Tasmanian Times

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Letter to the Editor on the fires …

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For the last few weeks here in Tasmania we have been very aware that our country is burning. Here in the south we again woke to thick smoke with a PM2.5 level of more than 700 mcg/m3 during the night. A bad day in Beijing is around 100.

The Tas Fire Service and volunteer fire fighters do a great job and are working hard trying to extinguish the fires resulting from the dry conditions and lightning strikes but it’s more than they can manage and they’ve had to call for outside help. The long term outlook is for hotter, drier conditions so perhaps it’s time to reconsider how best to respond to fire.

Our national defence forces should perhaps be equipped and trained to defend us from the real threat that fire poses. If these fires were being lit by ‘terrorists’ – and that may happen – there would be an immediate military response. Rapid response teams would be deployed and it would be front page news. The same danger is posed by naturally occurring fires but the response is dramatically different.

I wrote ‘naturally occurring’ but the increase in fire frequency and severity is not really ‘natural’. Our disruption of the climate by burning fossil fuels has created a vicious circle: more fires create more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere while often destroying the vegetation needed to convert it back to oxygen.

We spend many billions on fighter jets and submarines to equip our defence forces to protect us from perceived external threats. Perhaps it’s time to reassess the real dangers that we face and equip and train our defence forces accordingly.

The sooner a fire is attacked the easier it is to get it under control. Perhaps there should be a National Fire Defence team, working closely with local fire services, continually assessing weather and on ground conditions with satellite infra-red monitoring pinpointing hotspots. Rapid response teams with appropriate equipment and training could then be deployed when required.

Patrick Synge

Lymington

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times …

The Heart of Tasmania is on fire

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44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. Clive Stott

    February 7, 2019 at 2:02 am

    Rather than each state calling on the federal government for grants during and after theses fires, surely it would make sense to call on the federal government to provide the proven means to extinguish them rapidly when they occur. I have said before, we do not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to putting out fires.

    Our fire authority chiefs should be singing the praises of water scoopers such as the Canadair 415 after reading Mike Adam’s repeated comment but all we get is deathly silence.
    If we are going to be managing these fires from in a control room filled with computers at least look up the benefits and start talking about it. Better still, go and sit in one like Mike did!

    Each state has unique environments that we must not lose. When they are gone, they are gone FOREVER. We have been so lucky to date that we haven’t lost the lot here in Tas. Surely that must have come as a wakeup call that times have changed and a different approach to fire fighting is needed. But it has to come from the top and it is going to take courage. Fight our fires from the air but not with a bucket!

    Fire fighting has grown into such a big business with a big budget here in Tas. but we have just seen it looking more like Health and not able to cope in time of need.

    All this back burning is just increasing the total area burnt and adding to our problem down the track with a positive feedback loop. If fires were snuffed in their infancy campaign fires with all their risks and uncertainty would be a thing of the past.

    Surely we have better things to do than fight fires and breathe smoke each year. I feel anyone opposed to this thinking must be making a bob out of it, have pyromaniac tendencies, or has been brought up using old-school thinking.

    • Pete Godfrey

      February 7, 2019 at 7:54 am

      Hi, Clive … I get your message.

      I looked at the list of planes the air force has. They would not last 5 minutes in a real war. It would be much better to use those people in climate change repair.

      When I worked for the Navy I used to joke that we could have been overrun by a bunch of boy scouts in rowing boats entering Sydney Harbour.

      From memory we had something like 12 fighting ships, which is not bad when you consider the coastline of Australia – one ship for every 2,000 kilometres. Most of those ships were rust buckets as well.

      Our defense force is really just a small branch of the US war machine.

      Hopefully one day (pretty soon) some politician will decide to protect Australia instead of shoring up the US oil supply.

    • pat synge

      February 7, 2019 at 8:25 am

      We had 18mm rain overnight, and it’s gently raining this morning. So good!

      I also wonder whether fires are sometimes allowed to grow before being tackled. It is a very uncomfortable thought, but given the huge sums involved in fighting big fires it would certainly be financially rewarding for some.

      The 2016 wilderness fires cost some $52 M to extinguish and a fair proportion of this is paid to external contractors.

    • Rob Halton

      February 7, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      Clive, Erickson sky cranes are far more suited to dealing with wildfires in Tasmania given the mountainous, short and sharp profiled rough terrain and forests with heavy fuel loads …

      Where are our heavily uniformed Tas Fire Service officers, another Dad’s Army excuse, Ow, ow we overlooked to contract a heavy haulage helicopter for the 2018-19 fire season from the United States whereas WA, NSW VIC and the ACT didn’t miss out did they!

      Fixed wing Boeing and Super Fortress water bombers based on the mainland are useful in vast flat area of fast running grass and scrub fire but not for Tasmania, on occasions maybe across areas of fast moving grass fires and light scrub like the plains of the Midlands and Fingal valley terrain closer to either Launceston and Hobart airports

      Not too sure about Canadair 415 water scoopers for Tasmania, generally I would say not, probably best suited to their current roles in areas of the Northern Hemisphere riddled with lakes for extinguishing fires on expansive flattish tundra inter dispersed with conifer and decidious forests.

      In the forthcoming shake up of the fire authorities for which I still have some reservations about, at least one Skycrane should be contracted to be on site in Tasmania each fire season HENCEFORTH with a spare available within the Southern States at SHORT NOTICE as a backup when required!

      Fiddling around with dependence on “toy” aircraft, Bami bucket equipped helicopters to entirely do the job of suppression is an unreasonable expectation from the rapid response period including the hard slog ahead once the fire takes control. Fine for less demanding roles along the fire ground for approaching the mop up stage using ground crews to direct water dumping!

      If anything I would be promoting the Erickson sky cranes, the more the better available in Australia during the Northern hemisphere off season, their only drawback is they cannot use salt water for which the spray forms salt in turn restricts the vision for pilots and is not compatible with the pumping equipment.

      By the way a Skycrane crashed into a dam in Gippsland recently the pilot escaped injuriy not sure about if the aircraft is back in service!

      Nothing is infallible but I believe that the highly adaptable Erickson Skycrane is a winner to supplement our annual fire fighting equipment expectations within the scope of the national fire fighting effort!

      • Simon Warriner

        February 7, 2019 at 4:48 pm

        “In the forthcoming shake up of the fire authorities for which I still have some reservations about.”

        Come on Robin, tell us more, or are you anticipating something based on the details of a few recent events?

      • Clive Stott

        February 8, 2019 at 5:36 pm

        Robin, you are all over the place with your thinking.

        Much of the fire footage shown would have been suitable to be put out with Canadair 415s. Even in heavily forested or mountainous terrain, where do you think the dropped water goes? If rain can put out our fires, as it did, then dumping thousands of litres of water on it in the early stages is the way to go.

        As a rule, helicopters are way more expensive to operate than fixed wing aircraft .. and they fall to the ground, as you say.

        You are probably right though. One Elvis, stationed in Tas, could have probably quenched these fires if it was deployed early enough. Where was it?

        A small fleet of Canadairs to give the required further quenching is a better way to go, I believe. Support it, Robin! Don’t just say ‘black’ because I say ‘white’.

        Having to wait for rain to put our fires out shows that something hasn’t been handled very well.

      • Geoff Holloway

        February 8, 2019 at 6:39 pm

        Spot on, Rob Halton! I agree!

      • MJF

        February 9, 2019 at 12:28 pm

        On the money Mr Halton. Fixed wing would have little place in extinguishing early detected wildfires in Tasmania’s WHA’s. Rotary winged aircraft are the obvious way to go with the ability to hover while filling up from small water sources like our thousands of lesser lakes and tarns which will generally be closer to the source. Early suppression, which everyone wants, is the key and sky cranes or similar would be the obvious fit.

        The question is how long does it take PWS, as the managers of WHA land, to initiate any constructive actions ? My unofficial mail is that they did very little for several days after the Riveaux Rd fire was first detected deep in WHA territory. I do stand to be corrected on that however.

        Also how long would it take to prep a waterbody for fixed winged aircraft to scoop up water ? I imagine after a waterbody was identified for use, it would need to be swept beforehand for hazards such as fisherman, canoeists, floating logs, buoys, abandoned inflatable pool toys etc and then some kind of exclusion zone would need to be established prior to use ?

        We can probably ignore the heavy metal contamination in Tasmania lakes (as revealed by The Guardian now) for fire suppression water. Lead, zinc, arsenic and cadmium would reside in the bottom sediments wouldn’t they ?

        Our colleague Mr Boeder was alarmed recently with choppers filling up from tailings dams in the Western Districts, I think due to perceived contamination of water.

        • Simon Warriner

          February 9, 2019 at 4:17 pm

          Yes, Martin, I too watched the development of the Riveaux Rd fire with interest. 4 days were taken to get it from inception to 6.5 hectares, and then the resources were reduced by removing 1 medium tanker, leaving 2 light tankers, during which period the fire grew in size from 6.5 to 38.6 hectares, if I recall correctly. Unfortunately I do not have the alerts pages for each of those four days, only the last of them. Anyone who has them can get them to me via LInz. If not I will have to learn how to use the “way back” machine or do an FOI request.

          Once I have them I will consider saying a bit more, beyond that this seems to be a pattern repeated more often than should be the case.

      • Clive Stott

        March 18, 2019 at 2:49 pm

        From the experts: the multi-role Canadair 515 aircraft….definitely worth considering.

  2. Mike Adams

    February 4, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    Here I go back a bit. I’ve mentioned this episode before on TT.

    One very hot afternoon I sat in the co-pilot’s seat of a Canadair CL 415 on the very hot tarmac of the runway at Carcassonne airport, talking to a 415 pilot of Securité Civile. He very kindly explained some of the the workings of Sécurité Civile.

    Pilot selection: they need fighter or naval aviation pilots of minimum 3,000 hours. (He had 4,000 hours of aircraft carrier experience). After service he found a job with passenger jet flying and was bored to tears, so replied to a Sécurité Civile advert .. and loves the job.

    He said it is important to have a fleet of water bombers, plus spotter aircraft. The important factor is the 3 minute rule in serious bushfires. Water bombing of a part of a fire must be followed up by further drenchings within 3 minutes or reignition could occur and cause pilots to continually bomb the same areas. Consequently the selection of 415s depended on the size of the fire, the spread of the fire, the distance to a scoopable water supply, and then how many 415s will be needed. I was lucky enough to see the ‘Noria’ in action on a nearby mountain top with a fire that had caused the exhaustion of a local fire brigade. Mid afternoon three 415s appeared and in turn dropped their 6 tonnes of water and then flew back to a nearby lake to scoop up more. This meant a circular flight pattern for all three.(Internet videos will show the ‘formation flying’ adopted by other organisations having much the same result.) In my case after half an hour there were no more fires .. and a relieved local brigade. N.B: that 415s can release their water in salvoes or all in one hit: pilot’s choice.

    There’s internet footage showing a spotter aircraft’s role in monitoring a blaze before calling in 415 support. This spotter may be a light aircraft or a non-scooping water bomber who hits the target first.

    It’ll be a temptation by some politicians in Australia to pare back the numbers of scoopers on the usual financial grounds. They’ll no doubt have their photos taken for the media and bask in their brief electoral popularity. But whether they’re doing anything worthwhile …

    ‘Elvis’, the Ericson S64 Skycrane, is suitable for urban areas. It can carry more water than a 415, and sucking up from urban sources is an advantage. However, it needs a crew of three, has a shorter range, and international carriage requires a Russian heavy lifter aircraft.

    I thank Clive Stott for the Viking follow-up. I fervently hope that their decision to resume fabrication of an advanced 415 (515) will be positive.

  3. Clive Stott

    February 3, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    Pete, our RAAF doesn’t have many planes suitable for fire fighting, but maybe a few could be used for back-burning with their after-burners!

    Some are either old with spare parts an issue, or they are on restricted flying time because we are too poor.

    You can see the current list here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_Royal_Australian_Air_Force_aircraft.

    I’m sure their crews would love to be flying the Canadair CL 415s or Viking Air’s new and upgraded replacement called the CL515 to quench our small fires before they become campaign fires across the state.

    https://aerialfirefighter.vikingair.com/aircraft/cl-215t-cl-415eaf-aircraft

    There’s more here on the 515 water scooper bomber, a much updated version of the one in the video earlier in TT Comments here: https://www.skiesmag.com/news/viking-air-contemplates-new-cl-515-waterbomber-variant/

    I wonder how many orders our government is going to place .. or are we going to continue to be burnt to a char and smoked out?

    It’s like they are asleep.

  4. Ines Carver

    February 2, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    If anyone would like to support a collective appeal, I’d love to hear from you!

    Ines Carver: inescarver@gmail.com

  5. Colin David Butler

    February 2, 2019 at 4:13 am

  6. Pete Godfrey

    February 1, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    I agree on using the military for firefighting. Using amphibious aircraft to waterbomb wildfires would be great practice for military pilots.

    The military already has plenty of large short takeoff planes that could be utilised as water bombers without much conversion, for example, the Caribou.

    In the event that we were to suffer a military attack on Australia, fire would be one of the main consequences that would need to be controlled. If the military had the capability and training to contain fires it would be a major boon.

    There are plenty of people being under utilised in our military. Rather than painting, polishing and marching in parades, they could be doing something that would make them, and us, proud of their work.

    I know that if I were younger I would rather be out helping people than polishing shoes and practicing in parades. I used to work for the Navy where a form of punishment for those who were stupid enough to forget to salute an officer, or didn’t polish their shoes enough, was to hang over the side of a ship chipping rust off, and painting.

    This led to one of supply ships not being able to be used for cyclone relief as it was only 2 mm thick in places.

    That work is a boilermaker’s job.

    • Simon Warriner

      February 2, 2019 at 4:47 am

      Actually Pete, it belongs to the painters and dockers, along with cleaning out the bilges. Boilermakers build stuff out of steel.

      That aside, yes, let’s use the military, but more importantly, let’s make sure we don’t need to use them very often because we have perfected the art of putting little fires out fast, before they become big campaign fires.

      • Pete Godfrey

        February 2, 2019 at 10:02 am

        You are right about the chipping and painting job, Simon. I was thinking of monitoring the thickness of the ship’s hulls and welding in new plates when I said it was the boilermaker’s jobs.

        My experience of the painters and dockers was that they were almost invisible unless we made the error of borrowing their punts or doing some job that they considered theirs. Then we were quickly warned by our foremen to desist, as the consequences could be dire.

  7. Peter Dufferin

    February 1, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    I concur absolutely with the idea that some of the squillions spent on the ADF should be channeled into a home defence force with personnel and equipment to attack fires at their birth.

    If Simon Warriner’s statement is correct in that the southern fire took 4 days to get to 6.5 hectares, then the lack of response would seem to have been grossly negligent.

    The lightning strikes in mid January started a fire just over my boundary at Petcheys Bay on a forested ridge, and the following afternoon it was controlled by a helicopter and bucket, thereby allowing a dozer to come in and contain the fire to 1 hectare. Was this one too close to settlement?

    Once the emergency has receded, I would urge everyone to put maximum and sustained pressure on the politicians because it is their decisions which can affect these occurrences. The Murray-Darling is in the same boat .. a natural system that is essential for the continued survival of life on this planet but which appears to be being wilfully and ignorantly ignored by those who control the policies.

    • Simon Warriner

      February 1, 2019 at 6:43 pm

      Thankyou, Peter.

  8. Russell

    February 1, 2019 at 11:19 am

    WHERE ARE THE WATER BOMBERS ?

  9. Clive Stott

    January 30, 2019 at 3:52 am

    Robin, anything bigger than a Bambi bucket must be a bonus.

    First-line aerial support wouldn’t be flying through smoke if it was activated early enough. I feel someone has been way too slow to react.

    I agree with Mike Adams and say we should be using what has been proven elsewhere, hence the video.

    We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here in Tasmania when it comes to putting out fires.

    So you say we should be using sky cranes. Where is ‘Elvis’? Elvis has left the room!

  10. PLB

    January 29, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    That’s a good point, Patrick.

    The fact that there is no National team reflects on the fact that our national Government is a corrupted Climate Change denying pack of right wing retards who are grossly guilty of failing this nation’s future well-being.

    • pat synge

      February 1, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      You may be right about the government politicians PLB, but they are far from the only ones to not have a national military firefighting capability. Few countries have.

      But maybe it’s time to ask the questions:
      • What does “National Defence” actually mean?
      • Does it mean protecting our nation from external threats?
      • If so, is fire not a threat?
      • Is lightning not an external threat?
      Fire experts would have known that the Riveaux fire was going to grow exponentially .. given the dry conditions and predicted weather.
      • Where were they on the 18th, 19th and the 20th of January?
      • Why were those relatively small blazes not extinguished then?
      • What responsibility does the Federal Government have for protecting World Heritage listed areas?

  11. Clive Stott

    January 29, 2019 at 2:56 am

    Put the fires out and go home!

    Big jets unleashed in Tasmania:

    https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/3724213/big-jets-unleashed-on-tasmanian-fires/

    • Russell

      January 29, 2019 at 8:09 am

      They’re only going to be here for one drop and then go home – and of what? What is that going to do when several vast areas of the state are on fire?

      This is an outrageous and gross dereliction of duty by the State Government.

      Anyone who suffers loss or damage should sue the Government for its incompetence, and its failure to implement its duty of care.

    • Rob Halton

      January 30, 2019 at 12:32 am

      Clive, big jets are basically a waste of time and money in Tasmania .Where are the Erikson Sky cranes which are far more flexible, they are far more adaptable can hover to direct water hits and wriggle their way in and out of smokey sites more confidently and safely when these oversize fixed wing monsters can only manage more direct flight paths.

      One of the big issues for tomorrow with the severe fire weather forecast with a strong nor wester will be down on Braeside Road where the fire at presenmt is only 2km from the Huon River at of its narrowist points tocould jump or spot onto unburnt Egg Island waterbird Reserve then rip up through the dry paddocks at Cradoc dirctly onto the heavily forested Snug Tiers to the best of my knowledge has not been burnt since 1967.

      Once the fire does that then the entire Cygnet Range will cop it over the next month or two not to mention rural properties on both the Cygnet side and the Channel area!

      • Russell

        January 30, 2019 at 7:59 am

        The helicopters and their dilly bags have obviously been largely ineffectual because the fires are now bigger than ever with no sign of diminishing.

        They are now saying that the only thing which will stop the fires is heavy rain, and that this relief isn’t in the foreseeable future.

  12. Rob Halton

    January 28, 2019 at 10:35 am

    For locals living in the Huon thingss are looking dire for the outskirts of Geeveston as the fire weather with prevailing westerlies chop and change around swinging from NW-W and SW and the fire advances ever closer to the outskirts of the town along Arve Road.

    If anyone that lives on Fourfoot Road then be aware of the fuel status of the Fourfoot Plains close to settlement. If the scrub and button grass has not been burnt recently, look out fire will spread rapidly, the local Fire volunteers should know anyway. Good luck

    Just a hint if one has access to a tractor and any sort of plough to turn over the grass tinto the soil and helps to create a suitable fire breaks to separate the long dry grass into manageable sectors for which you can hit with water as it creates a reasonably effective break to control spread and spare property.

    The weather warms up over the next few days the Huon fire will start moving again.
    Be prepared for the long haul for the next two months until cooler temperatures, shorter days and autumn rains arrive creating the SDI to drop to safer levels

  13. Pete Godfrey

    January 28, 2019 at 9:43 am

    I find it bizarre that the total fire ban has been lifted. It was reported in the media that the TFS said it would not extend the fire ban because it would inconvenience people and the agriculture industry.

    Who are these people kidding? Half the state has massive fires raging. We cannot seem to keep up with the workload, and the TFS is saying it is OK to light more fires! There seems to be a massive disconnect going on.

    I don’t have TV, but somehow there appears to be no media covering what our invisible government has to say on the situation. At least the print media is not asking the invisible men what they think.

    • Russell

      January 28, 2019 at 2:22 pm

      Our Government is invisible because it has been criminally negligent in not having water bombers used in the mix – purely because it don’t want to pay for them.

      Our government don’t care about WHA because it means it won’t have to ask the UN to revoke its status after it has been razed to the ground forever, and then it will let loose with weeds and plantations.

  14. Mike Adams

    January 28, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Climate Change is likely to make bushfire seasons longer and hotter and consequently more destructive, both of natural and human resources.

    The present arrangement of state owned, financed and managed fire services is now becoming archaic, something proven by the ‘borrowing’ of fire personnel and equipment from all over to reinforce those increasingly inadequate for the task.

    The use of aircraft for firefighting in Australia is once more dependent on state finances,and the types of aircraft available – usually medium sized helicopters and crop dusters although occasionally supplemented by a converted passenger aircraft – and the fire conditions.

    Helicopters use buckets on long cables and fly high so as not to fan the flames, but in doing so they can have visibility problems. Light aircraft can be affected by strong winds.

    Around the world, in situations comparable to those in Australia, dedicated fire-bombers are used.

    Starting in Canada, and thence to France and spreading throughout the Mediterranean, the turbo prop Canadair CL 415 is the most used, though it’s now challenged by the pure jet Russian Beriev 200. Both have the ability to scoop water, with the Canadair being lighter and more maneuverable. It can fly over a 15 metre barrier, descend on to water, scoop 6 tonnes over one kilometre and mix it, if needed, with on board retardant, and then leave the scene by overflying another 15 metre obstacle.

    Many of our highland lakes are suited to this, as are our river estuaries. Their duration outshines the smaller aircraft and helicopters. The usual crew is two. Such aircraft can have other functions including rescue at sea and surveillance.

    Should Australia be threatened by a human enemy, the RAAF would be involved. There would be no recourse to a Tasmanian or South Australian Air Force or any other state-based defence system. The idea is now unthinkable.

    Consequently, the case for part of the RAAF to be equipped with water bombers and with its personnel devoted to fire fighting activities, and to be on call by any state, is compelling. There are countries which have such systems operating.

    The number of fatalities caused in Australia by bushfires would cause strong governmental action if due to human enemy activities.

    The Internet has footage of Canadairs operating, should any reader be interested.

  15. Simon Warriner

    January 28, 2019 at 7:27 am

    I posted this elsewhere on the site on this thread https://tasmaniantimes.com/2019/01/world-heritage-ancient-gondwanan-communities-at-risk/#comment-226436

    “As was stated in a conversation, overheard by myself and another witness, between a State Fire Commissioner and the TFS incident controller while standing on my property overlooking a smallish fire in the Inglis River Valley on the day Dunalley burned .. ‘It’s only a little fire. Wait ’til it is big enough to fight properly.’ That one sentence sums up what is being seen repeated far too often to be coincidental or accidental.

    Determining the reasons why we are not putting maximum effort into extinguishing small fires fast is where the media can do the public a service, one that has been absent for far too long.

    Whether that is where this story goes or not will be seen over the next couple of months.”

    The TFS alerts for the Revoux Road fire which now threatens Judbury, Glen Huon, Geeveston and surrounds, and Lonnavale, make for interesting reading when viewed sequentially. A little fire took some 4 days to grow to 6.5 hectares. Perhaps someone could explain why an aggressive aerial attack, followed up by ground work to black out, would have been an inappropriate response during that 4 day period? This question is not a matter of hindsight, but of wondering why lessons freely available to be drawn from previous fires, and highlighted in the subsequent inquiries, were not applied on that fire. If the answer is a lack of resources, then yes, we need more resources, but in the absence of evidence of a failed attempt at the task it is difficult to see how that case can be made and sustained.

    We will see where this story goes over the next couple of months. The reputation of our mainstream media will be determined by what it does, or does not do, in this regard.

  16. Clive Stott

    January 27, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Max asks ‘how much are these fires costing?’

    On January 23 it was estimated by Peter Gutwein to be 10 million dollars plus. But he wouldn’t have factored in life-long extra health care costs such as cancer, respiratory and liver diseases as a direct result of the smoke across Tasmania.

    And of course the Liberals can make a budget surplus when they won’t pay hospital staff a decent wage, and when they stretch out medical treatment in this state. The so called ‘budget surplus’ is nothing to be proud of.

    https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/5866315/fighting-tasmanian-bushfires-costs-state-millions/

  17. Clive Stott

    January 27, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    It’s nice to see the fire fighter wearing a mask in those conditions. Those fire fighters on the ground do a great job against almost impossible odds.

    This is going to become commonplace. I almost wore my mask in Launceston city the other day when we were smoked out.

    I thought we were meant to have ready access to very large air tankers (VLAT’s) here in Tasmania. If we do, they were not called on early enough to extinguish these fires before they smoked so bad that aircraft couldn’t fly.

    Don’t the politicians and the higher up fire authorities see that flying around with small Bambi buckets is very much children’s play in these conditions? It’s as if they want this drama each year.

    As I have said before, if you let the fires become BIG, you can qualify for Commonwealth funding. How clever is that, Tasmania?

    • Russell

      January 28, 2019 at 8:10 am

      Yes, our fire-fighters should be supplied with masks to protect their respiratory health. Unfortunately, I don’t think the one being worn in the article’s photo is effective against smoke. The rule of thumb is, if you can smell it then it isn’t working.

      And yes, WHERE were the fire bombers?

      Letting the fires become BIG, so that you can qualify for Commonwealth funding, is a dereliction of duty and a failure to comply with one’s duty of care. The State Government should be sued for the destruction of our landscape and the damage to people’s health. This is a CRIMINAL act!

      • Patrick Synge

        January 28, 2019 at 11:30 am

        Re the wearing of masks …

        A regular PM2 face mask (available in any hardware store) is a lot better than nothing. The “rule of thumb” referred to above is only half true.

        A PM2 mask will not remove everything, but it will most definitely help. While the larger particles may not be as dangerous as the very fine ones, they are certainly not good for you! It’s very instructive to walk outside at night with a headlamp on. You can then see the myriad of flecks of ash in the air that are invisible during the day.

        I’ve been working outdoors these last few days and would not have been able to do anything like as much without my mask. And yes, wear it in town when the air is thick – the latest fashion statement!

        • Russell

          January 28, 2019 at 2:44 pm

          Close enough is NOT good enough protection for those who risk their lives and health to save the environment and public from the effects of bushfires.

          The ‘2.5’ in PM 2.5 refers to the size of the pollutant in micrometers. Particulate pollutants vary in size and the smaller they are, the more damage they cause to your health. This mask will NOT filter smaller particulates or gases out.

          PM2.5 is produced through:

          Combustion in vehicles and machinery.
          Industrial processes, particularly those involving coal.
          Emissions from power plants.
          Chemical processes in the atmosphere which happen when gasses and other pollutants from power plants interact.
          Sources inside the home, such as candles, lamps and fireplaces.
          Forest fires and coal burning.

          https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/your-environment/air/air-pollution/pm25-particles-in-air

          If you can smell smoke, the mask is NOT filtering it, FULL STOP!

          The only sure protection is to have clean filtered air pumped to the inside and out through PPE, like that used in the fibreglass industry for example

          • GeoffC

            January 29, 2019 at 12:50 pm

            Russell, we are supplied with suitable masks.

            Masks that filter out finer particles are available, but they put an increased burden on the wearer making it harder to breathe and they increase the risk of overheating when working under fire-ground conditions. Beyond PM2.5 the solution becomes the problem.

          • Russell

            January 30, 2019 at 8:04 am

            That is certainly true, Geoff C. It is exhausting to work in those masks for any length of time, and they do not seal properly.

            That’s why negative pressure filter units are the only safe option.

            Please don’t complain about their cost when people’s lives saving ours and our environment are at stake.

  18. Cindy smith

    January 27, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree about the armed forces being trained to fight wildfires. I have been saying so for years.

    • Russell

      January 28, 2019 at 8:15 am

      Definitely Cindy.

      Our “Defence Forces” should be used to defend us in whatever way they can, and not just used to trot off to another country to illegally bomb and occupy it indefinitely.

      Other countries use their Defence Forces in natural disaster situations. It would be excellent training for them, and we would get some value for the public dollars spent on them.

  19. max

    January 27, 2019 at 11:15 am

    It is getting drier every year, and it’s called climate change.

    It is man made and it is escalating out of control. As a consequence of dry soil, dry air and dry vegetation, fires will become uncontrollable.

    Every fire promotes fire-loving plants, and it doesn’t matter if they are controlled burns or wild fires. The first plants to recover from the present fires will be fire-loving plants, and the next wild fire will be bigger. We are now in a revolving door of dryer conditions, and more flammable plants.

    All houses built in susceptible areas from now on should be fire proof, and perhaps under the ground.

    Tasmania needs its own heavy lift helicopter fire fighter, so at the first sign of a fire the fire could be hit, and hit hard.

    We know the future of fires is going to escalate. How much are the present fires costing?

    The next one will be bigger unless our government invests in ways to stop fire before they become unstoppable.

    • Sally Dillon

      January 27, 2019 at 3:32 pm

      Well said! We agree completely! I would also point out how I believe that Australians are perfectly capable of celebrating Captain Cook very cheaply and would use the 48 million dollars to buy the huge fire fighting planes that California is using.

      How our Prime Minister thinks it is more appropriate to spend 48 MILLION DOLLARS on Captain Cook is appalling!

      Give the 48 million dollars to set up this National Fire Defence Force.

      • MjF

        February 9, 2019 at 11:55 am

        Well said but not nearly as bizarre as Turnbull dishing out $444 mill to the essentially philanthropic and not-for-profit GBRF. In fact it’s a small environmental charity with a board comprised of representatives of Australian business, science and philanthropy who neither wanted it, applied for it or know how to spend it yet. Of course Mal wasn’t the only member of cabinet to think this was a good idea. Josh reckoned it was a good deal too.

        I’d love to se the cost benefit analysis of this act of benevolence in time.

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