
    One may have to rely upon the overseas collective data rather than the disinterested or carelessly gained data as has apparently been recorded as the available data in Australia.
    Comment #71 provides a unique but very compelling example of both the suitability and the desirability of having such as a fire-bombing/suppression aircraft available to resolve the above-described complex situation.

    The history of the King Valley/Ovens Valley forest-fires in the mid years of 2000-2010 is an example of the highly unsatisfactory strategies employed in Victoria during the occasion of the above referenced forest fires.
    The local CFA fire-fighting stations had reported into the Melbourne CFA Headquarters that they as a collective in the above mentioned fire zone were going to deal with a number of small lightening ignited spot fires, but the instruction that was issued was that they were told not to do so by CFA Headquarters, but just let these fires burn themselves out.
    So in effect the CFA Headquarters senior management personnel were advising against that which the local fire-fighting units had been set in place for and trained to attend to.

    Some 24 or so hours later these ongoing but by now spreading fires all joined hands and became a huge wildly raging out of control mega threatening forest-fire.
    That was the year that the Victorian government called in a goodly number of American forest-fire experts and a large number of their American personnel to help to bring this fire under control and or contain it to the point that this fire could be extinguished.
    Then that this major fire incident went on cost the Victorian State government many many millions of dollars all due as a result of the CFA management advice as was given out prior to the King Valley forest-fire disaster that was known by the local CFA units was most likely going to happen.
    When finally rains came all of the surface layers of soot ash and debris was washed into the King River killing much of the freshwater critters and creatures along a great stretch of the King River.

    Need I say more.

  25. mike seabrook

    February 9, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    logic and common sense says

    if it burns this year
    it can’t burn next summer

    ask any aborigonal

  26. Lyndall Rowley

    February 9, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Further to Robin #57 and Mike #68 re the effectiveness of scoopers; and also further to my post #63 to William where I criticise fire management decision-making & monitoring and evaluation…
    I’ve just learned that scoopers have been omitted from the Australian fleet due to their “limited success”.
    Below are some extracts from Plucinski et al 2007 (for Bushfire CRC). I’ve selected these in particular to draw an inference between the evaluation of scooper trials and Plucinski’s frustrated attempts to collect valid data to evaluate suppression efforts. Perhaps I’m being mischievous and shouldn’t conflate these two issues – but, then again, were the scoopers properly evaluated? Should scoopers be allowed another trial?

    “There are two other firebombing aircraft types that are not used in Australia, large multi-engine fixed wing firebombers (e.g. Lockheed C 130, Douglas DC-6, Fokker F27) and water scooping aircraft (e.g. Canadair CL 215/415). These aircraft have been subject to trials in Australia with limited success.” (Plucinski et al. 2007, p. 10).

    “The aim of the operations study was to collect suppression response and outcome data from a large number of Australian wildfires that used aircraft for suppression. Data were collected for this purpose over the 2004/5 and 2005/6 fire seasons and is proposed to continue over subsequent seasons. “ (p. 22).

    “The Suppression Operation Report (SOP) was designed to be filled by ground personnel who had closely observed the suppression effect by both aerial and ground forces. … Although efforts were made to get SOR reports completed for all of the fires… this was not always possible.” (p. 22).

    “Not all requests for data were realised and many of the people contacted needed considerable prompting to provide data. “ (p. 22).

    “Data were collected from 284 separate wildfire events. Not all of the data received were able to be used for analysis. Many of these reports had missing information. “ (p. 23). “There were 76 and 32 fire reports from forest and grass fires respectively that were suitable for detailed analysis… The forest fire data set was suitable for limited statistical analysis. There were insufficient data to fully examine effectiveness of aerial suppression on different fire intensities and in different fuel types (p.2).

    “The SOR and Air Attack Supervisor operational survey methodology provided sufficient data for valid statistical analysis within two fire seasons. … The major weakness of this method is that some aspects of the data are subjective and therefore subject to observer bias. Thus conclusions reached may not be as scientifically valid as those obtained from quantitative field measurement or experimentation.” (p. 29).

    Ref: Plucinski et al. 2007 The effectiveness and efficiency of aerial firefighting in Australia. Part 1. Bushfire CRC.

  27. Lyndall Rowley

    February 9, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Dear Mike #68: Wow! Apart from the visually stunning scene you evoke, I was gob-smacked by this in particular:

    “A hilltop fire had for three days exhausted the energies and equipment of the local brigade. They called in the Sécurité Civile. Three aircraft appeared and performing circuits between a local lake and the fire had it totally extinguished in an hour.”

    Once again – ‘what if’ one or two superscoopers had been operating at Victoria’s Wye River fire? And what about the Esperance and Yarloop fires in WA? Could they have been more effectively attacked from the outset?

    In my mind, those ‘superscoopers’ are certainly gaining more and more in their high credibility for potent and efficient attack – and even on a more mature fire!

    Are the people (or Richard Alder, General Manager) behind the National Aerial Firefighting Centre fleet aware of this aircraft’s capabilities at all?

  28. William Boeder

    February 9, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Excellent comments from both Simon Warriner, and Mike Adams, as both are importantly relevant to the need for change as has been so well expressed by Lyndall Rowley.
    In support of Lyndall, Both Simon and Mike have had some interesting experiences in relation to alternate forest fire suppression actions already in place in those mentioned overseas countries, thus can qualify the dire need for change to the age old fire-fighting techniques that are heavy with their incapacity to deal with the forest-fire outbreaks in Tasmania’s remote forested areas.

    One wonders whether this State’s government will heed the call for a radically new approach so desperately needed here in Tasmania?

    Below are 2 links to the current mode and of the prevailing attitude to attend to the forest-fire problems we face here in Tasmania.

    Without the desire to diminish the support effort given so freely by this State’s forest-fire fighting volunteers, the methods at this point in time seem to be rather inadequate in comparison to the latest overseas fire-fighting practices and procedures as have been provided by the 3 persons mentioned in the above.
    Paul Harriss being a person that could strive for these costly new fire-fighting proposals, one cannot feel safely confident that he will pursue this emergency issue, perhaps it may rely on a vote of no confidence to be announced in the parliament of Tasmania to get the appropriate changes happening.

    Paul Harriss is always ever capable of finding money for Forestry Tasmania to piss up the wall,
    (a seemingly treacherous action) let’s hope he get’s an attack of the smarts and pursues the excellences provided here in this Tasmanian Times Article.
    Then that he does this in the soonest time with the aid of the Federal government of Malcolm Turnbull, (rather than the later) for a substantial funding grant *’specific’ for more proficient fire fighting equipment and airborne water tankers, then to the professional training that will be required by each and all among the new emergency fire fighting emergency teams.
    * (Funding not permitted to be secretly expended or allocated to Forestry Tasmania or any at all other agency and or purposes.)
    Only then will Tasmania be able to develop a far more rapid and effective fire suppression strategy.
    The current strategy as given to us by the Tasmanian Fire Services indicates that the wrong people are constantly being appointed to their role of the leadership in this vital fire-fighting and community safety-response division.



  29. Lyndall Rowley

    February 9, 2016 at 10:01 am


    Regarding detection of other sources of ignitions – as you’ve summarised, the only remaining option is line-of-site methods which have obvious limitations. That’s why I’m keen to encourage (somehow) the development of new technologies. But before I realised this, I was excited about the possibility of a ‘RASS’ detection technology. It is a radio-acoustic system which has a central radar surrounded by a cluster of acoustic (line-of-site) sources. The system would, in theory, work thus:
    “While acoustic sources generate sound waves with a certain frequency and a certain power level, Radar continuously scans for acoustic waves. As is known, sound wave speed is affected by air temperature. Radar can scan the differences in speed of acoustic waves, generated by acoustic sources, periodically measuring air temperatures immediately above the trees, over an area of 12-28 km2 area (depending on placement of the acoustic sources). Software embedded in Radar creates a thermal map of the region and stores thermal data for future use. Then the software checks for instant changes in temperature, and when sudden increases are found, establishes communication with the relevant fire watchtower and warns staff of the location.” (Sahin & Ince 2009).

    Could this type of technology be useful at all, I wonder? What if it is only installed in strategically important areas such as adjacent to settlements in fire-prone areas for example? I’ll leave the paper with TT for your perusal. Might generate some new ideas…!?

  30. Lyndall Rowley

    February 9, 2016 at 10:00 am

  31. Lyndall Rowley

    February 9, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Dear Simon #67: thanks for this very interesting entry with a neat expert summary of both the current status of early fire detection capability and your personal experiences and observations within the workplace. I will forward your post onto a contact who I think should be made aware of these issues.

    Given your technological background, I seek your opinion and I would however like to push your 80% ‘probably achievable’ a tad more, with your indulgence… what if there was a well-configured lightning detection network in place? And to push even further, what if we had (line-of-site) radio-acoustic clusters in strategic positions? (I’ll explain about this further down).

    I’m particularly excited by the possibility of the ‘NexStorm’ system which is a community-based Time-Of-Arrival network of lightning detectors. In discovering its existence, I was also surprised to learn that there are community networks of lightning detectors all around the world! The (Boltek) equipment and software is very affordable for the amateur; and the people from Astrogenics are confident that they will achieve a median value of around 1000 metres accuracy with an optimal configuration of detectors. However, the more uneven geometry &/or uneven spacing between sensors, the less and less accurate – worst case 3-4000 metres. But at least each cloud-to-ground strike that registers IS an actual strike and potential new fire.

    Obviously, one of the downfalls of relying on community networks is the problem of gaps in the coverage across the landscape. So I was thinking that perhaps existing infrastructure such as fire towers, TV/radio repeater stations and mobile phone towers could be used as well? I’ve checked the feasibility with Astrogenics, and this is what they’ve said:

    “A TOA sensor can be mounted anywhere and at any height providing there is electricity and a minimum 2MBit Internet connection. The antenna unit itself (attached with up to 60 meters of cable) should be mounted away from other electronic equipment or active antennas for best performance. In the TV/cell phone tower case it would have to be placed at the very top so to be above the metal construction and possible electromagnetic interference from other equipment. We detect in the 50-500 kHz range and the antenna is very sensitive. The TV/mobile etc. operating frequencies should not present a problem but spurious electromagnetic fields from the equipment itself might.”

    On limitations of mountainous terrain: “Mountains and other radio signal blocking obstacles do reduce detection efficiency but this can often be overcome by strategic placement of detectors around said obstacles.”

    cont …

  32. Mike Adams

    February 8, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    Thank you Lyndall for staying on topic: ‘this has to stop’ resonates with me and a few other Canadair scooper enthusiasts.

    In the early 1980s, seated in the garden of a friend in the foothill of the Alps, I was first privileged to see Cl 215s (Piston engined version) in action.

    A hilltop fire had for three days exhausted the energies and equipment of the local brigade. They called in the Sécurité Civile. Three aircraft appeared and performing circuits between a local lake and the fire had it totally extinguished in an hour.

    Mightily impressed I followed through with a visit to the Marignane HQ and learned a bit more.

    By chance a visit to Carcassonne and its local aero club found a detachment of three Canadairs and I was invited with one of the pilots to go and check one out.

    With an outside temperature of 37 degs the cockpit was a lot more convenient for a chat.

    My pilot was, as with most S.C. flyers, experienced in low altitude fast jet flying: 4000 hours was mentioned, and after retirement from the defence forces took up commercial passenger flying which he found equivalent to being a bus driver. Hence his application to fly with S.C.

    S.C. flyers spend their first year in training: mostly on fire behaviour and integration with ground based fire fighters. They usually occupy the third seat in the cockpit until sufficiently experienced to shift to co- pilot and thence to pilot.

    He thoroughly enjoyed the work: considered it ‘real flying’ and was proud to contribute to saving of lives and property.

    When I asked him whether he would mind spending the European winter helping out in Australia he said he’d be delighted.

  33. Simon Warriner

    February 8, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Lyndall, I have some practical knowledge of the abilities and limitations of infrared technology. That knowledge is as a result of spending a few years providing consulting services to industry in all its forms in that field as a thermographic technician and I put myself through a quantitative thermography course in Houston USA back in 92.

    As I see the situation, any satellite system is going to have to depend to some extent on IR tech and is going to suffer from limitations generated by cloud cover and false positives. IR cannot “see” through walls, glass or water vapor, regardless of how much Hollywood might like to pretend otherwise. As far as I am aware, there is no other means of detecting heat from distance that does not involve uninterupted lines of sight. If there is, I would welcome the educational opportunities of learning about it. Up grading the feed from 6 hourly to every ten minutes is a sensible step and one wonders why it has taken so long if the cost was so piffling, but it does not avoid the issues with cloud cover, high temperature atmospheres and canopy cover obstructing the IR view of the ground.

    That puts us back in the realms of human observation, and dependent on prompt action when fires are discovered.

    I therefore think the aim of 100% prevention is overly ambitious and unrealistic. 80% is probably achievable, and would leave enough “real fires” that are “big enough to fight properly” to keep the closet arsonists among us suitably aroused.

    As for the baggage I bring to this discussion, sorry, but it was a formative experience observing such egregious disregard for sound management principles and fair play, and it revealed something very unsavory about people we as a community accord the highest levels of trust. Ignoring that while participating in this particular discussion would have rendered the discussion very much incomplete, a point you have recognised and acted upon. I thank you for doing so.

    Going back to one of your previous posts where you recommended inspection of blackouts using IR imagers, it might interest you to know that FLIR have recently announced they will be bringing to market an uncalibrated, image only imager this year in the price range of around US$600. At that price every crew could have one. I will certainly have one in my house. I expect that a similar product will be produced by FLUKE and doubtless by some of the other manufacturers as well in the near future.

    Thank you for a very credible and thorough effort.

  34. William Boeder

    February 8, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    #60. jack lumber I refer you to comment #61.
    My comment called for an intelligent understanding of the current deficiencies and failures that seem of no concern to the proponents of logging, nor to the atrocious mind-set of the State’s pro-Ta Ann forests minister.
    It is my opinion that much will deteriorate in Tasmania based on the treachery upon the Tasmanian people resulting from the relationship between Paul Harriss and the international known corrupt logging company of Ta Ann Berhad.

    Now please reconsider your attitudes as to what is best for Tasmania.
    I am of the mind that you yourself are quite happy to run with the current volume of governmental as well as their departmental deficiencies and quasi-legal undertakings,
    I am decidedly not of your same mind mr jack lumber.

  35. Jack Jolly

    February 8, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    #62 It seems to me that Lyndall Rowley has stayed on topic in this thread with commendable focus on positive discussion.

    Despite two unfortunate attacks on her very right to contribute to this topic she continued to engage rather than return fire in same. A rare bird on this site indeed.

    If one cares to read back the substance of the two most conspicuous attacks there may be a few take home lessons. These jump right out and smack you in the face if you have been sitting on the sidelines reading this thread like I have – and quite a few others by the look of my inbox.

    A review would be good. Gee, it might even be nice if people like Lyndall were included in the process.

  36. Lyndall Rowley

    February 8, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    So, even if we changed how we utilised our existing resources (which I think we should) or obtained more efficient and effective equipment (including scoopers) for potent first response to cover all fire incident environments, our overall aim to prevent all wildfires still remains effectively sabotaged by our limited capability to detect all early-stage fires. Some small fires (more likely remote ones) will go undetected, and untreated will have the time to develop into larger (less controllable) ones. And it goes without saying that time-since-ignition is a critical factor for successful suppression, more especially so during Code Red conditions. We need a new or improved technology (or suite of new/old technologies) to resolve this Achilles heel that is the key to successful 21st century fire management.

    This will cost money, yes. But I think the federal government funding is already available – it just needs re-prioritising for investment. I received a letter from the Attorney-General’s office just recently which partly stated: “The Government continues to work with states and territories to strengthen our ability to manage bushfire risk, including investing:
    – $47 million this year towards the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre to undertake research on natural hazard, including bushfire risk and management”
    – $250,000 towards upgrading our satellite-based national bushfire monitoring capability. From mid-2016, emergency services will have access to 10 minute, instead of 6-hour, updates from Geoscience Australia’s Sentinel Hotspots system, allowing for near real-time fire monitoring.”

    I think – despite all of our differences, agendas or baggage that we bring to this particular forum – we do agree at least on these two basic, primary things:
    • No-one wants to experience any wildfire and the accompanying deadly and dangerous consequences that it can bring.
    • Everyone wants to protect the environments in which we all live from damaging, uncontrollable wildfires.

    If we can all agree on those two simple things (and I’m sure we do), then we should use this inclusive, collective force of unity, and agree on the need for a new approach towards the prevention of wildfires. As to the ‘barrier’ details that prevent the achievement of this goal/aspiration – they will inevitably be revealed and addressed as part of the process as long as there is detente and an agreed determination by all to attain the practice of so-called ‘zero tolerance’.

    PS – For those that are interested, I’ve supplied TT a copy of an article (uploaded under TUESDAY UPDATES) written in 2012 regarding the National Firefighting fleet. It is most interesting.

  37. Lyndall Rowley

    February 8, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Dear William #61: I truly thank you for your considered support which my very thin skin craves; as well as for your acknowledgement of my genuine intent on the subject of wildfire prevention. You give me the courage to speak out further…

    I must qualify however that my desire to improve outcomes is aimed at Australia in general. It was the terrible fires burning in the southern mainland states this season that first prompted me into ‘this just has to stop’ mode. In the process of identifying why this is happening and what can be done about it, I then feverishly wrote my 16-page ‘think piece’ that called for a new approach to fire management. Aspirational rather than practical to some, maybe; but nonetheless something we all need to aim for. (Just be thankful I didn’t post that one on TT!). Letters and emails to various state and federal politicians ensued from my computer, to practically no avail. Then I saw on TV news the unbelievable, unprecedented (?) vision of up to 80 concurrent wildfires spread across the Tasmanian land mass. This led to my crudely crunched-down 4-page version with ‘zero tolerance’ hook being submitted to TT.

    The results of my fast learning curve with the world of fire management so far? The entire fire management system with all of its classic variables that can be barriers to ‘success’ – humans; power; territoriality; paradigms; multi-tiered government; multi-authorities; lack of solid evidenced-based monitoring & evaluation of incident management, treatment and outcomes; decisions at various levels made on perceptions rather than evidence-based?; good intentions of the many foiled by lack of timely and detailed information &/or supporting resources?; poor communication; areas of dysfunctional management; evidence of work-place bullying and poor governance; etc and so on… ahhhhhhhgh! It is so huge, vexed and complicated. Don’t take my word for it, just take a look at the sample of recommendations I posted from the 2013 Tasmanian inquiry. Or look at any other bushfire inquiries and see the repeated themes in need of improvement.

    But I certainly do not pretend to know better and have all of the answers.

    Nevertheless, as I write this morning, I’m also watching the news – ANOTHER huge wildfire running out of control in WA.

    This just has to stop! I do not accept that aiming for ‘zero tolerance’ is an impossible (ignorant) dream and is fundamentally flawed, or based on some arrogant assertion that people don’t know what they’re doing or aren’t even trying.

    I can only go by what I see. Wildfires. Everywhere. And climate change is on the march, only to feed these annual wildfire events even more-so. If we continue to do what we’ve always done, then we’re destined to keep having to face these repeated annual events… that just doesn’t make sense to me.

    We’re intelligent and imaginative human beings capable of wonderful innovation and new technologies to improve our lives and meet our society’s needs. Why limit our expectations to what’s already known and done? Why not, instead, aim for the unknown knowns and yet-to-be-discovered? We have an urgent need to prevent wildfires; why not aim for the ‘impossible’ and try? (Did anyone see the SR-71 Blackbird doco on SBS last Sunday night? There was an urgent cold-war need by the US government to protect its people, and the engineers were given the seemingly impossible task to address that need – and they succeeded!).

    Isn’t the issue of wildfires of national importance and therefore calls for a concerted effort?

    Basic starting point: We know that fire can be extinguished at its early stage (small, weak, controllable). The only way to extinguish an early-stage fire is with the timely knowledge of its existence and exact whereabouts. As far as I can tell (in my lay-person’s opinion), judging by the limitations listed in the national Sentinel Hotspots product description, we do not have the means to accurately detect all small and ‘cool’ early-stage fires (let alone some of the other anomalies that hamper fire detection).

    cont …

  38. jack lumber

    February 8, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    re 59 William once again your comment do not even closely reflect the stream of the posts . I have not seen anyone pooh pooh the need for a review .
    You are the one guilty of looking through a lense which distorts

  39. William Boeder

    February 7, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    #58. Lyndall Rowley I continue to support your contributions to this topic of the importance and need for Tasmania and its people to have access to the new and effective means of dealing with forest fires from their onset to the carriage of the type of combat employed right the way through to their termination.

    Yes I have read your links, also conspicuous in this ongoing article is your desire to see and achieve effective new means to deal with Tasmania’s fires.

    Your comments rate highly in attempting to rise above the negative comments flowing in from the know-it-all’s and long in the tooth loggers.

    Were one to closely examine the comments from those who prosper from devastating our natural forests, again I refer to the suggestions from the ego-inflamed retired or semi retired ranks of the Australian Institute of know-it-all-foresters, (loggers) in that they appear to have leapt into this article eager to dismiss the very need for comments of your high calibre and higher effective purpose.

    Of importance for you to note is that you must try and understand this State’s malady of or the malaise peculiar to Tasmania’s multiple GBE services, that has persons of low intellect placed or appointed to be in charge of serious responsible authoritative roles that are vital to this State and its citizens, yet that these appointed could not demonstrate or produce a button of worth ine merit to their being appointed to their authoritative positions.

    One only has to look at the ridiculous hopeless situation that still exists in a number of Tasmania’s government business enterprises that has the entire number of boodlers sitting around the directors table in the board-room that have not contributed any more than a sixpence of worth toward any individual that has contributed a particular achievement or benefit to that GBE.
    Then that they remain as good as locked into these positions on this State’s GBE boards that only ever record a history of losses and of their shady dealings as they go about imposing their miseries upon the populace.
    One in particular being Forestry Tasmania and their crowing endorsement that they know all about everything, except for legitimately and even honestly attempting to qualify their continuing existence.
    Having read deep into the GBE Act 1995, then to compare the number of failings and failed objective purposes achieved by this GBE, let alone providing any desired outcomes, per the statutes that are set in place to avoid this very useless situation of a GBE simply being a debt incubator, they roll along all happy and whistling to the tune of the determined ignorance’s to this particular matter of upholding the statutes of a given GBE, by the current Liberal DPIPWE minister.

    Yes both logging and forest fires have their relativity, but not in the way of dealing with a sudden outbreak of forest fires.
    My having read of the deplorable means of the TFA in their announcing that a fire is going, or has been given a patrol status, then that there is a particular threatening fire in a certain location with a number of firefighting purposed utes and trucks allocated to this said threatening fire is all that can be said.

    Perhaps unfairly this suggests that a huddle of vehicles and volunteer persons are allocated to do whatever they can to contain a threatening fire than otherwise the fire must burn itself out.

    This is not unlike the firefighting techniques that were employed during the Byzantine era of history and just how relevant they are to our Tasmania of today.

  40. Lyndall Rowley

    February 7, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Bottom line, imo? Perhaps our Australian government should be looking to purchase or lease some scoopers of various types for use across Australia.
    I’m not familiar with the actual arrangements between the states/territories and the federal government in relation to the ‘National Aerial Firefighting Fleet’. However, it may be the case that Tasmania et al. can only ‘shop’ from the existing fleet menu which has been chosen by the federal government? If that is so, then it’s the people making the selection decisions for our National Aerial Firefighting Fleet that need to be lobbied to attain a more effective, efficient and more economic fleet mix.
    btw – has anyone other than Jack Jolly read the product description for the National Sentinel Hotspots yet? I’d love to hear your opinions re the system’s limitations and any implications for timely fire management.

  41. Lyndall Rowley

    February 7, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Dear Robin #57: I have no working knowledge or background on the subject; but since you ‘ask’, here goes anyway…
    I’ve only just learned that ‘scoopers ain’t scoopers’ and the Keating et al 2012 study was in relation to the fairly large (Type 1?) Bombardier 415 ‘super scooper’. Whereas the Airtractor scooper that was trialled in Tasmania I’m assuming is slightly smaller? In Victoria, I’ve been informed that the Airtractor AT802F Fireboss ‘Bomber’ is used. But I’m not sure if that’s the same as the ‘30001’trialled in Tasmania to which you refer.
    Nevertheless, scoopers in general appear to be very effective & efficient aircraft for fire-fighting purposes. A bit of a no brainer really; after all, that’s what they’ve been designed for, is that no so? Whereas, some of our other fire-fighting aircraft have been designed originally for some other purposes. In Keating et al (2012) they state “The 1,600-gallon (6,149 litres) (Bombardier) scooper is the least expensive candidate aircraft on a per-aircraft basis. Aircraft costs are highly correlated with weight, and it is the lightest of the candidates. The 1,500-gallon military-derivative airtanker is more expensive than the slightly higher-capacity scooper because of the nature of its design. The scooper is purposebuilt for carrying water and is thus more efficient at this task than the military-derivative aircraft. Military-derivative aircraft were designed to carry cargo and troops, which are considerably less dense than retardant or water. Hence, military-derivative cargo aircraft typically hit their weight limit when carrying liquids well before using up all the volume inside the aircraft.”
    I do wonder if the Great Ocean Rd/Wye River fire in Victoria could still have gained as much strength if it had been initially attacked early – within say the first 12-24 hrs – with one or two Bombardier scoopers filling with ease and within seconds from the voluminous ocean immediately adjacent? Similarly, in relation to some of the current Tasmanian fires (to which you refer) burning close to the western coastline – what different outcome if (Bombardier/any model?) scoopers had been able to attend at the beginning? I suppose we’ll never know for sure – but we need to explore such options for future fire season planning.
    Anyway, the only limitation I can see generally with scoopers is their requirement for a clear and long run to descend, fill and ascend; as well as water bodies free of snags and with enough depth of water. (And yes, such water bodies can be found in Victoria). The Air Tractor AT802F Fireboss can scoop 3 028 litres in 12-15 seconds; but I don’t know how much of a clear run it needs; and whether it is restricted to lake/river water only. The blurb & pics on its website don’t indicate seawater sources. Surprisingly, even the big Bombardier can still scoop from as little water depth as 1.8m (so I imagine Air Tractors are same or even less?); and it can scoop from both sea and lake.
    Cont. …
    As to cost comparisons with Elvis et al. – Once again I turn to the Keating et al (2012) report for their expert guidance: “Across our analyses, scoopers were found to be the central component of the optimal solution… scoopers are considerably less expensive to own and operate than larger helicopters and fixed-wing airtankers. … annual scooper costs to be around $2.8 million, 3,000-gallon commercial or military fixed-wing airtankers and 2,700-gallon helicopters cost more than $7 million per year. In other words, for each pair of 2,700-plus-gallon aircraft, the Forest Service could operate more than five scoopers. The second factor driving the optimal fleet mix toward scoopers is the volume of water that they can drop compared to the retardant drops made by airtankers. When fires are proximate to water sources …scoopers can drop 1,600 gallons of water every 13 minutes or less, compared with average airtanker mission times of 45 minutes. Indeed, the fires with the highest values at risk tend to be proximate to water sources precisely because most human settlement is proximate to water.”

    cont …

  42. Simon Warriner

    February 7, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Robin re 57.
    Thanks for reinforcing my argument that TFS management and their attitude are a, if not the, major problem.

    Calling the TFS collectively “dads army” is a little unfair as many of the older volunteers I know are far from supportive of the dithering and incompetence frequently demonstrated by the senior management, and the manner in which you used that phrase lumps them all in together. We need to be very clear that we are supportive of the volunteers because the management will be very quick to imply the a criticism of them is a criticism of the whole organisation and all its members and use that to deflect blame and avoid responsibility.

    As an example I note Gavin Freeman complained on Saturday morning about the criticism being levelled in the media having a negative impact on the morale of the firefighters on the ground. Mr Freeman can be thankful I have not, (and at present legally cannot) detailed my family’s experience of how the TFS behaves with regard to injured workers. Now that would have an impact on morale among the troops.

    It is a rather poor reflection on the competence of our journalists and integrity of our media outlets that this tactic continues to work.

    We clearly need another inquiry, this time without a TFS officer sitting in the role of gatekeeper, vetting all submissions. (this is what happens when people who do not understand the dangers on conflicted interest form governments and commission inquiries). It needs to be conducted as an inquest is conducted, on the same rules, in a rigorous search for the truth and it needs to be able to set aside any legal impediments that would otherwise prevent those with knowledge of the locations of the skeletons from appearing. A dangerously unhealthy culture has incubated within the TFS management structure and it needs to be removed. Public safety demands it be done.

    Failure to do so will speak volumes about the competence and integrity of the current government and its individual members.

  43. Robin Charles Halton

    February 7, 2016 at 2:02 am

    #50 Steady there Lyndall, sure Water scoopers are cheaper than Elvis, but how do you think that they could be utilised successfuly in Australia in place of the wickedly expensive Elvis helicopter which has its limitations if it required to move an entire unit from the mainland well in advance of a potential fire event.

    As you are probably already aware, Elvis needs 3-4 pilots readily available, a number of engineers and a semi trailer load of equipment to follow it to a respective suitable base.

    Elvis is limited to using freshwater as salt or brackish water because of the rotating blades, salt can play havoc with the helicopters sensitive internal equipment as well as restricting visibility with salt drying on the units windscreens.

    Just before the Dunalley fire in early January knowing that severe fire weather was forecasted On two seperate occasions i spoke to both the FMO and assistant FMO at FT Melville St base in Hobart.

    Something important came out from those conversations one being was that FT had just sucessfully trailed two Airtractors of 3000l with a 4 minute turnaround that could be used from small private airstrips.

    Although Elvis has a 9000l capacity FT because of the flexibility Air Tractors were more suited for our conditions.

    It was pointed out to me that 3-4 Air Tractors would be similar cost to a single Elvis unit.

    From what I can remember at the time just prior to Dunalley FT could not muster support from Dads Army ( Tas Fire Service) to retain the two Air tractors at Cambridge Airport and for that matter a warning that any wildfire outbreak could be catastrophic.

    Over to you Lyndall speaking from an operational point of view do we have suitable inland water ways free of snags at low summer levels in Australia to utilise such aircraft.

    For example a fires close to Hobart, Huon and Tasmans Peninsula where there are numerous sheltered bays and coastal inlets close to heavily forested settlements, can salt water be used by these aircraft for operational sorties!

  44. Clive Stott

    February 6, 2016 at 11:18 pm

  45. mike seabrook

    February 6, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    if it burns this year, should not be a non-manageable fire risk in next few years

    how about user pays

    the forestry customers and the other beneficiaries (not slug the tassie treasury) should be paying for fire fighting and fire management and other risk events

    the parks and wildlife (and the greens) should pay for risk management of the parks

    how much parks etc. can the tassie taxpayer reasonably afford to pay for and how does this expenditure rank in priorities.

  46. Karl Stevens

    February 6, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Factfinder 53. You have simply defined exactly why ‘forestry’ is really just ‘tree felling’. So what was your point?

  47. Factfinder

    February 6, 2016 at 3:43 am

    Tasmania offers
    The majority of forestry-related businesses invest in advanced machinery, equipment, software, research and development.
    •Regulated industry
    Tasmania’s conservation system surpasses international benchmarks.
    •Renewable energy resources
    Tasmania has an enviable sustainable renewable energy base.
    •Resource security
    Government policy for the management and use of Tasmania’s forests providing resource security to the industry while protecting sensitive areas.
    Sustainable forest management practices are the norm.

    To find out more go to:

    Forest Industries Association of Tasmania

    Forestry Tasmania
    Source: http://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/ti/home/investment_attraction/investment_opportunities/investment_opportunities2/forestry

  48. Clive Stott

    February 6, 2016 at 12:46 am

    And whilst this is all being discussed Tasmania still burns, and you must ask why?

  49. Mike Adams

    February 5, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Thank you, Lyndall Rowley for this further information.

    Which is no more than those countries with scooping water bombers already knew.

    Despite having well equipped defence forces for its size and population 424 Australians have been killed in bushfires since 1958. The RAAF was not equipped or trained to save them. There was no national civil defence force able to do so either. These bushfire victims had to put their trust in their state organisations subject to political control of their finances. The poorer the state, the lower the manpower and equipment levels.

    Mark Poynter doubts whether Tasmania could ever justify the expenditure of adequate protection. I doubt whether any taxpayer could justify the enormous expenditure on our defence forces for equipment that is rarely used and eventually becomes obsolescent with little to show for it other than adventurous sallies in the Middle East.

    Let’s find some MPs who recognise that, as many European countries have realised, there is a need for national fire fighting defence that is centred around aerial fire suppression.

    If there are complaints about budgets, then let there be a Federal take over of Tattslotto, let there be a Federal impost on pokie bets. There are masses of dollars washing around the gambling industry that could far better serve the community than swelling the incomes of the already over- rich.

  50. Lyndall Rowley

    February 5, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    To Mark Poynter & Jack Lumber in particular:

    I’ve been googling this arvo in an attempt to find some definitive literature about the efficacy & cost-benefits of aircraft for initial attack. It’s a minefield of information, and not that black-and-white. (Abstracts & papers supplied to TT (Ed .. and published above).

    The main take-home message I gleaned was that fire incident data quality and availability limited analysis – particularly in the case of U.S. use of LATs. Further uncertainty re effective use of LATs was due to aircraft being used for the later stages of fires, rather than as initial attack on small fires, as is the policy in the US Forest Service. In general, better data collection is recommended by various research authors. (We should take heed in Aus & learn by the US experience).

    However, I came across one paper that gives a clear overview of the costs (US$) and best aircraft fleet mix for various circumstances. (Full copy supplied to TT Ed .. and published above).

    Happy reading!

    Air Attack Against Wildfires: Understanding U.S. Forest Service Requirements for Large Aircraft
    Keating et al. 2012

    Key Findings

    Across All Analyses, Scoopers Were the Dominant Component of the U.S. Forest Service’s Optimal Fleet Mix
    • Scoopers are considerably less expensive to own and operate than larger helicopters and fixed-wing airtankers ($2.8 million versus $7.1 million per year).
    • When fires are near water, scoopers can drop more water than airtankers can drop retardant.
    • At least two-thirds of historical fires have been within ten miles of a scooper-accessible body of water, and about 80 percent have been within five miles of a helicopter-accessible body of water.
    • Airtankers have a niche role in fighting wildfires that are not proximate to scooper- or helicopter-accessible water sources.

    The Forest Service May Require a Somewhat Larger or Smaller Overall Fleet
    • If the Forest Service has sufficient insight into where fires will next occur, has the freedom to move its resources to any airport to optimize an attack, and sends aircraft only to fires that require them, the total size of the necessary fleet would be substantially smaller than if the Forest Service had poorer intelligence on future fires, less flexibility in pre-positioning aircraft, or less insight into which fires were most appropriate for aircraft to fight.
    • Although there is a dearth of evidence of the effectiveness of aircraft against already-large fires, airtankers and other aircraft are currently used in this capacity, potentially adding to the size of the Forest Service’s required fleet.

    • The U.S. Forest Service should acquire an initial attack fleet that is predominantly composed of water-bearing scoopers.
    • The Forest Service, and wildland firefighting efforts more broadly, would benefit from a detailed examination of the effectiveness of water versus retardant in different fire-suppression applications. This would enable a more precise valuation of the contributions of airtankers to firefighting operations.
    • Given the frequency with which airtankers are employed to fight already-large fires, there should be more research on the outcomes and the impact of air support in these scenarios.


  51. Clive Stott

    February 4, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Thank you Premier for committing to an inquiry,
    or is it just a review?


    Nothing short of a full inquiry will be acceptable.

    And the public need to be involved in setting the terms of reference.

    If anybody wants to read how a fire inquiry should proceed there is plenty of recent information at http://cleanairtas.com/air-monitoring/Hazelwood-coal-mine-fire.html

  52. Simon Warriner

    February 4, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Jack, thanks for the return to focus. Yes, from my perspective you are correct about myself and Lyndall seeking the same thing.

    To my mind the starting point is the missing explanation for the 6 day delay in calling for assistance to deal with what was an unprecedented fire event. That delay clearly allowed what was a big problem get orders of magnitude bigger.

    If the number of fires involved are doing the readers head in, consider the lone Fern Glade fire in Burnie earlier this summer. Located in steep and difficult terrain the response for several hours was to attempt to use manpower and relay pumping.

    Meanwhile the fire grew. Only when it was obvious no progress was being made was the helicopter called in.

    Why not call the helicopter in the first instance, hit it hard and go home as quick as possible? Put it out, don’t “fight” it! Change your fundamental approach.

    I am confident that in the final analysis that approach is the one that will deliver reduced fire impact, lower insurance premiums, happier volunteers, less injuries, fewer losses and more secure home owners. Perhaps I should ask the young guy I mentored back in 1991-92? The one who, last time I spoke to him, was heading the Australasian operation of a major industrial insurer. His professional opinion might count more than mine.

    Unfortunately the TFS play a major role in the SFMC and as can be demonstrated comprehensively, that organisation does not understand the mantra “a stitch in time saves nine”. A member of the government has sufficient details to institute a judicial inquiry into the conduct of the TFS management going back at least a decade, and while some of those responsible have retired, there are current officers who stood and watched and did nothing while bad things happened, and that calls into question their judgement and thus their suitability to be involved in such a critical role. It is clearly time for the government to differentiate between the TFS management and the firies on the ground, and hold the management to account for their actions. At present they use the rightful public appreciation of the actions of the troops as a shield against proper scrutiny. For our government to fail to properly scrutinize is to fail in a clear duty to the public good, and right now many in the public realm can see the problem very clearly and are getting more than a tad pissed off with the delay in addressing it.

    Clear enough?

    (I admit some culpability, in that I could have taken the facts to the media back in 2013 but elected to work through “proper” process because I was concerned that if the public knew what was going on in the TFS at that time the volunteer force would have been negatively impacted. That was a mistake and my family has paid a very high price for it. )

  53. Lyndall Rowley

    February 4, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Dear Jack #43 – Please excuse me jumping in on SFMC business you speak of – but re aircraft, don’t the 2013 Tasmanian Bushfire Inquiry recs #30-32 address some of these questions? (See also discussion “Air Support for Fire Operations” pages 99-101 in part E of inquiry).

    Have these recommendations been implemented (or in process)? As I’ve mentioned in a previous post (#28), in Victoria for example the Lancefield-Cobaw Investigation Team found that recs from 2005 still hadn’t been implemented, and so the investigation team was again facing the same issues in 2015!

    These inquiries cost heaps, and a lot of expertise and local knowledge goes into the findings and recs.

    Who is responsible for making sure the changes are made as recommended? Is it government? A department? Could organisations like SFMC and IFA hold government to account? (Just an idea; not trying to make more work for you).


  54. Mark Poynter

    February 4, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    #41, 42 Jack Lumber

    As you well know, there are those amongst the ‘TT community’ only too willing to misinterpret or assign conspiratorial motives to anything said by a forester — hence my earlier comments have been misunderstood by some(#29, #31 and #38) as being opposed to any examination of the fundamental fire-fighting rule of quickly controlling fires ASAP.

    In fact, foresters such as Roger Underwood (Bushfire Front of WA) and counterparts in Victoria (Forest Fire Victoria) and more recently the IFA Vic Division have been questioning for some years the seemingly reduced capability of fire-fighters in those states to quickly round-up remote area fires in the timely manner that was once routine.

    To be fair, in most instances they probably still do get them quickly, but there have been quite a few instances now where it is obvious that things have changed in the way fires are now fought. One of these is what I would consider as an over-reliance on expensive aerial water bombing at the expense of boots on the ground, which is ultimately the only way fire control can be assured. But there are also a range of other more basic reasons why boots on the ground don’t seem to be as committed or effective as in the past.

    Perhaps the difference between my view and those being expressed by others on here, is that I don’t see it as some deliberate strategy by fire-fighters, but as them being unwittingly constrained by the workplace circumstances that they now have to work within, inc OH and S. risk aversion taken to ridiculous lengths as in other areas of society.

    I don’t doubt that many of these same factors apply in Tasmania. However, it is more difficult to guage if standards have slipped in Tasmania because the current fires are so rare and can’t be easily compared with earlier events where better outcomes were obtained, as can be done on the mainland.

    When I first arrived in Tasmania to work some 25 years ago now, I recall being shocked at the relatively relaxed attitude to fire-control compared to what I was used to in East Gippsland. Over time, I came to realise that Tassie just didn’t get the numbers of fires or the dryness and extreme fire weather that the mainland endures each summer.

    Accordingly, Tassie fires could usually be left at night and the cold would probably have put them out by morning, and the level of fire readiness was tailored in accordance with that expectation.

    I was always of the opinion though that they could get caught out by an uncommonly dry summer, and this seems to have happened this year. However, I doubt that Tassie could ever justify the expense of being resourced up to the level needed to deal with this year’s fires, unless years such as this become the ‘new normal’ rather than an aberration.

  55. jack lumber

    February 4, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    re 40 thank god for that I proclaim re I don’t have to disclose any more . I shall waste no time in reading your expose when it published ;
    as to the matter re Ta Ann , that is a question for FT , the Tasmania govt to explain .

    Now Karl can we keep on topic

  56. jack lumber

    February 4, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    cont … but with invitations extended to other organisations to participate . I will leave it to others to think who but there ae some obvious because of skills and others because of politics but it might make the process inclusive and workable

  57. jack lumber

    February 4, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Dear Simon and Mark …. I have read both of your comments several times and to be honest you both seem to be saying the same thing with some minor differences but licence from me I paraphrase you as saying

    Lets change how we manage fires but lets not be fixated on flying tankers . It about being efficient and effective ”

    Is this correct ?

    I read a recent article by Rodger Underwood who stated that the so called ” elvis ” capacity is for a couple of reasons
    1 . media and politicians
    2 giving public a sense of security

    so what is the way forward ….. will some enquiry look for answers or just try and apportion blame ( seen this happen to a couple of mates in Vic )

    should the SMFC be the group to do a review

  58. Karl Stevens

    February 4, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    jack lumber 41. You don’t need to provide any more details about your many and varied business and community responsibilities. Some of us know too much already.

    I will be doing a full expose on fire ‘management’ as promulgated by the IFA shortly.

    As a professional forester, would you know why nobody has ever seen the ‘expressions of interest’ documents Ta Ann responded to in order to establish themselves in Tasmania? Just a link would do.

  59. jack lumber

    February 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    re 25 karl I confess that you are a welcomed distraction from what is an important topic and probably one of the most pressing we will face in 2016 .

    I will play ball with you , so others can get on with trying to have a reasonable discussion on Fire management and resources ( an ambitious goal for TT but one never knows .)

    so for you and you alone Karl

    I think it might fit within your paradigm

    Look forward to your thoughts

    ( Karl BTW Im also a member of a number of community groups , a shareholder in publically listed companies and I will also not be commenting on their actions . There are parties and people who do that for a living or are assigned such responsibilities . So nothing profound in my non comments .

  60. William Boeder

    February 4, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Mischief is in the air when the little-known brotherhood of nothing-burger institution of the foresters of Australia institute, begin sending in comments that are generally done so with the intent to dictate to the attendees to this Tasmanian based forum.
    Usually comments arise from this mob are most often on basis of offering their unwanted support to a further deforestation scheme by way of such engagement that is fed to us in Tasmania by this institute as part of some sort of deceptive pro-destructive-logging-agenda.
    This time it appears to be to push against an improved form of Fire Fighting practices here in Tasmania.
    Tasmanian’s should reject this pro-logging outfit with their contra-intentions of some kind or other to derail the call for a vast new approach to an issue that happens to be failing in this State of Tasmania.

    It would be much preferred if they could look to their own often community divisive concerns, and of their part played in the endangerment toward the extinction of small endangered species of Australian marsupial wildlife throughout the State of Victoria.

  61. Jack Jolly

    February 4, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    #32 Robin

    Thanks, but I’m still worried that the baby is being tossed out with the bathwater, because irrespective of whether someone works in the bushfire CRC etc the article has a central theme that is either right or wrong IMO.

    I don’t know one way or the other even after taking a quick look online because there is a ton of stuff to wade through.

    To reiterate what I wrote before, the article is suggesting that our current approach to wildlfire control is limited by detection systems that don’t allow the attack of small fires before they become big ones.

    Does this have any merit?

    The way I read it is that this does not seem to be a criticism of those working in the area, but outlines a major gap in technical capacity.

    Or am I missing the point?

  62. Mark Poynter

    February 4, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    #35 Lyndall

    As I implied in my post (#28) – and which has been completely ignored by #29 and #31 – I have no problem with questioning why there are more incidences of small fires growing large and threatening, but the use of the term ‘allow’ was problematic in creating a wrong impression of this as some deliberate strategy….. so I accept your admission that this wasn’t the best word use.

    For a number of years now, Victorian and WA foresters have been at the forefront of advocating for a serious examination of what has happened to forest fire-fighting over the past 20-years, and I was one of the small group of IFA members behind our call for the Wye River fire to be investigated on the basis of the seeming improbability of it being unable to be quickly controlled given the prevailing circumstances.

    A similar incident happened several years ago at Harrietville in NE Victoria, where a small fire was almost controlled soon after it started but was then left (seemingly due to centralised command directives), only to then grow too large to be controlled — $60 million later it was contained. That incident was formally investigated by the Vic Govt. but did not satisfactorily address the major systemic issues. I have a suspicion that this will also happen in relation to Wye River, given the politics that are involved.

    I would stress that this concern is restricted to forest fires on public land – not private land fires under the control of the Country Fire Authority comprised mostly of volunteer fire-fighters. The CFA helps fight public land fires in Vic but does not determine the tactics and strategy.

    In Tas, the CFA-equivalent is the Tasmanian Fire Service, and it seems that much of the disquiet is being directed at them, even though I presume that as in Victoria, they would be working on the public land forest fires at the direction of the responsible Govt agencies. On that basis, I suspect that they are being unfairly maligned.

    My other point about your article and the other myriad suggestions emanating from arms-length observers, is that there is an underlying arrogance that somehow they know better and can tell the authorities what needs to be done. It is somewhat ignorant to presume that the use of more technology and in different ways hasn’t already been considered and tested, and to neglect to consider the huge economic costs involved.

    If you are interested, you should read the several books written over the past 15 years by US fire historian, Stephen Pyne, on what has happened in the US and now Australia as fire control has morphed away from the simple boots-on-the-ground approach of the past to hugely expensive para-military high tech water bombing agencies.

    While the big water bombers are hugely advantageous in saving homes when fires get near or into towns, using them at great cost on forest fires is typically far less effective. However it provides political theatre that makes the unknowing populace think something is being done.

    Also as I alluded to in my post, on the mainland the problems are largely associated with changed public land tenures and the management philosophies and practicalities that are attached to it, as well as changed societal mores such as over-the-top risk aversion mantras that restrict how fires are fought. It is easy to see the problems on the mainland, because it is easy to compare against the superior outcomes of past fire situations and how they were dealt with.

    Its harder to see whether Tasmania has the same problems because fires such as those at present are so rare. Arguably Tasmania has never been particularly well equipped to deal with fires, largely because bad fire seasons and extreme fire weather events are a rarity, and its therefore hard to justify the cost of the level of readiness that the mainland states have. Usually they get away with it, but are bound to get caught out every so often when a drier than normal year comes along.

    That said, the decline of forestry in Tas is bound to have a greater impact in the future once forest access infrastructure falls into disrepair and fire-fighting experience disappears.

  63. Lyndall Rowley

    February 4, 2016 at 9:15 am

    re #28 Mark Poynter: I apologize for carelessly saying “allow”.

  64. Lyndall Rowley

    February 4, 2016 at 8:16 am

    cont …

    Recommendation 27 – that Tasmania Fire Service reviews its integration of rural local knowledge and volunteer brigades into fire operations, develops and maintains appropriate strategies, and aims to be a best-practice fire service in this regard.

    Recommendation 28 – that Tasmania Fire Service reviews its approach to blacking out and mopping up, including its policies, operating procedures and training.

    Recommendation 29 – that Tasmania Fire Service reviews its approach to fire management operations at night, and develop and effectively implement unambiguous policy and operating procedures.

    Recommendation 30 – that bushfire agencies evaluate the use and effectiveness of fixed wing water bombing aircraft.

    Recommendation 31 – that bushfire agencies develop procedures for the automatic activation of aircraft to fires at pre-determined trigger points on high fire risk days.

    Recommendation 32 – that bushfire agencies develop, implement and maintain air operations procedures.

  65. Lyndall Rowley

    February 4, 2016 at 8:15 am

    #28. Apart from a more effective early-stage fire detection system, I’ve also suggested that the fire management system itself may be a barrier to effective fire management.

    In the Lancefield-Cobaw fire inquiry 2015 there was one statement that stood out: “A decade ago the Emergency Services Commissioner conducted an examination of prescribed burning practices in Victoria … The Investigation Team found in the Midlands District in 2015, that the inadequate processes highlighted in 2005 remain unchanged.” (DELWP 2015).

    So it seems that making change within large and complex organisations is very difficult, to say the least. But even so, if the lessons learned and recommendations from such inquiries are not implemented, then we’re bound to have more inquiries about more wildfires in the future.
    Below are some recommendations from the 2013 Tasmanian Bushfires Inquiry, Part E. Does anyone know if these recommendations have been implemented yet?

    Recommendation 4 – that the role and expected duties of the State Controller be clearly defined in the Emergency Management Act 2006.

    Recommendation 5 – that the State Controller (or an alternate if they are not available) be expected to personally take an active role in controlling and coordinating response and recovery operations, depending on the nature and scale of the emergency, and until other identified arrangements for ongoing operations are established.

    Recommendation 6 – that in multi-agency response and recovery operations, arrangements be made so it is unambiguous who is in charge of these operations.

    Recommendation 7 – that a structure and facilities be established for the State Controller or other person managing multi-agency response and recovery operations.

    Recommendation 8 – that the Government reconsider the current position on emergency declarations in the Emergency Management Act 2006 and the Act is amended to provide:
    • a graduated scale of emergency declarations
    • the ability to make a declaration when an emergency has occurred, is occurring or is about to occur
    • the ability for the State Controller (or whatever the person in overall control of response and recovery operations is called) to make one or more declarations
    • a declaration to enable access to all emergency powers.

    Recommendation 9 – that the Tasmania Emergency Management Plan enable, and all organisations with a role in emergency management activate, emergency plans at lower threshold events to practice their arrangements and achieve a ‘hot start’ in escalating events.

    Recommendation 12 – that Tasmania Fire Service establishes suitable systems and practices for recording fire management objectives and tactics.

    Recommendation 13 – that Tasmania Fire Service examines options for developing and issuing fire management objectives and tactics from Incident Management Teams in a more timely way, including ‘quick’ plans.

    Recommendation 14 – that Tasmania Fire Services and its partner agencies establish a means of monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of centralising the location of Incident Management Teams.

    Recommendation 15 – that Tasmania Fire Service considers measures to bring local knowledge into Incident Management Team operations.

    Recommendation 16 – that Tasmania Fire Service reviews its position on fire ground management to determine whether a unified command model at the fire ground should be adopted.

    Recommendation 17 – that Tasmania Fire Service reviews its position on using local experienced officers on the fire ground in the command model in a structured and systemic way.

    Recommendation 18 – that fire agencies continue to develop their predictive modelling capability for use in actively managing fires.

    Recommendation 17 – that Tasmania Fire Service reviews its position on using local experienced officers on the fire ground in the command model in a structured and systemic way.

    Recommendation 20 – that Tasmania Fire Service, Forestry Tasmania, and Parks and Wildlife Service have a process for ensuring fire strategy and tactics are appropriate and remain focused.

    Recommendation 21 – that Tasmania Fire Service ensures that planning for active fires includes a proactive approach wherever possible.

    Recommendation 22 – that Tasmania Fire Service considers adopting a primary tactic of an aggressive first attack on fires.

    Recommendation 23 – that Tasmania Fire Service critically reviews the operation of the Six Operational Priorities to determine whether they are appropriate and effective.

    Recommendation 26 – that Tasmania Fire Service reviews operational practices to ensure there is continuity of fire operations when fire suppression action is required.

    Cont …

  66. Robin Charles Halton

    February 4, 2016 at 1:14 am

    re Mt Cullen Fire:
    For those doubters of Fuel Reduction Burning if we get a blow up day within the next few weeks look out, despite having 30 RAF’s from Tas and NZ, 4 helicopters concentrating on extinguishing the eastern edge, it will only take one missed hotspot to advance the fire spotting into around 1500-200ha of unburnt buttongrass of low lying country between Mt Wedge and Mt Anne.

    Clearly it is time for Parks to be worried as I believe the buttongrass has not been burnt for decades.

    I can recall Roger Larner from FC at National Park torching it in the early 1970’s as the Hydro developments were taking place and Forestry were monitoring below flood level logging.

    Seriously Parks need to engage in proper fire management practices, regular fuel reduction of waste land hazards in order to reduce the effects of wildfires that may occur.

    At least a mosaic of wasteland burns should be carried out as general good fire management practices.

    Each and every clown in Parks should know by now that in that part of the country buttongrass edges rapidly change to rainforest, all hell will break loose if the fire escapes and rapidly accelerates across the buttongrass pre heating the rainforest edges before dispersing trails of fire all over some of the most difficult terrain one could imagine.

    I mean I hope it does not happen but the potential is there.

  67. Clive Stott

    February 4, 2016 at 12:28 am

    #28; Your style of fire fighting, is it working for you?
    Clearly it is not.

    Why wasn’t the DC10 water bomber sent to Tasmania to protect our irreplaceable world heritage area?
    Instead we used dinky toys that weren’t up to the job for far too long before we asked for assistance.
    Unfortunately these helicopters are babies, they still have their umbilical cord swinging in the breeze. They do their utmost best and are fine to protect a property but not suitable for the large climate change fires we are promised.
    Compare what we have to what aircraft are available, the links are on these pages.

    The only reason an independent inquiry would not be granted is because it would show up our inadequacies and make recommendations that would go against our burn-first blackened-landscape regime in this state.
    And it might just make further recommendations in relation to health problems from all the smoke.

    You seem overly concerned about budgets as if you are paying for it. Have you forgotten the $28 million you were given to burn? The public haven’t.

    Lets look at the alternatives and that can be done via an independent inquiry, providing the public have a chance to set the terms of reference as they did after the Hazelwood coal mine fire in Victoria.

  68. Robin Charles Halton

    February 4, 2016 at 12:10 am

    #23 Jack Jolly, thanks for your concern, I had closely checked a number of fire management sites on the internet to establish if Lyndall Rowley has ever been involved with active research work in that or has flair for fire fighting gadgetry in an advanced technology sense.

    There is no evidence of Rowley as having done fire research at the Bushfire CRC institute for example.

    I noted that Rowley has recently is doing a study on flying foxes having arrived in Bendigo attracted to the prolific flowering of Grey Box, Red Ironbark and Yellow Gum Blossom.
    Seems as it could be attached to Climate Change.

    Sounds if he or she has a background in ecology currently believed to be working for the Victorian government North central Catchment Management Authority.

    If Rowley wants to break out into fire fighting advancements then he needs to apply himself or herself better.

    Nonsense terms such as “Zero tolerance of wildfire in Australia” goes against his or her curriculum vitae, the individual needs to serve time in the field at the coalface and talk to the people on the ground so to speak.

    As a nation we are stuck with fires, floods and droughts as Dorothea MacKeller plainly puts it in her poem My Country , its an integral part of the Australian psyche.

    Climate Change is marching on we are adapting as each new challenge arises, more of a chance now that we got rid of serial Climate denier, former PM Tony Abbott.

  69. Simon Warriner

    February 4, 2016 at 12:01 am

    Mark Poynter is displaying all the symptoms of someone whose education has exceeded his natural ability to understand simple concepts.

    What is so hard to understand about it being more intelligent to apply maximum effort at the first instance and put out a smaller fire than it is to wait for a week before calling for help when the problem has got out of control?

    It is not like this is a one time event. It is a pattern of behavior and it needs to be stopped because the costs are unacceptable.

  70. Jack Jolly

    February 3, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    #28 Mark

    You write “This post amply demonstrates that lay-persons with little knowledge of a topic should keep their thoughts to themselves….”

    This is the second ad hominem attack that I have read on their thread, yet I have yet to see anyone seriously address what seems to be the main point of the article.

    Isn’t the author suggesting that we have an inadequate means to detect small fires due to limitations in our current surveillance technology and that we must develop something better as a national priority given climate change driven changes to wildfire dynamics in our landscape? It seems to me that this is what is being put forward as the main barrier to a practical zero tolerance approach (i.e. without it we can’t expect much change).

    Could someone please tell me if they can show that this is not the case and there is good cause to dismiss this idea as the rantings of a nutter? That would really help.

    I’m not sure that it makes sense to attack ‘lay-persons’ for their opinions, when plenty of them live in fire prone areas and become the victims of fire just the same.

  71. Lyndall Rowley

    February 3, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Dare I suggest that there may be far more in common than the individual posts would indicate?

    I accidentally but fortuitously came across this media release by Rob de Fégely of the IFA dated 28 January 2016-02-04 regarding Victoria’s Wye River fire. There are some common themes and concerns:

    “In case of forest fire, call the bureaucracy

    Professional foresters are concerned that political expediency may be taking precedence over the need to uncover deficiencies in fire control tactics.”

    “…what fire-fighting tactics were employed during the first 48 hours after the fire started.”

    “It was the failure to contain what was then a very small fire which ultimately led to substantial loss of property in the towns of Wye River and Separation Creek several days later.”

    “The Wye River fire started in country that was not remote and was subject to days of mild weather.”

    “… the Government has a duty to allow them (the fire-fighters) to do their job free from unwarranted bureaucratic and operational constraints. Given the potential for severe economic and environmental loss from bushfires, the Victorian community has a right to know whether seriously threatening bushfires are being attacked with urgency.”

  72. Mark Poynter

    February 3, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    This post amply demonstrates that lay-persons with little knowledge of a topic should keep their thoughts to themselves before embarrassing themselves and insulting those who’ve spent their careers working in this area.

    Firstly, campaigning for ‘zero tolerance for unplanned fire in Australia’ assumes that this isn’t already the case and that this is some new idea. Yet in the southern mainland states this has been the intention for generations. I daresay it is even the intention in Tasmania, but has to be tempered and put aside at times when reality bites, such as multiple fires in very remote locations that overwhelm the available resources.

    The comment at the beginning of the piece: “So how come we allow so many small fires to become big ones?” implies that the authorities deliberately ‘allow’ this to happen!

    With regard to forests, there are certainly new economic and bureaucratic systems (including an over-the-top OH and S mantra) that now constrains fire-fighting far more than was the case in the past. But this is a far cry from deliberately ‘allowing’ fires to get big and damaging.

    Furthermore, the practicality of achieving ‘zero unplanned fires’ is a bit like trying to prevent all road accidents. Despite the best efforts of fire authorities in Vic and WA for example, there are still thousands of fires each summer. There will always be circumstances where they occur, albeit that some might be preventable.

    And then what if zero tolerance is miraculously achieved …. we live in landscapes that are dependent on fire and they have to burn at some stage … the logical approach would be more controlled burning, but I don’t see any support for it amongst the zero tolerance brigade.

    According to this article, the answers lie in greater use of technology and therefore massively greater expense. Aerial water bombing for first attack …. again this is nothing new and has been used where possible for 40-50 years back in the days when small 2-seat agricultural planes were all there was.

    It has been known for all this time that water bombing can be useful at times, but has major limitations such as it can’t be used at night, in high winds, severe smoke, and doesn’t have any real effect in dense forests. Yet somehow those who don’t know this see it is the magic bullet.

    The call is for more of this in the form of huge aircraft and Elvis helicopters —- the Very Large Air Tanker currently operating out of Sydney apparently costs $50,000 per hour in the air, and something not much less when sitting on the ground (as it does for most of the summer). I’m told the Elvis helicopters cost $35,000 per hour in the air, and even the smallest helicopters are around $3,000 per hour!

    Who would pay for this in Tasmania — it may well bankrupt the state to have them sitting at the airport on stand-by, even if there are no fires. It is particularly ironical to hear calls for such expenditure emanating from the TT gang of keyboard warriors who are intent on closing down or opposing anything that could earn the state a dollar

    I can at least agree that there are problems with how fire is now being managed in forests, and much of this has emanated from the rise and political influence of environmental ideology …. a case of reaping what you’ve sown. But embracing greater use of technology that soaks up budgets at an alarming rate is not the answer.

  73. Karl Stevens

    February 3, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Jack lumber 22. Unfortunately Lachie completely left-out climate change in his 2 little pamphlets for the Institute of Industrial Foresters.

    As alleged ‘scientists’ are you ‘Creationist Foresters’ also ‘climate change deniers’?
    It sure appears that way.

    At what point does botany, biology, ecology and climate science overlap Industrial Forestry or are are they all different silos?
    Isn’t it time the Industrial Foresters developed an integrated scientific paradigm or are you still centuries away from that?

    As usual I don’t expect you to answer any of my questions due to what appears to be a profound inability to actual defend the alleged ecological vandalism and blatant corruption carried out by the IFA.

  74. Jack lumber

    February 3, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Just an observation in the last 25 years , the only public or , private responses the greens have had re fire has been the so called apocalyptic nature of CFB .and smoke

    Not in any of the discussions re new reserves or even the management of WHA , have any of the current or past Greens raised the issu of Fire management and control .

    This observation is made as , their collective current diatribes just reinforces that like all politicians they are nothing but opportunists and it just makes those who have been involved in land management suspicious of their agenda .

    it is unfortunate that the ” forest wars ” appear to be now the ” fire wars ” ,

    If this becomes the case , there will be no winners as it will become further politicised as it appears to have happened else where .

    Tasmania loses again or we could actually see if parties can do less MR or statement in parliament and start working on a framework that can make Tas better placed to deal with fire .

  75. Nick McKim MR posted by editor

    February 3, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Federal Government refuses to back independent inquiry on TWWHA bushfires
    February 4, 2016
    Despite being asked in Senate Question Time today, the federal government has refused to commit to an independent inquiry into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area fires, refused to allocate further resources to help fight the fires, and refused to indicate whether the Tasmanian government has formally requested assistance.
    “It took two weeks for the federal government to activate Emergency Management Australia provisions, and we have still have not found out why,” Senator McKim said.
    “Over 18 400 hectares have already been burned inside the World Heritage area, including fragile alpine ecosystems and Gondwanan species which in the whole world only exist in very small parts of Tasmania and are not fire adapted.”
    “This is a national crisis and we need more resources thrown into the fray.”
    “We also need to assess how the fires were handled, how we can better plan for our changing climate which science is telling us will make bushfire conditions worse, and what we can learn to improve our response to wilderness fires in the future.”
    “I will move a motion urging the government to hold

  76. Cassy O'Connor MR posted by editor

    February 3, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    A ‘Review’ into TWWHA Fires is a Cop Out
    Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens Leader and Parks spokesperson
    Thursday, 4 February 2016

    With an estimated 14,000 hectares of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) burned or still burning, and legitimate resourcing questions being asked, the Premier’s announcement late yesterday of a review is a woefully inadequate response.

    An independent inquiry that calls for expert input and submissions, along with public hearings and a set of recommendations to be made public is clearly required.

    These have been no ordinary fires and the damage they have caused, and are causing, to landscapes that won’t recover has been extreme.

    If the Premier and his Ministers aren’t moved by the loss of these precious, globally unique landscapes, they should at least support an independent inquiry to better protect Tasmania’s economically priceless natural assets in future.

    A 2009 Commonwealth Government report found the TWWHA delivers an estimated $1.3 billion in direct and indirect economic benefit to the State, and sustains up to 5500 jobs.*

    We simply cannot afford to take a limp, minimalist approach to protecting the TWWHA.

    There are legitimate questions to be answered about the level of resourcing available to the Parks and Wildlife Service to respond to the current fire crisis and those in future, along with the role of governments in prioritising both the protection of life and communities as well as our valuable natural assets.

    in an age of climate disruption and the increased likelihood of extreme fire events, an independent inquiry is clearly required to ensure in future we have the capacity to respond to fires in the TWWHA before they flare out of control and change irrevocably Tasmania’s priceless wilderness.

    * https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/c890e9a0-6462-4412-8b74-14054966b8c0/files/economic-activity-summary.pdf

  77. Jack Jolly

    February 3, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    #17 Robin

    You write, “From what I can see this article was written by a self acclaimed academic who urgently needs to find his or her way to be involved in the reality of modern fire fighting efforts…..”.

    From my reading I get a completely different impression. It seems to me that this is about supporting the development of technology or at least considering that our current approach to wildlfire control is limited by detection systems that don’t allow the attack of small fires before they become big ones.

    Is this true or not? Does it have any merit?

    Where did the bit about the self-proclaimed academic come from given the profile of the author? If you think the argument is crap I’d like to know why, because it seems like common sense to me. But I am open to being convinced otherwise.

  78. jack lumber

    February 3, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    re 19 cont to remedy the link that didn’t work


    please scroll down to 3.1 and 3.2

  79. jack lumber

    February 3, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    re 18 karl my apologies for the dead link . I had assumed it was working .

    I will address after I have finished my post GOP Iowa caucus admin duties and answering calls re the nomination of Donald for a Nobel Prize .

    Sorry just seeing if I could match you in the obscure and being off topic …. nope you win

  80. Karl Stevens

    February 3, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    jack lumber 19. You say “re 9 wrong again”. But isn’t comment 9 a Will Hodgman media release?
    So far you have posted a dead link to an IFA document and accused Will Hodgman of being wrong calling him ‘Karl’.
    Sorry but I reject the Premiership of Tasmania outright and would never want to be Will Hodgman, his predecessors or successors.

    I confirm my position of Tasmania introducing a ‘Zero Tolerance Bushfire Policy” due to runaway climate change.

  81. jack lumber

    February 3, 2016 at 10:39 am

    re 9 wrong again Karl.
    Can we get back on topic

  82. Clive Stott

    February 3, 2016 at 4:36 am

    Yes enough is enough.

    There was something like 18 burns in progress across the state on the 12th January.

    There were 37 on the 13th (day of the lightning according to Foxbat), 57 on the 14th, 62 on the 15th so it wasn’t just all lightning was it?

    Now there are 66 in progress today on the 4th of Feb!

    Why are we just letting these burns continue and why are the numbers increasing?
    Obviously we haven’t got the ability to put them out and that is a big worry.

    Deliberate burning has turned into a real industry in Tasmania, but I am not sure it is what tourists come to see or what a health system in crisis wants.
    We are not over all the smoke yet.

  83. Robin Charles Halton

    February 3, 2016 at 12:56 am

    I would invite Lyndall Rowley to spend time with the Tasmanian Fire Incident Controllers, visit Remote Area Teams on the job per helicopter and observe ground crews at work, machinery used on the fire ground and the role of specific aircraft for water bombing tasks and aerial spotter flights and the practical field use of infra red.

    From what I can see this article was written by a self acclaimed academic who urgently needs to find his or her way to be involved in the reality of modern fire fighting efforts by multiple agency task forces and understand their respective roles and working relationships within a coordinated team network on campaign fires.

  84. TGC

    February 2, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Ay suggestion that properties- ie. houses and ‘livelihoods’ should take a lower priority to the ‘wilderness’ in fire situations needs to be

  85. Karl Stevens

    February 2, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    This is a ‘hot’ topic (excuse the pun). Quite a few informed comments here already. Thanks to an insiders view from Simon Warriner.
    I agree with the ‘Zero Tolerance’ concept because of climate change.
    I would say the government is in disarray on the bushfire problem.
    If fires are good for native forests as FT claim then why aren’t they good for eucalypt plantations as well?
    If fires are bad why does FT start them?
    If fires are good why are they importing people to fight them?
    Is ‘arson’ only a crime for people not employed by Forestry Tasmania?
    Are economic assets protected before residential assets?
    Obviously the governments message has not been clearly articulated. They don’t appear to have a coherent message on fire in the Tasmanian landscape.
    Finally, if eucalyptus trees originated in Antarctica as the ‘professional’ foresters claim then why do they need to be burnt?

  86. Simon Warriner

    February 2, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Bob Palendrome, you are dead wrong.

    I was a volunteer fire fighter. So was my partner.
    She also worked for the TFS as a clerical officer.
    Two of my neighbours were about to join.

    As a result of incompetent handling of defamatory actions in my place of work by a fellow brigade member, and my partner’s treatment by the TFS none of us are now members, along with several other members of that brigade. Those in our circle of friends and acquaintances will most probably never join up.

    Throw in the comment (“its only a little fire, wait til its big enough to fight properly”) that passed between a brigade chief who happens to be on the State Fire Commission and the incident controller on Jan 4th 2013, while watching a little fire get bigger and it is abundantly clear there are people within the organisation whose attitudes need to be recognised and changed before they cost the whole community a very great deal of money and worse.

    The fact of the matter, Bob, is that the management of the TFS hide some very dirty stuff behind the public goodwill generated in very large part by the wonderful, brave and selfless actions of the volunteers. I know because my family have had to wade through some of it at enormous cost to our health and well-being and knowing it leaves me with absolutely no confidence in those currently running the show.

    Just imagine you had to put up with your co-worker threatening to top themselves regularly, for over 12 months as an attention seeking strategy. And Your Bosses Expected You To Work Around It and Pick Up The Manipulators Workload As Well. Imagine That Person Then Being Removed After Becoming Violent In The Workplace, AND THEN Being Returned And Made Your Direct Supervisor.

    And that is the edited and sanitized version because Linz will not print the whole story.

    Would you trust those responsible?

  87. Ivo Edwards

    February 2, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    Re #9 Excuse me for being pedantic, but if a fire is active, how can it be not going?. Please also anticipate the scenario after the next extreme event with high winds and high temperature and about 100 fires that have just being sitting around placidly waiting for an extreme fire day, with hardly any attempt to completely extinguish them to date? Please justify your apparent outrageous claim that we have appropriate arrangements in place to fight fires in Tasmania. Sorry but I can’t see the evidence for that.

  88. Simon Warriner

    February 2, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Missing from the reasons the rapid suppression of all unintended fires in the landscape is not the present default response is the psychological perspective that makes for uncomfortable conversation.

    Every fire service is comprised of individuals who fall somewhere on the spectrum from devoted individual serving the good of their community by putting fires out, all the way to full on arsonist.

    Those who select full time careers generally enjoy fighting fires. Its what they joined up to do. Our TFS management is comprised almost entirely of former full time fire fighters. No buzz to be had if the water bomber gets there first. No firey porn for the Fireground magazine in the form of action photos. No endless media appearances and audiences where medals get presented. And no, its not cynacism, its observation from close up.(The lack of significant volunteer representation in the management cohort is also problematic as from experience the volunteer majority would be almost entirely supportive of anything that reduces the demands on their time, especially fighting landscape scale bush fires.)

    Its not just with rapidly oxidizing material that they have problems. They apply the same “wait til its big enough to fight” approach to human resource management as well.

    It might interest the authors to go and read the report resulting from the 2013 bushfire inquiry.

    In my submission to that inquiry I pointed out that an aerial first response was required for all vegetation fires in high risk conditions. I used the Inglis River fire at Takone on Jan 4th, 2013 as the example of why and all it got was a passing nod from the gentleman conducting the inquiry.

    And then there is the problem of finding a politician with big enough balls to insist that it be done.

    This information has been provided to a member of the current parliamentary inquiry into the ability of our fire services to respond to bushfires and it will be fascinating to see what that inquiry produces by way of recommendations and actual policy. I suggest the authors provide their article to the Minister for Emergency Services as a late submission as well. It cannot hurt.

  89. Karl Stevens

    February 2, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    jack lumber declares “I am a member of the IFA . I hold no role or position in the organisation”.
    I think you are being very modest jack. Winning the IFA’s most prestigious award and being a ‘Fellow’ of the Institute gives you much more influence than a newbie fresh out of the ANU.

  90. Rene Hidding MR posted by editor

    February 2, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Rene Hidding, Minister for Infrastructure
    Bailey bridge installed at Nelson Bay Bridge
    A temporary Bailey bridge is being installed today at the Nelson Bay Bridge to restore access to local communities.
    The Nelson Bay Bridge, a wooden bridge located on Temma Road on the route from Arthur River to Corinna, was recently damaged beyond repair by bushfires in the local area.
    The bridge provides key access for locals and tourists to the communities of Couta Rocks and Temma.
    The Department of State Growth and its maintenance contractor is working collaboratively with the Circular Head Council to install an 18-metre Bailey bridge.
    The Bailey bridge is a portable, prefabricated truss bridge that can be quickly deployed in emergency response and recovery to create temporary crossings, and can carry both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
    The Bailey bridge components have arrived on site and are being installed by a crew of five people.
    The Bailey bridge will restore immediate access to the area while Circular Head Council is arranging for a permanent bridge to be rebuilt. The Bailey section will then be removed so it can be available for emergency management applications next summer.

  91. Will Hodgman MR posted by Editor

    February 2, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Will Hodgman, Premier

    Tasmanian fires

    All Tasmanians owe our hardworking professional and volunteer firefighters a debt of gratitude for keeping our communities safe.

    The combined efforts of the professional and volunteer crews from Tasmania Fire Service, assisted by interstate and New Zealand crews, members of the SES State Headquarters (TAS), Tasmania Police and Government agencies including Forestry Tasmania, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, the Department of Health and Human Services and our power companies, has significantly reduced the extent of potential damage caused by the fires over recent weeks.

    Today I visited the Three Mile Line TFS headquarters near Burnie and flew over firegrounds in the Cradle Mountain, Mawbanna Pipeline Road and Arthur River areas.

    While it was a sobering sight to see the extent of the fires which have so far been mapped as burning about 104,000 hectares, it was also heartening to see the work our firefighters have put in to save property and vegetation.

    I have received the latest update on the fires situation from TFS and used the opportunity to thank our firefighters for their hard work.

    There are 70 active fires, with 46 classed as “going”. There are currently no emergency warnings or watch and act alerts. And remarkably the only significant infrastructure affected by the fires was the Nelson Bay Bridge.

    Tasmanian firefighters have responded appropriately and responsibly to this emergency in accordance with State priorities, including community, natural, cultural and heritage values.

    As a Government we value our wilderness and recognise it is an natural asset that sets us apart from the world. The recovery of the vegetation on this land will depend upon many factors, including the specific type of vegetation, and the intensity of fire.

    The latest advice is between 1 and 2 per cent of the 1.6 million hectares of World Heritage Area has been fire affected.

    I am confident that we have appropriate state and national arrangements in place to fight fires in Tasmania.

    As is always the case in these sort of large fire events, there will of course be a review to see what can be learned from the situation.

  92. bob Palendrome

    February 2, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    How the fonts of wisdom flow.
    If it was effective as a firefighting tactic we might be in a better spot.
    You can’t remove fire from the Tasmanian landscape. It’s just a matter of how frequently each vegetation type is affected by fire.
    There are lots of expertise and many aircraft fighting the fires.

    Unfortunately, typing on a keyboard is not going to help. Green grandstanding is not going to help.

    If you want to help do so by supporting you’re local TFS brigade because one Summer it might be close to home.

    I have found altruistic love of the bush tends to disappear very quickly when is smoke in the air.

    Fuel reduction in the Autumn around infrastructure or areas of value. That’s all we can really do.

    There is no one to blame. Unless you want to go outside and yell at the next lightening storm.



  93. jack lumber

    February 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    re 2 karl you have been standing to close to the flame or the smoke is effecting something

    I did a simple google search , navigated the web page and here is the policy . I describe this complex process to demonstrate that its not hard to find and maybe some TT reader may wish to look at it and then see what drivel you are posting

    To be clear this is not about the policy , it im sure will have +/- ; its about your fantastic postings

    ‘Im sure there will be those who will be critical and as always that is their right . But you statement is getting close to the edge of nonsense

    Disclosure I am a member of the IFA . I hold no role or position in the organisation

    http://forestry.org.au/pdf/pdf-public/policies/Statement 3.2 – Managing forest fires (website) (Approved 16-11-05).pdf

  94. Karl Stevens

    February 2, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Real time monitoring of all Australian bushfires is available here:

  95. mike seabrook

    February 2, 2016 at 11:33 am

    will anyone respect the taxpayer

    we have all the bleeding hearts which would prefer the funds spent on other priorities (votes).

    it is ugly when the big spenders run out of other peoples money to spend, or the investors(employers) go on strike or piss off to the mainland or elsehere or send the family money after the kids who have already fled tassie.

    the pollies are then left with only cronies and carpetbaggers to to business with – whilst ripping off the treasury.

    however there is still hope for tassie with 12 federal senators and the ability to elect harradines, wilkies (gillard $600 million hobart hospital – to be paid for by turnbull) and jackie lambie etc. to extort the feds.

  96. Isla MacGregor

    February 2, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Wandering Foxbat’s aerial pictures are essential viewing to understand the vast areas burned. And this is only in the north west![/i]

  97. Karl Stevens

    February 2, 2016 at 9:50 am

    The Institute of Foresters AU constantly promotes ‘Aboriginal fire management’ as some sort of gold standard in managing eucalypt forests.
    Like much of the IFA’s pro-logging propaganda this is another lie in my view.
    Why? Because for the vast majority of the evolutionary history of eucalyptus (Myrtaceae) humans didn’t even exist.
    The IFA has published data that Myrtaceae are up to 90 million years old. Compare this to the oldest Aboriginal remains in Australia which are between 40,000 and 60,000 years old?

  98. Pete Godfrey

    February 2, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Exactly,we need Fire Suppression Authorities, not Fire Authorities.
    If we don’t allow fires to get too large we will not have the problem we have now.
    We need to look at why our public authorities let the fires get so big. Is it because fighting fires is their reason for being, is it based on the false assumption that burning off prevents big fires.
    I have seen many fires go through areas that were burnt on an almost yearly basis. Fuel reduction only works if people go through the bush after the burn and remove all the dead bush, all the wood laying on the ground and turn it into a parkland with trees and grass. Even then a crown fire will race through.
    If a fire runs up a steep hill with wind behind it in the right conditions it will become a crown fire, once that happens it is very hard to control.
    The way to control big fires is stop them when they are small.

  99. Isla MacGregor

    February 2, 2016 at 9:41 am

    I applaud Lyndall and Jamie for speaking out about this devastating problem of fires in our landscape and agree [i]enough is enough[/i] with prescribed burning.

    We are certainly facing a dire future with climate change and the ever increasing charring of our forests and our wildlife. Since working on the forest campaigns of the mid 1980’s and reading much of the scientific literature on the subject, I have been of the view that all fuel reduction burning in our forested areas is counter productive and no provides no [i]leverage[/i] as Price et al analysis states . I travel around Tasmania frequently and have assessed the overall impact of both clearing, fires and plantations and I become increasingly horrified as I witness the devastation. The impact if wild fires should be the only fires we have to deal with the terrible consequences of.

    [i]Analysis by Price et al. (2015) found that the majority of the 30 bioregions studied in south-eastern Australia gained no ‘leverage’ as a result of fuel reduction burning. (‘Leverage’, as defined by the authors, is “the reduction in unplanned area burnt resulting from recent previous area burnt”). Within some of these bioregions, there was even an opposite, counter-productive effect (the so-called ‘fire-follows-fire’ effect). Only four bioregions out of 30 gained leverage (and even then with some qualification). The authors concluded that in all bioregions the stronger predictor of unplanned fire was weather, not the area’s recent burn history. Therefore, there should be a review looking at the efficacy of prescribed burning practices which are currently applied blindly across the entire landscape with no recognition of bioregional differences; and which, is also giving fire managers and the public alike a false sense of security about wildfire mitigation.[/]

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