Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Adventure and Wilderness

United Tasmania Group (UTG) Inquiry into public and government responses to the Tasmanian bushfires of 2019

Dan Broun's picture of devastated WHA ...

Since 2012 there have been several major bushfires in Tasmania, which have led to widespread damage including 119,200 hectares in 2012-2013 (including 44,700 hectares in the Giblin River area), 126,800 hectares across Tasmania in 2016 and the current fires that have consumed about 200,000 hectares in wilderness, National Park and reserve areas (2019).

This inquiry focuses on wilderness and national park reserves and is based on a two-fold examination …

(1) public responses to these fires as reported in the Tasmanian Times over the month of January 2019, and …

(2) an analysis of six government reports into these fires over 2013-2017 and limitations in implementing the recommendations associated with these reports.

This is not a report into the excellent work done, and continuing to be done, by the 700 or more firefighters involved in trying to control these fires. Quite the contrary, this report is a preliminary examination of how such efforts could be enhanced so that Tasmania can minimise future damage to the biodiversity, geodiversity and cultural heritage of these areas.

This report gives expression to the widespread public concern about these fires, some of which is based on poor communication strategies by government, and what is commonly perceived as tardy and inadequate early intervention.

Conclusions:

  1. UTG supports the call by Senator Nick McKim, who chaired the 2016 Senate Inquiry, for a public, open inquiry (‘summit’) into the 2019 fires in order to “plan the best way to respond to wilderness bushfires in the future”. We also endorse his objective for this summit to “allow issues to be worked through constructively and collaboratively with the aim of agreeing on outcomes that would allow remote wilderness fires to be hit hard and hit early, which is the best way to minimise damage.”
  2. UTG suggests that such an inquiry should also examine the incomplete implementation of recommendations from previous inquiries and the reasons for this.
  3. UTG calls for the establishment of bushwalker-cum-firefighter brigades, along the lines of the Smokewalkers of the 1970s, as suggested in previous inquiries.
  4. UTG calls for the Parks & Wildlife Service, as a matter of priority, to develop a scientifically-based policy on the use of fire in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) that recognises the need to protect the range of values in this area, including highly fire sensitive communities and also to allow for on-going natural evolution in significant areas of the TWWHA. Such a policy might be for no use of fire at all, or no widespread use of fire, to allow for natural ecological evolution as the primary management aim.
  5. UTG calls for all ‘hazard reduction burning’ within wilderness, National Park and Conservation Areas be suspended until the consequences of such activities have been scientifically evaluated.
  6. UTG calls for better communication strategies to be put in place in order to address public concerns about management of major bushfires in Tasmania.

 Geoff Holloway (Dr.)

Secretary, United Tasmania Group

Download …

V3 UTG Inquiry bushfires 2019

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98 Comments

98 Comments

  1. Geoff Holloway

    March 3, 2019 at 11:10 am

    500 times! The UTG Inquiry into Responses to the Bushfires has been viewed/downloaded 500 times in just two weeks (across four different sites). I would to thank everyone for their very interesting and useful comments – keep them coming! In due course UTG will produce a revision or an update to the original report taking into account the 18,000 words of comments made so far in response to this report.

  2. Lyndall

    March 3, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Hi again Clive (Clive Stott, March 1, 2019 at 12:24 pm)

    I’m posting (rather than replying) here because I’ve just picked up on something you said which may be of interest for others in this forum to take ACTION.

    You said: “If we look at the Tasmanian Fire Act as amended – 1997 it is a dog’s breakfast, however, it is up for review at present…”.

    Do you know if this legislation presently being reviewed is open for public input? If so, can you please post the details for submissions? I’m sure we’d all like to take this infrequent (>20 yrs) opportunity to express our views & ideas and hopefully have some influence to bring about meaningful change.

    • Clive Stott

      March 9, 2019 at 8:35 pm

      Hello Lyndall,
      Sorry about my delayed response.
      By mistake, when i was putting my jumper on in a hurry to get back onto TasTimes before it closes, I stuck my head into an armole and that took some getting out! Onya Linz!x

      Re the Tas Fire Service Act Review information can be accessed here…
      http://www.fire.tas.gov.au/Show?pageId=colFireServiceActReview
      As I read it submissions for the issues paper have closed but there will be further chances to comment.

      “…A comprehensive review of the Act and all subordinate legislation is now considered timely….”
      Doesn’t mean it will be finalized in a timely manner in Tasmania.
      A current version of the Act can be found here…
      https://www.legislation.tas.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1979-035

  3. Lyndall

    March 2, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    Hi Simon (02/03/2019 @ 3.35pm) – there wasn’t a little reply tab at the bottom so I’m starting afresh here…

    Thanks for your feedback and suggested change in tack or, should I say, the area to really concentrate upon where the actual problems reside. I am aware of toxic cultural, territorial or ‘old school’ barriers operating but I’m afraid I have no clue whatsoever about effecting change in that sphere. Instead I’m hoping that logic and evidence-based information like the critical flow rate work by Penney et al, 2019 will eventually shine through – or at least show up the crusty elements in fire mgt that need to be removed. (Or, as I suggested to someone else once, ‘re-educated’ maybe along the same lines as in Clockwork Orange?).

    I first had to look up what ‘obdurate’ means before replying – good word; but I already know what an anvil and hammer can do. I feel much the same way after seeing a lightning event passing through the Alpine & E Gippsland areas on late Thursday arvo/early evening and about 18-19 fires started almost immediately in quick succession. I then checked out the Vic aircraft readiness webpage to see which, if any, aircraft were dispatched…

    Tellingly, I think, is that only 3 Helitacks were sent (one of these a rappel group) to three separate fires and all within the same fire district & requested by DEWLP. (But as an aside, even this noteworthy effort was limited by the time of day and therefore how long the aircraft could operate). So the majority of bombers & helitacks remained on the ground on 15 min standby at their various bases throughout the state while all of those new little fires had almost an uninhibited 12-14 hours of hot summer-night’s freedom to spread and build.

    By next day (Friday) nothing much had changed numbers-wise but they now had Advice notices. Most fires were still ‘not yet under control’ and on the move. It was hot again overnight, and by today a number of fire clusters had gone completely feral with three sites in particular under Red emergency notices nearly all day. It’s Level Nuclear for Bunyip SF and of course, NOW a full arsenal of water-bombers is being deployed with people, stock and property potentially all in danger – but it’s way too late! (The Bunyip fires started on Thursday along with the others by lightning & they weren’t attacked by HTs initially & therefore aren’t in the abovementioned fire district).

    So yet again this goes to demonstrate how there is regional, district, agency and even IC inconsistency in the fire mgt approach and the subsequent form & weight of deployment for initial attack. You and others in this forum have all noted problems with & within management judging either by uncoordinated/poorly handled incidents or woefully inadequate responses. The consequences are bordering on, well ….malpractice, negligence? I don’t know what to say. But when I see these, in what I consider, mostly avoidable outcomes, I think some people should be held to account. Can I get sued for saying all this? (But in Vic I think the legislation was changed after the 2009 Black Saturday Inquiry so that ICs etc cannot be subject to legal action – I need to check that).

  4. Jon SUmby

    March 1, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    ‘Incident Commander Laura Boocock told the BBC it was “one of the biggest grass fires (she) has ever seen”, but it was “nothing they can’t handle”.

    Witness Harry Broughton tweeted: “Never seen anything like this – had a drive up as these things look terrible.

    “High up on the Pennines between Saddleworth and Marsden on the Manchester/Yorkshire border, but close to houses including two pubs. Hope it is contained.”‘

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02/27/saddleworth-moor-fire-apocalyptic-blaze-breaks-yorkshire-britains/

  5. duncan mills

    March 1, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    For once I find significant resonance with Robin Halton on firefighting tactics, most of the commentary however is confined to the tactical box, which recent international commentary has pointed out is of limited effect in the hotter World expected in the future.Sure multiagency coordination is important as is heavier first attack capability, but the big questioms lie outside the tactical box and in the strategic domain.

    1.In the forecast hotter World, is it rationally justifiable to invest in even aged monoculture of highly flammable species? Would you invest your superfund in such a plantation?
    From recent airial photos it does look like there will be salient lesson from the Warra sustainability trials and perhaps a reevaluation of mixed ahe single stem selection forestry,as of old. Slash the principal objection in RFA days is now a valuable resource for biochar and biocrude due to the maturity of anaerobic pyrolysis technology.

    2.As much as we love amd fight over our native forests, for our production forests within 10-20k upwind of settlement , should we not think about replacing burnt eucalypts with deciduous forests and Fire resistant belts such as Mediterranean pine?

    3.Shoud perhaps insurers be requiring Bush Fire attack audits prior to insuring asserts?

  6. Lyndall

    February 28, 2019 at 10:25 am

    To all as a general comment –
    I’m all for any inquiry seeking facts that can act with full independence and integrity, identify flaws in systems & operations, make meaningful recommendations for a coherent strategy with timelines, and strongly advocate for immediate implementation i.e. in this case, before the next fire season.

    As for wildfire prevention, I say: Hit ‘em early & hit ’em hard – i.e. even if sometimes it looks like overkill – better SAFE than sorry. (I’d argue, more efficient, effective & less costly [e.g. environmentally, economically & compared to a campaign fire] in the long run too).

    I’m a strong advocate for the twinned wildfire prevention strategy of early stage fire detection and a rapid response with potent initial direct attack while the embryonic fire is still small and weak. Yet in the case of the latter, it seems over and over again we squander that precious window of opportunity to extinguish these small controllable fires – sometimes with catastrophic outcomes, as has been noted within the comments.

    Fire suppression to prevent wildfire is not rocket science. With willingness (to change as well as invest) and determination (to get our act together in planning & logistics), I’m sure we can overcome the long-held barriers to a successful wildfire prevention strategy.

    For starters, here’s a little factual guide to the required water (Critical Flow) suppression effort needed:

    “The results demonstrate small firefighting appliances such as light tankers cannot deliver sufficient water flow rates to extinguish wildfire, regardless of FDI, once the active flame depth reaches 2.5 m in typical Woodland fuels of w = 15 tha−1 or 3 m in typical Forest fuels of w = 25 tha−1 [22,26].

    In larger appliances with higher delivery capacities, the required CF cannot be achieved once the active flame depth reaches approximately 5 m with an FDI of 40.

    All aircraft reviewed are capable of achieving the required CF. However, they remain restricted by the inherent limitations of availability, turn around, restricted ability to operate at night where they may be most effective due to reduced fire behaviour, and the increasing presence of privately operated drones over firegrounds which requires the cessation of aerial suppression on safety grounds [36].”

    Ref: Penney et al. 2019 ‘Calculation of critical water flow rates for wildfire suppression’. https://www.bnhcrc.com.au/publications/biblio/bnh-5299

    I say again: hit ‘em early and hit ‘em hard. The above-mentioned limitations are not insurmountable; and by the way, Victoria is currently trialing night ops using NVG, Helitacks & a Firebird with very good results. Perhaps fixed wing may be trialed next season (to compare and analyse for efficacy). Nevertheless, I’m convinced night ops will become a standard part of fire-fighting strategy and wildfire prevention in the near future. (Yee-haaaa).

    • MjF

      February 28, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      All makes perfect sense Lyndall and generally endorsed by all persons here I expect. I suggest the biggest inherent limitation for aerial suppression to overcome is the actual decision to deploy.

      • Lyndall

        February 28, 2019 at 2:53 pm

        Yes. Thanks MjF My point exactly. If only we could pre-position aircraft (as now happens in Vic) to cover for rapid response to any new fires within the landscape; deploy waterbombing aircraft as part of 1st response (ground crews deployed at same time; consider water tanker if appropriate); ensure that the water carrying capacity of that (or multiple) aircraft is sufficient to hopefully extinguish or substantially subdue that new (small & budding) fire under initial attack (e.g. one solitary Bell Type 2 1400 litre tank isn’t going to cut it, exacerbated by its need for refills & assumed water availability, close proximity & fast turn-around) – perhaps even amp up waterbombing capacity according to prevailing fire index-weather conditions?; and ensure that loads are always delivered with as small as possible intervals so that the fire doesn’t get a chance to re-build in between.

        I’m sure it’s not easy and takes a 180 deg change in approach/attitude/culture as well as a lot of planning and investment. But if our political masters and fire managers could aim for this, then the vexed arguments about wildfire mitigation and increased landscape-scale fuel reduction targets, ecological effects, carbon emissions, air quality, risk of escaped burns etc are largely negated – that is, in my mind with this ideal at least.

        Hopefully that sounds reasonable to you & others in this forum as well…

        • pat synge

          February 28, 2019 at 6:22 pm

          It certainly sounds reasonable to me but is quite different from what an expert on the field suggests.
          You might like to listen to this and comment further.

          “Wildfire disasters locally and globally: learning from global trends to plan for future bushfire in Tasmania” — Dr. Crystal A. Kolden
          https://firecentre.org.au/event/wildfire-disasters-locally-and-globally-learning-from-global-trends-to-plan-for-future-bushfire-in-tasmania-dr-crystal-a-kolden/

          • Lyndall

            March 2, 2019 at 11:50 am

            Hi Pat. Thanks for the link.
            I don’t see that Dr Kolden’s work conflicts with the very specific stage of fire-fighting that I’m targeting for a complete overhaul and prioritisation.
            The presentation largely deals with the contexts, trends and outcomes of global wildfire disasters manifesting with the influence of climate change. So Dr Kolden’s section (2) ‘100% Suppression’ is in relation to fighting wildfires (I think) and therefore doesn’t conflict with my different suppression focus on the treatment of unplanned pre-wildfire ‘early stage fire’. This early stage of fire-fighting, of course, is just one component of the much broader, overall fire & emergency management program that involves lots of other wildfire mitigation actions. (E.g. to protect life, property etc and act in various ways to mitigate risk which includes community involvement in their own property protection, fuel breaks next to settlements etc).
            I totally agree with Dr Kolden in regard to the ridiculous (ludicrous) situation where we dedicate bigger and bigger and more expensive aircraft, albeit well-intended, to fight these full-blown wildfires. This was mentioned by Dr Kolden under ‘100% suppression’ which in her view was a failed and very expensive experiment. There was also mention of the rule to have all fires out by the next morning at 10am – and that was noted as a failed experiment in suppression strategy as well. But I have a few thoughts on suppression strategy which may possibly explain the apparent failure.
            When it comes to fighting fires, fire managers tend to concentrate most thinking & effort on the wrong end of the fire – or in other words, it’s not until after the wildfire has already developed that fire mgrs try their hardest to fight & suppress (extinguish) it. Or to put even another way (to ensure I’m communicating my intended message, I hope): the fire they’re now trying to overcome & extinguish is already mature – it has burned over time largely unabated and has consequently grown in area, built massively in energy and is behaving more dangerously & uncontrollably; yet despite this, fire managers expect to be able to control it. But some of these wildfires have been characterised in terms of the equivalent of X nuclear bombs – they can even (now increasingly) make their own weather in the form of a ‘pyrocumulus’ cloud sending particles kilometres up into the stratosphere – so how insane are we to think we can control these things albeit with bigger aircraft (even if 737s), hundreds of fire-fighters and lots of water or retardant?
            We can’t.
            Perhaps this is where you might be seeing some contradiction with what I’ve been saying about effecting suppression, i.e. that it’s not possible according to Dr Kolden’s findings? But – correct me if I’m wrong – I think she was using actual wildfires (number & impact) to indicate or infer that the ‘100% suppression’ strategy in operation was deeply flawed & ineffective. If that’s the case, then it’s a fair enough conclusion to draw if just based on those two factors on face value alone.
            Whereas, I’m looking at improving suppression rates at the very beginning of a fire in order to prevent any wildfire from even developing. (See Penney et al. 2019 for evidence-based examples that indicate suppression is achievable provided the critical flow water rate is met).
            To be sure there’s no contradictory viewpoints about achieving suppression, I think we’d have to know if Dr Kolden’s results included detailed analyses of (in)adequacies in fire management systems & operations for INITIAL attack in terms of strategy, timing/chronology & critical flow rates/type of delivery etc for each wildfire that eventuated. If not included, then suppression per se can’t be deemed as folly to prevent wildfires – only suppression efforts on wildfires, I think, have demonstrably proven that we universally struggle to get the better of this cohort of fires (as in Dr Kolden’s work). It’s often only a change to benign weather (another uncontrollable variable in fire mgt) that gives us the break needed to gain control.
            Similarly, in regard to making a judgement about the US/Canadian suppression rule to have all fires out the next day by 10am: again, you need to know the details of these fires’ initial attacks because if responses were inadequate and the fires were still going, then of course an arbitrary deadline is not going to be met. An additional contributing factor to suppression failure is in regard the time of ignition. If a fire starts late afternoon/early evening – say by lightning – and was inadequately treated overnight or even simply left to burn all night, then with the aid of warm summer temperatures & lower humidity the fire is able to slowly spread and build in strength and is primed to flare in the morning once temperatures rise. (A familiar scenario, I’m afraid). If so in the US, then that would also help to explain why it’s so difficult to meet the next morning rule.
            No matter which way I look at it, the point at which the suppression failure occurs is right back at the beginning of the fire. That’s why I scrutinise the earliest stage in fire-fighting operations (& systems) to see how we can capitalise on that one precious, time-constrained and critical opportunity for us to dominate the fire. The reasons for decisive action are self-apparent. At this point in time the fire is comparatively small, weak and relatively benign in behaviour, and if we can get to the fire quickly & act potently whilst it’s in this immature state – it is extinguishable. We just have to always use the best suppressive forces (& tactics) we’ve got appropriate to the situation and actually deploy them – incl. aerial waterbombers – immediately.
            That’s also why I think it’s essential to bring night ops with aerial waterbombing into standard operations so that, regardless of the time they start, fires can always be attacked in their early stage (or continue from day ops into the night), and we can take advantage of the more subdued nocturnal fire behaviour and milder conditions. (Hence, should be more effective too).
            Do I agree that fires are now more likely from multiple lightning strike events due to the drying of vegetation under climate change? Yes. (No-brainer). So we have to accept this as worsening reality and work out ways to effectively deal with concurrent, multiple lightning fires operationally – no matter where they occur. (Another rising fire risk example is our normally wet peat deposits which are now dangerously dry & drying due to climate change and droughts. Once they are well alight it’s almost impossible to stop. We need to develop strategies to protect peat deposits and specific methods/materials to fight peat fires).
            Is 100% suppression an impossible goal and failed strategy as Dr Kolden has found? Well yes, if this is in relation to suppression of wildfires. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to extinguish all unplanned new ignitions (i.e. well before they develop into wildfires) and instead simply rely upon ‘prepare, protect & recover’ etc as the only fire management strategy. I’m convinced that wildfire risk can be greatly reduced if we dedicate more effective resources to the extinguishment of all new ignitions. (But 100% guarantee of no more wildfires? No, I couldn’t say that).
            I know I’m about to step on some toes here. But I say ‘extinguishment’ or ‘suppression’ very purposefully in relation to early stage fire/new ignitions because seemingly ‘control’ and ‘containment’ are often the outcome of first response. The effort to keep going and actually put the fire out ASAP then seems to fade. This is one of my biggest bug-bears in fire management in Victoria. I consider this to be an inadequate and therefore failed initial response/1st attack. Others in this forum appear to have examples of this same form of (imo misdirected or incompetent or negligent) fire management in Tasmania too.
            How many times have we seen a fire ‘Under Control’ or ‘Contained’ one day, then the next or the next or maybe even several days or weeks later? Apart from an unplanned fire still burning more native vegetation and habitat, worse still is the high risk this long-held and generally accepted type of fire management poses. As the several hours or many days and even weeks go by with the diurnal & weekly weather conditions shifting/cycling in & out of risky fire-weather, there’s occasionally a blow-up (surprise) in the fire’s otherwise benign behaviour and sometimes even breakouts through containment or spotting over (how did that happen?). Groundhog Day; start again with the bulldozers and building new lines, then burning out or back-burning etc and so on… all in the laps of the fire & weather gods. The fire is being managed but with no certainty of control and is therefore risky.
            So – I think a very specific area in fire management suppression should be substantially beefed up, streamlined and given high priority for fighting new ignitions throughout the landscape (remote or not). The goal for initial attack should always be ‘Hit ‘em early and hit ‘em hard’ and, as my new War Against Wildfires compadre Clive Stott would say, “make sure the fire is out”.
            Sorry Pat, I’ve been going around in circles (again) and have badly digressed. But hopefully you can see where I’m coming from now… I’m not suggesting I’ve discovered the magic-bullet singular solution to eliminating all wildfire risk (and therefore contradicting Dr Korden’s findings). But I am suggesting that there is an urgent need to review our fire-fighting operations and systems (e.g. see Rob Halton’s current dog’s breakfast example) to bring efficacy to our suppression of new ignitions; and that fire authorities must plan, equip & pre-position to always attack an unplanned fire while it’s new and most easily (and more safely) conquered and eliminated. With climate change now ramping up everything, it is in our best interests to find a way to achieve this – and quickly.
            That makes sense, doesn’t it?

          • Simon Warriner

            March 2, 2019 at 3:35 pm

            Ed , this is in reply to Lyndall’s 2 March post. reposition it as reqd please.

            Lyndall, totally agree with everything you say, BUT the problem resides with those choosing the actions to be taken. A useful technique is to put the question “WHY?” after every sentence that describe the status quo.

            To my mind the technical discussion on methodology is a distraction.

            When you have been witness to someone very senior in a TFS uniform participating in a conversation that involves the sentence “it is only a little fire, wait until it is big enough to fight properly” without rebuke your range of possible responses to the “why?” narrows a little bit. When that observation, with another witness for veracity, is allowed to pass without further investigation by an inquiry that is meant to get to the bottom of why the damage from that series of events was so large, the range of possible responses narrows somewhat further. When you have seen repeated examples of sociopathic management of internal staff for no observable public benefit by the prime fire response organisation the range becomes even further narrowed.

            “WHY?” did a little fire sit at 6 hectares or less for 4 days before going for it’s run, which is ongoing?????

            Who made what decisions and why?

            Fixing this problem comes down to the political will to have it fixed. Tender bits need to be placed on the anvil and someone extremely obdurate needs to wield the hammer. There will be considerable screaming from those whose carefully cultivated status is placed under public scrutiny, but they have hidden behind the high regard the public has for those who put themselves in harms way for our collective well being for a very long time and they are very good at doing so.

            It is up to our political representatives to select that obdurate person or panel. If they don’t it is a fair bet they will get a turn at the anvil, and good luck finding any mercy.

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

            Simon, it’s up to the reader to position his Comment where he wants it to be.

            Please copy the above, edit it, then re-submit your Comment correctly.

            — Moderator

        • pat synge

          March 2, 2019 at 6:00 pm

          (I’m actually responding to your March 2 comment, Lyndall, but the “reply” button has disappeared).

          All of what you say here makes sense to me but I must confess to having no specialist knowledge or even significant experience.

          Living in a very vulnerable area I do have a great deal of interest however and thank you (and all the other contributors to this discussion) for your input.

          It may seem as if we are going round in circles but this is often the way to arrive at consensus.

          Hopefully a Public Inquiry will give you all the possibility to contribute more formally.

          I see quite a bit of smoke in the air and looking at Sentinel I see quite a few new hotspots today. Hardly surprising! I’m going for another cold shower.

          • Lyndall

            March 2, 2019 at 8:02 pm

            Thanks Pat – expert or not, the main thing is that you can see sense in fighting & extinguishing all of the little fires as they occur.

            By the way – Sentinel Hotspots is better than nothing, but it isn’t an accurate record of all fires in the landscape. I’m afraid you’ve hit upon one of my other criticisms of our present fire mgt systems. Fire detection by satellite is still a global work in progress and the most technically difficult to detect are the new small & weak ignitions i.e. the very ones that I’d like to jump on ASAP! Another ‘flaw’ in our Hotspots is that it’s limited in detection frequency due to the time intervals (hours) between satellite passes. So even though Hotspots refreshes every 10 minutes now, the data can still be hours old. (See ‘Last Acquired’ times along the bottom). You might like to use a lightning tracker to at least get some forewarning of possible fire starts in your area? Here’s the website that I use: https://www.lightningmaps.org/?lang=en#y=-36.3505;x=144.1132;z=7;t=4;m=oss;r=0;s=201;o=0;b=1.74;n=0;d=8;dl=8;dc=0;ra=0;i=0;ts=0;

    • Clive Stott

      February 28, 2019 at 1:39 pm

      Yee-haaa Lyndall.
      I seem to remember the terms “knock it down fast to prevent it spreading” & “make sure the fire is out.”

      “Victoria’s aerial firefighting fleet ready to protect communities”
      IMEDIATE RESPONSE:
      Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said that the aerial firefighting fleet each year has proven to be crucial in stopping the spread of fire, by providing immediate response in the early stages, supporting our firefighters on the ground.
      “Immediate response using aircraft in early stages of a fire is one of the most effective ways to help stop the spread of fire and help to keep our communities safe,”
      https://www.emv.vic.gov.au/news/victorias-aerial-firefighting-fleet-ready-to-protect-communities

      The responsibility for suppression of bushfires rests with the Governments of each of the Australian States and Territories. Each State and Territory Government has one or more agencies that are responsible for bushfire prevention and suppression.

      So what happened here in Tasmania?
      Unfortunately here in Tas some old-school people still believe if you burn all the fuel in Tas you will stop our fires, plus you need to do it every 3-5 years.
      And they are giving it their best shot no matter what the cost!
      If we all followed this thinking we could throw away our fire extinguishers and set fire to all the fuel in our homes to prevent our houses burning down.

      We have got a real problem here in Tas, Michael Ferguson is the Minister for Health AND Fire.
      We can’t have people running around lighting fires and being in charge of putting them out.
      Obviously he is being given the wrong advice with regards to FRB’s, small controllable fires being allowed to turn into campaign fires and ambient smoke being extremely harmful to our health.
      Which budget is he going to balance first?
      “There has got to be an understanding that people who complain about smoke have a legitimate case, the medical science is on their side now.” – Professor David Bowman, Tasmania. ABC News Feb. 20, 2012
      Dare I say perhaps the Minister is the common denominator in what is perceived as being problems in Health and problems with early fire suppression in Tasmania?

      Fight fire with fire? Rubbish, fight fire with water (or foam or retardant).

      • max

        February 28, 2019 at 2:50 pm

        Clive…After weeks of fires, 200, 000 hectares burnt and a small reprieve with the weather, the fires are still smouldering and are a threat in the high fire dangers of today and tomorrow.
        So much for the protection offered by FRB, these smouldering fires are in the middle of a FRB. If the “Hit ‘em early & hit ’em hard” policy was the main part of bush fire policies of this state, these smouldering fires would be out and millions of dollars would have been saved. Because of the present inadequate feeble policies of fire control, life, health and property have been compromised.
        To save cent, millions of dollars have been squandered by this government on fire control with a cross you fingers and hope for the best attitude.

        • Clive Stott

          March 1, 2019 at 12:24 pm

          In relation to outdoor burning it is not that long ago that our TFS was not even mentioning protecting health or lives….
          The following came from the TFS website at the time and is now found on cleanairtas.com:
          “TFS role is to ensure that any guidelines for fire use do not increase the risk of fire escapes and consequent damage to community assets.” – 29/9/2008.

          If we look at the Tasmanian Fire Act as amended – 1997 it is a dog’s breakfast, however, it is up for review at present and hopefully some good will come out of it, but these things seem to go on forever and it has been shown we don’t have forever.

          People on acreage are not required to notify the TFS they are burning. TFS would prefer they do, but only to prevent unnecessary call-outs; there is no compulsion.

          Then we have the Coordinated Smoke Management Strategy (CSMS) which allows a ‘MAXIMUM amount of smoke to be put into an airshed’ after horse trading goes on between planned burners and we are rarely told when the burns are out.
          And it is not compulsory for burners to even be a member of the CSMS.

          These things have come about because fuel reduction at present is about burning the maximum amount of land in an extended ‘burning season’. It has been extended to the point where burning is allowed to take place anytime of the year except when a no-burn is put on.
          I repeat, fuel reduction at present is all about burning. This has to change. There are many alternative, well proven methods to reduce fuel loads and health damaging smoke.
          Go here: https://cleanairtas.com/departments/alternative-solutions.htm

          The recent dry lightning strikes have shown us how unprepared we were. What do these people in charge get paid for? Yes the finger does need to be pointed unless someone is being protected. The fact that a truly independent inquiry has not already begun will probably mean we could be facing similar fire damage next year. Procrastination again!
          We have been in this catastrophic dry lightning bushfire position before and we have learnt little or nothing!
          As we have said Victoria was prepared and it makes Tasmania look pretty stupid: https://www.emv.vic.gov.au/news/victorias-aerial-firefighting-fleet-ready-to-protect-communities

          This shows Tas. doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to firefighting as we are often told; it has already been done for us. Those in-charge need to accept change and be fully prepared next time to act immediately with force…which could be any day seeing 34 fires at present are being left to burn!. https://epa.tas.gov.au/air/live/map_of_TFS_incidents.png

          Lyndall thank you for your input it makes absolute sense. We were actually told any lightning fires would take time to grow so people sat around doing nothing. That was the time to jump on them, but no, that was their campaign for this year.

          Max thank you. Yes I totally agree.

      • Lyndall

        February 28, 2019 at 5:07 pm

        Hi Clive,
        We may have PDD aircraft in Victoria and all of the words to go with it, but I’m afraid we still aren’t there yet. Old-school still predominates in certain regions & pockets here too. (I’m not sure what it takes to bring about change. I’m open to any suggestions. But that Penney 2019 paper is a good start?).

        In addition, I suspect the well-embedded priority ranking to always ‘protect life & property first’ consequently relegates the more remote new fires to low priority with far less attention in urgency &/or attendance. (That is, even if there are no other higher-priority fires around. So it’s not a matter of competing needs with limited resources). However, I don’t necessarily think that was the actual intent of the priority ranking – I think it’s a practiced misinterpretation.

        Regardless, my viewpoint is based upon taking advantage of a fire in its most vulnerable, controllable stage – no matter where it has ignited – as a preventive, risk mitigation approach. I don’t think this compromises the priority ranking for preservation of life etc and in fact, it complements it. Hence my frustration to still see that not all early stage fires are regarded and treated in the same manner operationally.

        Wildfires need time and conducive conditions to build in energy and size; they don’t start out that way. I’m still waiting for all of us to wake up and realise this and know that it’s not the wildfire’s (or lightning’s, whatever) fault, or even climate change’s for that matter. Rather, it’s our fault for not getting our act together and snuffing those little fires out.

        • Geoff Holloway

          February 28, 2019 at 5:54 pm

          Well said Lyndall! I totally agree with your comments!

    • Rob Halton

      March 1, 2019 at 9:51 am

      Lyndall all very well but in the case of the Riveaux fire was regarded as a Watch and Act job by the “new” Land Manager PWS who were given the job of managing the SW WHA displacing the former State Forest tenure which applied till 2013.

      PWS were too busy concentrating their efforts on extinguishing the Gell River fire as a priority, that was according to the locals including one from PWS that I was talking too yesterday in the Huonville area while looking at some of the fire edges.

      Tough luck but the Tas Forest Agreement legislation 2013 has badly backfired (excuse the pun) by taking out FT as forest manager as Tas Fire Service attempted to take over the fire but I was led to believe it was too late as little effort to at least create some dozed lines followed up fuel separation, drenching the edges with water and the necessary on ground supervision with hand crews WHILE THE FIRE WAS STILL SMALL ENOUGH TO BE MANAGABLE !

      The rest is history mate, a sad bloody mess initially resulting from decades of nasty and thoughtless disagreements with the Greens creating too much noise over environment versus commercial forestry.

      Had Forestry been the land manager in the case of the Riveaux fire then they would have most certainly received an approperate rapid response with a greater chance for containment and extinguishment.

      The facts are NOTHING has been learnt by either PWS or the Fire Service since 1967 or since in more recent times, but at least at the very very least one large heavy lift Erickson helicopter needs to be included in Tasmania’s annual fire fighting arsenal as well training up a larger workforce of experienced MULTI AGENCY RATS to plus a list of competent bush experienced machinery operators with dozers and excavators equipped with ROPS on call over the summer.

      I would bet that there is too much “over” control is occuring among Incident Control Teams, for example the Fire Service has little experience dealing with fires in heavily timbered rough terrain country it is definitely not their area of expertise and probably never will be.

      The reduction of experienced forestry personell since the State’s “perfect example of a head prefect” former Premier Lara Gidding along with her Federal counterparts gave rise to devaluing the role of forestry as a land manager within the constraints of the TFA legislation preceded by the Peace Talks then both Reserve Management as well as that of the remaining commercial forests plus the protection of extensive private lands and rural communities will continue to suffer under a continuing regime of State Fire Management incompetence.

      A recent comment from a long term forestry employee involved with the fires, who states that the situation with extinguishing wildfires has got worse!

      • Huon Valley Residents & Ratepayers Ass

        March 1, 2019 at 10:44 am

        All these comments are interesting, and may be of considerable value, but are they achieving anything if they remain confined to Tasmanian Times?

        Lobby your parliamentarians for an independent Public Inquiry headed by an interstate Chairperson .. and then make a submission.

  7. max

    February 26, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    pat synge… I am sorry if I have given you or anyone else the impression that I am against fuel reductions. Every land owner or property owner should be responsible for their own property. In doing so there is no need to turn your property into a burn oasis of safety. In fact why should you be able to inflict your toxic smoke on your neighbours or even want to? You can reduce fuel without fire. Every year we are inflicted with FRB. Every year our cities and towns are inundated with toxic 2.5 particulate smoke from FRBs and every year we have bush fires. They do nothing to protect us from catastrophic wild fires. I keep asking the question from so called experts on FRB. Unless we burn the state black, one ember landing in a missed bit of grass under the right conditions can send embers another a kilometre or more to the next bit of unburnt grass. So what good are they?
    The only conclusion I can come to is there is a lot of money to be made out of FRB in consultation fees and the actual burning of the FRB.
    There is no such thing as B&W in fire control , it either gives us total protection or it doesn’t. We will never ever approach the time when even 20% of the state is covered by a FRB but that would still leave 80% to burn.
    Please reply, I can stand any criticism if wrong in any way. My one and only interest is survival. My person view is, if we continue to try and save our forests and lives with the present insufficient methods we will lose both.

  8. Clive Stott

    February 26, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    Questions for Rob and MJF.
    You advocate the simplest formula where ‘recent burnt areas’ will protect Tasmania.
    Think about what you are proposing. See if it makes practical sense. Who the heck wrote this into your fire textbooks, when, and is it still relevant in today’s warming climate?
    Remove all Tasmanian fuel from the fire triangle and abracadabra, no more fires. This is what you go on about.
    You want to pyro the state do you so there are no more fires and no more smoke?
    And how often do you advocate we burn the whole of our state to a crisp to achieve your objectives?
    (It can’t be a one off and it can’t be done bit by bit or you will be chasing your fire tai). If some fires get away you can fight fire with more fire; your words.
    Have you costed your simple formula?
    Tell us more.

    • MjF

      February 27, 2019 at 3:46 am

      Mr Stott

      There are two ways to control an active fire:

      1) Offensively by backburning from a suitable boundary essentially ahead of the fire to protect identified property and life (using fire to control fire) as fire will always burn in the direction of the fuel.

      2) Defensively by allowing the fire to burn out to protected boundaries under moderating weather conditions as we now see happening

      You need to take a more objective view to this fire situation and forget the facetious commentary. Nobody has advocated burning the state to a crisp as part of an FRB exercise. This kind of rubbish highlights your lack of understanding.

      I have no costings. Why would I ? TFS will cost it out when they plan their activities.

      • Clive Stott

        February 27, 2019 at 3:37 pm

        MJF you say “… fire will always burn in the direction of the fuel.”

        Most people would say fire burns in the direction of the wind …

        • MjF

          February 27, 2019 at 5:02 pm

          Most people would be wrong.
          Fire will burn impressively with a wind up its arse when there’s fuel to consume. We see this commonly in wildlife situations. On the other hand a fire will track against a prevailing wind if that’s the direction of the fuel source.
          Backburning is a good example of this ahead of a fire and is usually carried out against the wind because a fires need for fuel is paramount.

          Similarly a fire will burn down hill if thats the direction it needs to go to find fuel. This is normally against a natural uphill draught.

          • max

            February 28, 2019 at 8:16 am

            MJF… As usual you are disingenuous with the truth. Fires will burn in all directions in their search for fuel. Slow against the wind and fast to extremely fast with the the wind. The dangerous embers only with the wind and up to 20 km a head of the fire have been known.
            In the face of a catastrophic fire, back burning is nearly impossible unless it has a strong secure backdrop such as previously burn ground or a river and even then can create ember spot fires behind the attempted backburn.
            Does fuel reduction burning help prevent damage from fires?
            theconversation.com/does-fuel-reduction-burning-help-prevent-damage-from-fires-1…

  9. MjF

    February 26, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    pat says “The Riveaux Road fire appears to have started in a logged coupe and mainly burnt through State Forest and timber plantations”

    Don’t know if that is the case or not pat but its an interesting situation given that the source was well within the TWWHA boundaries. If correct, had the logged coupe been burnt prior and if not, why not ? This should certainly have been done for regeneration purposes by FT before the land was handed over to conservation. Perhaps there was not time available before handover had to be affected which is a huge concern. Where else could this be the situation with unburnt heavy logging slash now lying in formal reserve additions ?

    I recall the kombi driving, retired forestry inspector (now a man about town) Mr R Halton commenting on this exact same thing in past articles

    I see no reason why FRB shouldn’t be undertaken from plantation boundaries and allowed to burn through adjacent native forest under suitable conditions as a means to reducing fuel loads regularly. Land tenure will be a problem of course the closer to civilisation and private property this needs to be started in.

    • Rob Halton

      February 27, 2019 at 12:03 am

      MJF, Nothing surprises at all given the thought less future land management politics that followed TFA handover from State Forest to WHA, as you know too not all coupes throughout the State in readiness post logging can be burnt and regenerated at any one times in the autumn after logging when fine slash fuels are in their prime, often given the large number of coupes all of which are all subject to the narrow window of opportunity to be burnt safely some are carried over to the next autumn burning season!

      The choice would have been FT’s to decide at the time 2012/2013 autumn !
      I can recall a “not very happy FT senior specialist staff member” on TV one evening stating that the Greens groups had requested to take over and for the planting of RF species within change over coupes as I presumed some coupes would remain as unburnt to highlight the need for Green anti burning politics to primarily for re establishing myrtle and leatherwood ! Older ABC TV footage should still be available!

      Yes I have observed at least three logging coupes as unburnt in recent times, one on Clear Hill Rd another on the Plenty Link Rd above the Russell River valley growing wet scrub over logging slash. Another logged coupe on Styx Road , north facing slope above Gordon River Road I think was partially burnt for mischievous reasons to scare off the tree girl protester and her group who at the time were making a big global scene nearby about Tas. forest practices!
      A part of that coupe now WHA still remains as heavy unburnt eucalypt slash and would burn under an high FDR had the Gell River fire advanced to the north east of Mueller Rd

      Re Riveaux fire origin, Pat is probably correct in his assumption it being a former logging coupe!, google earth roughly confirms forest clearing!

      , Again it goes to show the Peace Talks followed by the TFA legislation desperately fought for HCV forests by Conservation groups, Forest Industry and Unions with the support of State and Federal Labor has now “backfired” extermely badly and will now cost the taxpayer, the forest industry and reserve managers decades of losses of forest , vegetation types and amenity valus due to extensive wildfire.

      Thats Tasmanian political games for you, too bad, luckily there were no lives lost but by Jesus the demands for compensation for those unnecessarily affected by losses to to the fire, there will be guts for garters when the entire messy land management tactics or lack of it unfolds.

      On site witnesses during the course of the fire particularly during those first few days while the fire was around 2 ha in size will be required for any Inquiry, taking of statements need to be activated now while actions are fresh. It clearly comes down to the directions given to ground crews and their action and reporting handed to TFS and PWS!

  10. Andrew Ricketts

    February 25, 2019 at 10:52 am

    The array of comments on this article suggest there is limited consensus but perhaps that is just a reflection of the TT readership.

    I support an independent inquiry into all aspects of the 2019 bushfires. When we have an inquiry it is important that it is open and non-avoidant and that the recommendations are implemented.

    The regulations around the use of fire in Tasmania and the associated regulatory system also obviously needs an overhaul.

    I cannot see the reason Parks and Wildlife needs to use Napalm on our secure conservation reserves.

    Fire in the age of climate change needs new rules and a new approach. Without rains these fires may still be burning. If we cannot extinguish them with the current technology and resources we need to rethink. Ignoring climate change is pure irresponsible avoidance.

    After all what does a fire do but consume carbon.

    • Rob Halton

      February 25, 2019 at 10:40 pm

      Andrew, along with Pat and Geoff, do you all really believe that an Independent Inquiry ” in Tasmania” into this years fires will achieve anything, the cultural and operational divisions between the fire agencies remain as miles apart.

      The heavily uniformed Fire Service well equipped with heavy tankers and other state of the art fang danglement seem to be Ok with urban fires and grass and light scrub outbreaks but are totally out of their depth when it comes to providing support for the bigger picture in which a large aerial water bombing helicopter still seems to be missing from the annual equipment list where as other States, namely WA,SA VIC NSW and the ACT who also experience nasty fires, engage this type of aircraft each fire season as a matter of course. Skycranes have been available for lease from the Northjern hemisphere owners over the past decade in Australia.

      We should be asking in this day and age why wasnt one and “only one for god sake” not available to be on the spot here in Tasmania, is this a result of TFS oversight or a Ministerial refusal.

      We should all want to know why, its our duty as citizens to fight for our rights within a modern and advanced nation!

      Totally wrong Pat, TFS are not fire management experts, they may be capable of handing out forecasts in conjunction with BOM, operationally outside urban fringes when the going in the terrain and vegetation gets tough, they are basically useless apart from some good local knowledge mainly coming from their volunteers and to provide some of the latest ground based equipment, tankers for edge supression and back burning exercises.

      Thirty to Forty years ago Forestry, when it was a well resourced organisation could easily lead the way with a small but very efficient Fire Management Branch notify all well manned field centers in a short space of time on FDR’s which in turn preparations for possible fire suppression was always at hand in readiness for action. The farming communiity could always depend on forestry involvement!

      TFS still need to move beyond the traditional urban Fire Station situation to ever become become effective bush fire fighters but may I make a suggestion that resulting from these fires a massive government funded combined group training needs to be put in place including, Forestry, Parks, TFGA, Forico, Norske Skog and the Institute of Foresters to establish more of coordination and achieving common goals in Fire Management whether it be on Reserves, production forests or farm land.

      There are now decades of catch up time that is required to be able to suppress fires in heavily timbered rough terrain where fuel loads are high and vehicular access is either limited or non existent.
      Again the loss of forestry expertise and equipment in readiness can only be a most unfortunate result of poor politics the blame lies with both State and Federal Labor resulting from the Tas Forest Agreement and the ridiculous Peace Talks for which under Labor continues to fail any proactive coordinated approach when dealing with wildfires.

      I do agree with everybody that we deserve know the actual nitty gritty behind how the Riveaux Fire grew from a 2ha dry lightening strike into a major fire of 60,000ha.

      Mind you, I dont have too much confidence that the current State government or the Opposition the will to disclose to the public what happened using witnesses and an independent mainland based adjudicator to investigate what is wrong with our multi fire agency system to iron out the problems and to enforce more coordinated and practical measures.

      • pat synge

        February 26, 2019 at 7:44 am

        You seem very confident of your statements, Rob.

        If what you say about TFS’s lack of expertise in bushfire management is true then it’s even more important that there is an independent Public Inquiry. Headed up by someone of integrity: preferably from interstate.

        The government has promised a “review with input from experts” when all the fires are out. This means very little in itself without Terms of Reference etc.

        I urge all of you who consider an independent Public Inquiry important to contact Will Hodgman and the mainstream media and let them know how you feel

        • Mike Seabrook

          February 26, 2019 at 9:41 pm

          build more dams – flooding and bush fire management
          better water resources for the wildlife
          fishing/recreational/tourism – jobs
          renewable clean electricity and forever.

      • Suggested Terms of Reference

        A Public Inquiry into the 2019 Tasmanian Bushfires should seek to identify measures that can be implemented by governments, government agencies, industry and the community to minimise the incidence of bushfires and their impacts on life, property and the environment with specific regard to the following.
        (a) the extent and impact of the bushfires on the environment, private and public assets and local communities;
        (b) the causes of and risk factors contributing to the impacts and severity of the bushfires, including land management practices and policies in the TWWHA, State forests, other Crown land and private property;
        (c) the adequacy and economic and environmental impact of hazard reduction and other strategies for bushfire prevention, suppression and control;
        (d) any alternative bushfire mitigation and prevention approaches, and the appropriate direction of research into bushfire mitigation;
        (e) the adequacy of current response arrangements for firefighting;
        (f) the adequacy of deployment of firefighting resources, including an examination of the efficiency and effectiveness of resource sharing between agencies and jurisdictions;
        (g) the roles and contributions of volunteers, including current management practices and future trends, taking into account changing social and economic factors;
        (h) the adequacy and timeliness of health warnings and general public awareness of smoke dangers.

        HVRRA acknowledges the valuable information contained in the 2016 Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Bushfire and Climate Change Research Project Report and the 2013 Dunalley Report.

        This ‘2019 Tasmanian Bushfire Public Inquiry’ should build on this knowledge and so help the Huon Valley community, the broader Tasmanian community, firefighting agencies and volunteers be better prepared for future events.

      • max

        February 26, 2019 at 9:01 am

        Rob Halton… “Thirty to Forty years ago Forestry, when it was a well resourced organisation could easily lead the way with a small but very efficient Fire Management Branch notify all well manned field centers in a short space of time on FDR’s which in turn preparations for possible fire suppression was always at hand in readiness for action.”
        Rob, what you are effectively saying is when Forestry Tasmania took over in 1994, they failed to protect the forests. They dropped the ball.

  11. max

    February 21, 2019 at 9:21 am

    The House that Haunted Me… Cygnet Tuesday 7 of February 1967
    The fire was all smoke and flames. I approached a house to warn the occupants of the dangers of the rapidly advancing fire. The house was weather board on its own and surrounded by orchards. We went in side to help the occupants to move their furniture out side Into the orchard as they thought it would be safer there. The house had smoke in side because smoke was every where and I gave little thought to it. In the back bedroom it was full of smoke and while in there it burst into flame, we had to flee.
    This is what haunted me for years. The house was surrounded by greenery, green grass and a green orchard, no fire outside and a fire burst out in side the house I saw it happen. For years I thought it could only be a case of spontaneous combustion but what could spontaneously combust
    I went back to the house after the fire. There was a pathetic heap of furniture, a heap of ashes where the house once stood and nothing was even singed around that heap of ashes. I told people for years of how I witnessed spontaneous combustion.
    I know now I was wrong there was no spontaneous combustion, how could there have been. I now believe that an ember lodged in the roof space and what I saw was the ceiling collapsing.
    What I saw that day and what agitates me even today is how so called forestry experts can think that a fuel reduction burn can save us us from future fires. On that day the fire jumped rivers orchards and anything that would not burnt, to destroy lives and property. No fuel reduction burn would have made the slightest difference and yet they cling to the mistaken belief that its their way or the highway.

    • pat synge

      February 21, 2019 at 12:26 pm

      I note that many of the comments posted here are polarising: black or white.

      The reality is that fires come in many shades of grey, and what works for one may not work for another.

      A slow moving fire may be stopped dead in its tracks by a fuel reduction burn – especially if it has been recently undertaken.
      An intense, fast moving fire fanned by strong winds will spot ahead, and may well start fires well ahead of the front as you, Max, have recounted.

      These are only two examples, but there are so many other factors to be taken into account: terrain, vegetation type, soil dryness index (or Fire Danger Rating) temperature and humidity etc.

      Fire behaviour analysts understand this far better than we lay people, and they have sophisticated computer models to help them. I’m sure that TFS has highly skilled people in these roles who can, and do, give expert advice. I fear the real problem may be that their advice does not always translate into action on the ground when needed, and that for a variety of reasons.

      This is why we need this event to be thoroughly examined in a Public Inquiry headed up by someone who is completely independent .. preferably brought in from interstate.

      This has been a wake up call that we ignore at our peril. I get the impression that the State Government is ducking for cover and will opt for an internal “review with the input of experts” unless pressure is brought to bear on it.

      • Geoff Holloway

        February 21, 2019 at 5:46 pm

        Pat, while I understand what you are saying from the perspective of the Huon Valley Ratepayers Association, and while I agree with much of what you say, you have contradicted yourself by saying that there should be a full Public Inquiry, while, at the same time, you assume that “TFS has highly skilled people in these roles who can, and do, give expert advice” but this means that you have closed off/limited any such inquiry – and again when you suggest that such expert advice from such highly skilled people “does not always translate into action on the ground when needed”.

        What I also find disturbing is that, given six reports over the past five years (2013-2018) the suggestion of another full inquiry reminds me of child protection inquiries of which there have been, on average, one every year across Australia for the past twenty years, with children still being abused at increasing rates .. and that is why UTG is suggesting that the bushfires inquiry be limited to why the recommendations of previous inquiries and reports have not been fully implemented.

        • pat synge

          February 22, 2019 at 8:23 am

          I’m not sure how I’ve “contradicted myself” by calling for a public inquiry while at the same time saying that I’m sure TFS has highly skilled fire behaviour analysts. Perhaps I’m wrong and there aren’t any, but this would surprise me. My suspicion is that information supplied doesn’t always result in appropriate action on the ground. A Public Inquiry might look into this and come up with answers based on something more substantial than the suspicions of a ‘keyboard warrior’ such as myself.

          I don’t understand why you reason that any such speculation on my part has “closed off/limited any such inquiry.” Inquiries should be seeking the truth .. as far as that can ever be established. Speculation is simply that.

          I understand your frustration at the idea of yet another inquiry with the prospect of little or no effective follow up, and I agree entirely that a Public Inquiry should investigate what, if any, previous recommendations have been implemented and, if any have been implemented, how effective they have been. I do not agree, however, that it should be limited to this. Each fire is different and responses are different. In the case of major fires like this the potential for a Public Inquiry should be examined.

          I should mention that when posting in my own name I am not doing so on behalf of HVRRA but simply as an interested individual.

          • Geoff Holloway

            February 22, 2019 at 9:22 am

            Ok, I take your point Pat, and, as you acknowledge, I am frustrated at seeing the recommendations of far too many inquiries not being implemented .. hence my focus on past recommendations.

            Notwithstanding all of this, I am hopeful that an open public inquiry will eventuate.

      • MJF

        February 26, 2019 at 10:32 am

        “soil dryness index (or Fire Danger Rating)” is incorrect. They are not the same thing.

        The soil dryness index (SDI) is a numerical value reflecting the dryness of soils, deep forest litter, logs and living vegetation based on how many days since last rain.

        FDR is calculated using the inputs of wind speed, temperature, relative humidity and fuel conditions (SDI) which covers most of pat’s factors except terrain which, of course, is also crucial to fire behaviour.

        Vegetation type is not so critical as combustibility is more dependent on the SDI factor. A higher value SDI means drier fuel. Obviously more fuel by volume poses a greater hazard.

        Hence the whole point around and advantage of, a systematic FRB programme.

        Anyone can calculate the FDR for a specific site at any point in time with some basic instruments which are easily sourced.

        • pat synge

          February 26, 2019 at 11:54 am

          Thanks for the clarification re SDI and FDR.

        • max

          February 26, 2019 at 1:59 pm

          MJF.. Thanks for your in depth and expert description of SDI for FRB.
          “Vegetation type is not so critical as combustibility is more dependent on the SDI factor. A higher value SDI means drier fuel. Obviously more fuel by volume poses a greater hazard.
          Hence the whole point around and advantage of, a systematic FRB programme.”
          You are still backing FRB, you are not telling us what the advantage of, a systematic FRB programme is.
          I hark back to what I said on the 18- 2- 2019 on this site.
          (“Since 2012 there have been several major bushfires in Tasmania, which have led to widespread damage including 119,200 hectares in 2012-2013 (including 44,700 hectares in the Giblin River area), 126,800 hectares across Tasmania in 2016 and the current fires that have consumed about 200,000 hectares in wilderness, National Park and reserve areas (2019).”
          That sums to 490,700 hectares across Tasmania since 2012. How many extra hectares could be added to this total from minor bush fires, fuel reduction burns and regeneration burns?
          These figures show a trend in bush fires and the fact that any of these fires could have turned into a mega-fire with enormous loss of lives and property. It is a world-wide trend and it’s a consequence of global warming.
          Unfortunately in Tasmania there is an entrenched idea that fuel reduction burns (FRBs) can protect this state from wildfires .. and clearly, they can’t.
          If Tasmania is going to survive the threat from catastrophic fires in a warming world, then entrenched old ideas like FRBs must be returned to the Stone Age from whence they originated.”)
          Nothing in the last 8 days has changed my mind and obversely nothing has changed your entrenched mind on the benefits of FRB.
          Unless you can prove that the state can be protected from catastrophic fires with FRB what is the point of them. We must plan for immediate response to all fires, because the present system has so plainly failed.
          To cling to a failed belief such as fire to prevent fire will some how work, when it so plainly hasn’t is dangerously stupid in a warming world.

          • pat synge

            February 26, 2019 at 5:01 pm

            Hi Max, might it be possible for you to imagine that FRBs can be helpful in some situations and less so in others rather than painting it such B&W terms?

            I’m no expert but would prefer to be in an area with little or no combustible vegetation around me if I was threatened with fire. Preferably in the middle of a freshly ploughed paddock!

            I am sure that you are right in saying that it’s unrealistic to imagine that Tasmania can be “protected from catastrophic fires” by FRBs without a complete change in the character of our landscape and one that would almost certainly lead to even more drying of our climate as well. Changes that very few would want.

            The Riveaux Road fire appears to have started in a logged coupe and mainly burnt through State Forest and timber plantations and I’m not sure what kind of FRBs MJF would be suggesting in this environment. Of course, if there had been no flammable material on the ground then the fire would probably not have started or, at least, not been sustained.

            Around townships however it might be wise to encourage zones of fire “retardant” trees and minimal flammable vegetation as a buffer.

            A Public Inquiry might come up with useful recommendations in this regard.

    • Clive Stott

      February 25, 2019 at 10:34 pm

      Just looked up the current fires in Tas at https://epa.tas.gov.au/air/live/map_of_TFS_incidents.png
      So why are so many fires still burning?
      Are they being allowed to burn themselves out, to consume as much of Tas as possible so as Pat Synge suggests we won’t get another fire if one has recently been undertaken? Is that their belief? It doesn’t work that way as fuel reduction burns don’t stop fires.
      Or are we that inept in Tasmania that after all these weeks we cannot put fires out?
      No, I am sure we could extinguish these fires if we really wanted to.
      The words ‘watch and act’ seem more fitting for the authorities rather than put out there to confuse the community.
      Watch how big they grow before we act!
      The thrill of the chase eh?
      Unfortunately, this kind of thinking doesn’t meet with community expectations if this is what is happening.

  12. Rob Halton

    February 20, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    JDN, Dont be deterred by the wasp attacks, this goes on all the time as an ex forestry fire practitioner ( Tech Forester) myself, your broad view on fire in the Australian landscape is historically correct.
    Thanks for your support, stay with us you are welcome with your realistic approach, for we who live in the real world who very much appreciate your point of view.
    Between us man we’ll smoke them bloody wasps out for good!

    • Russell

      February 21, 2019 at 8:24 am

      “Burn baby burn” Robin. Do you still hold your beliefs the hotter the better now that 70,000 hectares of your beloved plantations and Ta Ann’s business have gone up in smoke?

      Does your brother in arms, Martin Fitch, still preach that plantation owners like himself would just claim it on insurance, replant and move forward? The same would have to apply to any other business like Ta Ann wouldn’t it?

      They had better not go cap in hand for public money…they have their insurance to claim on, and if they don’t, too bad.

      • MJF

        February 21, 2019 at 1:33 pm

        Those damn Malaysians, Mr Langfield.

        I can foresee ta Ann applying for a royalty holiday when it resumes. Poor buggers, fair enough. Can’t be easy stuck out in the middle of nowhere and with 3rd class wine in the HQ cellar.

        What say you ?

  13. JDN

    February 19, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    ‘If Tasmania is going to survive the threat from catastrophic fires’ then we need to continue the practice of working with Mother Nature, not against her.

    Wildfire has existed for so long that our trees have evolved to only germinate in the heat of a bush fire, whilst producing flammable oils to help its cause.

    We are talking about the hundreds of thousands of years that these plants have adapted to wildfire. It’s nothing new.

    For European settlers to simply waltz in over the space of 200 years, and try to completely eliminate one of the oldest contributing factors to our unique flora, is very ignorant.

    However, allowing fuel reduction burns in favorable conditions is a fair trade-off. We lessen the risk of catastrophic fire events while still allowing Nature to continue doing what she has done for eons.

    For the people complaining about smoke, you are unlucky. Move to an island that is not densely populated with the most flammable species of tree on the planet.

    Unless you can come up with another way to clear fuel, I’m all ears.

    • Russell

      February 20, 2019 at 7:36 am

      “Wildfire has existed for so long that our trees have evolved to only germinate in the heat of a bush fire, whilst producing flammable oils to help its cause.”

      That’s absolute rubbish!

      Wildfires are a recent phenomena, that is to say, within the last 200 years. Eucalypt seeds do NOT need fire to germinate. Are all the native nurseries setting their seed-stock on fire? I have germinated hundreds of Eucalypts and NEVER used fire, OR ash.

      “For the people complaining about smoke, you are unlucky. Move to an island that is not densely populated with the most flammable species of tree on the planet.”

      You must be deaf, or choose to be. There is absolutely NO need for the state to be covered in dense smoke. Ask the Indigenous people how they do it without making it unbreathable or letting it get out of control.

      How many times do I have to repeat the same thing until it gets through your thick heads?

      • JDN

        February 20, 2019 at 8:05 am

        Russell, I refer you to the Australian academy of science.

        Do some basic research before you start calling people thick.

        https://www.science.org.au/curious/earth-environment/ecological-impact-fire

        • Jon Sumby

          February 20, 2019 at 10:07 am

          JDN, I think what Russell may be referring to here in relation to ‘wildfire’ is the research showing that this type of fire only appears in the geological record after European arrival, from the mid-19th century onwards. In Tasmania, the historical record shows that the colonists were surprised and started experiencing large destructive fires only after the Aborigines had been removed and the floral communities changed. There is work that shows that fire frequency to size follows a negative exponential curve.

          • JDN

            February 20, 2019 at 1:41 pm

            ‘This type of fire only appears in the geological record after European arrival.’ For a data period set of a couple of thousands years before European settlement maybe, and that’s being generous.

            Around 15 millions years ago when the Australian climate started to become warm and dry, the eucalypt become the dominant tree on the continent and in Tasmania.

            The biological mechanisms that have caused eucalypt (especially mountain ash) to thrive in bush fires is an evolutionary process taking hundreds of thousands of years to millions.

            Wildfires existed in Australia/Tasmania millions of years before hominids migrated to Australia only 40-60 thousand years ago. It didn’t take the Aborigines long to figure out that if you want to avoid catastrophic fire events, fuel must be burned off at regular intervals.

            For people like Russell to casually throw away the wisdom of our natives peoples is highly ignorant.

            ‘Ask the Indigenous people how they do it without making it unbreathable or letting it get out of control.’

            Simple .. they moved upwind.

          • Jon Sumby

            February 20, 2019 at 10:05 pm

            JDN, I see you don’t know what you are trying to talk about.

          • Russell

            February 21, 2019 at 8:17 am

            JDN, if you’re misreading of my comment regarding Indigenous cultural knowledge of fire is anything to go by I doubt you read and understand anything else very well either, only seeing what you want to see. I have experience living within a remote Indigenous community still practising their fire knowledge on their homeland, and I would be the LAST person to put shit on them. Have you lived within an Indigenous community, or even ever had an Indigenous person as a friend, or even spoken to one?

            Read “The Biggest Estate on Earth” and educate yourself.

            “The biological mechanisms that have caused eucalypt (especially mountain ash) to thrive in bush fires is an evolutionary process taking hundreds of thousands of years to millions.”

            Prove it.

            It’s the same rubbish as on the sign at Dalhousie Hot Springs in Central Australia claiming the water there had taken so many thousands or millions of years to get there from the northern most reaches of the Flinders Ranges. What a load of presumptuous crap! Who was there to put dye or whatever in it and watch it come out the other end? To take that long for water to travel that relatively tiny distance over that ridiculous period of time it must have been travelling BACKWARDS!

          • JDN

            February 21, 2019 at 4:43 pm

            Russell, I’m not going to prove to you that evolution exists, and the mechanisms behind it. Go read some Charles Darwin.

            And no, I’m not going to use my personal indigenous connections as a means of authenticating my views and opinions, thank you very much.

          • Russell

            February 23, 2019 at 8:29 am

            JDN, no because you don’t have any Indigenous connections otherwise you wouldn’t be trotting out the false rubbish about their fire practices which are STILL in use or the positive results they result in. Did you know that in the NT their Fire Service has gone back to basics to seek guidance and learn from traditional Indigenous people up there? No? Do your own physical research instead of pretending that modern desktop scientists know exactly what happened in the past, when it is actually all theory and guesswork.

            Many of Charles Darwin’s theories have proved to be just that and no more.

            Don’t make false claims which you aren’t able or even going to bother providing the proof of.

    • Clive Stott

      February 20, 2019 at 5:18 pm

      JDN, I hope you have big ears!

      Go here to see other ways to clear fuel if it is deemed necessary. Many times it isn’t:

      https://cleanairtas.com/departments/alternative-solutions.htm

  14. Ivo Edwards

    February 19, 2019 at 9:05 am

    My comments are restricted to the early fire detection and early suppression aspects of bush fire control in Tasmania. Everyone is clearly in support of these two ideals, but little in the form of practical policy changes is being implemented to assist with this imperative need!

    For early detection, there are satellites that can provide amazing images of bush fire details such as those posted recently on the ABC website and elsewhere. For viewing through smoke there are infrared satellite and aircraft viewers. There is also the proven Lidar detection system for small fires about which we have heard nothing from the Tasmanian fire fighting authorities.

    Come on please, TFS. Lift your game and show us that you are not unnecessarily endangering fire-fighters by waiting until fires are serious and extensive before sending dedicated and brave people into bushfire zones to have them attempt to extinguish fires manually with glorified mops to beat out the flames!

    Couldn’t you include satellite images in your regular website updates, with smoke Photoshopped out so we could see where the hot spots actually are, rather than just presenting a grey map of burnt areas and only updated a few days too late?

    For early fire containment, I am in agreement with Rob Halton, and Simon Warriner especially. Why do we have to keep complaining that fire control always starts too late?

    My armchair critic’s at least partial solution to the problem is this: –

    For God’s sake government officials, stop being so stingy and short-sighted and get SOME large Skycrane helicopters, each capable of lifting about 10,000 kg. We are spending in the order of $10 billion EACH on 12 new submarines to, it might be argued, just get our defence spending up to 2% of GDP .. but not for any specific perceived real enemy. Just reallocating the cost of one submarine to Skycrane purchase would enable the outright purchase of at least 200 dedicated fire fighting Skycranes for Australia! They could be owned, operated and maintained by the defence forces if necessary. They could be useful in the fire off-season for carrying tanks etc about, or for selectively extracting logs rather than clear felling mature forests.

    Why is there such a focus on regular wheeled tankers for bush fire control?

    It was rather tragic to read from the TFS website for days on end that vehicles in attendance at the Gell River fire were usually just a few light tankers, with sometimes a ute or a personnel carrier or a medium tanker! I wonder what these fire fighting machines were actually doing on site when the fire was well away from roads .. or even 4WD tracks.

    It seems just so totally obvious to me that Tasmania needs some dedicated bulldozer-type fire fighting capability for fires away from roads. For example, D5 type dozers could be lifted by sky cranes, could be fitted with several thousand-litre water tanks and smoke-proof air-conditioned cabins with pull down reflective radiant heat shields as required, and they could be fire proofed. They could have ultra-high pressure water pumps and mounted hydraulically controlled chassis mounted nozzles controlled from the comfort of the cab.

    Their water tanks could be kept supplied by the attendant Skycranes, and the water could be used to supplement their contribution to the fire’s control by the construction of fire breaks, earth moving and the felling of burning tall trees.

    It seems that directed water from a tanker to a fire is much more effective than a water-bombing aircraft simply aiming his load as well as possible and then dumping the whole load in just a few seconds.

    Well then, I say, let’s get started right away. There is an election coming up. Start lobbying please people, and get this improved show on the road for next year.

    Keep the debate about controlled burns going for sure, but please hone in to focus on practical aspects of early fire detection with the dedicated bulldozers brought in within 2 hours of the fire’s starting. Don’t just wait for the next government-commissioned report to be forthcoming a year or two down the track. Oh yes, government officials, for the next report please commission it from someone with real bushfire fighting expertise, not an Antarctic Climate Scientist!

  15. MJF

    February 19, 2019 at 7:25 am

    How effective was the irrigation setup near Lake Rhona at protecting alpine vegetation?

    • Rob Halton

      February 19, 2019 at 8:33 am

      Obviously Parks got caught on the hop having to set up irrigation during a wildfire crisis, it goes to show how Parks are not managing land under their control as the entire Vale of Rassalas needs to be burnt regularly every 3-5 years during spring to protect its surrounding natural values as well providing some fire protection security for Forestry and Norske Skog timber assets nearby. It provides some surety for the residents of the Upper Derwent Valley too.

      Parks inability to manage their land for wildfire is unacceptable and needs the hard fist of government and community to put a stop to this, the State Fire Management Committee need to meet and corner Parks on the spot and demand fuel reduction as well as fire trail mtce be carried out as a matter of course.

      Its either increased Fuel reduction activity across the broader range across the Tasmanian landscape or damaging wildfires as fuel loads are increasing as I speak

      • Ted Mead

        February 19, 2019 at 11:10 am

        Robin … More of your blinded bias again.

        The Gell River fire started around Battlement hills and burnt southeast, crossing the Gordon and eastward at the same time it moved down the Vale. Unless the northern part of the Denison range and the scrubby sections of the vale had been burnt in the 12 months prior then the Lake Rhona region was destined to fire.

        Draw a line directly southeasterly from the Battlement Hills and you find it crosses Maydena, and that’s exactly what would have been gutted if there was exceptionally high winds. Burning the Vale every year would make no difference because the ember path would simply leap over the vale region, taking all in its wake.

        Similar conclusions could be drawn with the Riveaux fire. If the Riveaux fire had been extinguished earlier the fire-fighters may have gained some time to direct the fire that came from behind it up the Huon, and which inevitably linked up and spread outwards.

        The only certainty is that it would have been catastrophic for all areas south of Huonville .. had the high winds prevailed on that hot day.

        Fuel reduction burning would not, and still won’t, make any difference when such fire conditions arise. The authorities and lucifers should have at least learned that from the 1967 disaster.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the knee–jerk reactive Libs will come up with a loopy plan to burn every plain and scrubby valley between Woolnorth and Southeast Cape.

        • Rob Halton

          February 21, 2019 at 7:13 am

          Ted, you are right about Lake Rhona it was in the direct line of the fire coming down from Battlement Hills and I would suppose that Parks who are not really focused on fuel reduction actually dont have a plan to protect Lake Rhona but they do now, the wake up call came as a wildfire their action using the sprinkler system worked but should not be seen as an ongoing tactic waiting for another wildfire in a decade of two!

          It does not change the fact that the Vale of Rasselas an area of highly inflammable scrub approx 20km x 3km wide running north -south has been ignored for FRB by Parks which offers obviously some protection for both the recently reserved land under the TFA as well as the working forests east of the Gordon Range including the western slopes of Mt Field National Park .

          Re Riveaux ,I take your point as I had been tracking the wildfires building up to the west of Riveaux until it joined up a couple of weeks later, at least with the Riveaux fire remaining as a dot in the landscape those responsible for suppression in the area would had the change to regroup and come up with a plan to combat an eastwards movement beyond the Picton River. A blow up day would have been a disaster, true enough!

          Again it clearly becomes an issue where the TFA legislation from the resultant Peace Talks with out any thought to future fire management has led to the creation of Commercial forests into Reserves as an extension to SW WHA which is now obviously beyond the capability of Parks to manage!

          Parks to the best of my knowledge have never bothered to conduct FRB along the Huon Plains to either protect either the Arthur Ranges, Commercial forests and the Tahune Airwalk to the east!

          STT would have a FMP but holistically are dependent on cooperation coming from Parks as well!

          Parks lack of management places them directly in the firing line for a subsequent Inquiry, they dont have any fall back strategy, STT and the Huon Community should remain angered into the future with so much Reserved land beyond the west of Geeveston that apparently has no fire management plan to deal with fuel reduction, fire line construction maintaining old forestry roads which are now gated falling into disrepair out of public view!

      • Russell

        February 20, 2019 at 7:56 am

        It just goes to show how the State Government’s lack of funding for Parks is causing major problems, particularly with fire prevention, fire fighting and suppression.

    • Ivo Edwards

      February 19, 2019 at 9:12 am

      Better than the sprinkler system set up to protect Churchill’s Hut! I wonder just what happened there?

      I guess no one is going to supply the details about why sprinklers plus water bombers plus TFS staff in attendance were ineffective.

  16. garrystannus@hotmail.com

    February 18, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    𝐵𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑖𝑡 𝑜𝑓𝑓, 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑖𝑡 𝑜𝑢𝑡!
    𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑖𝑡 𝑢𝑝, 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑖𝑡 𝑑𝑜𝑤𝑛,
    𝑗𝑢𝑠𝑡 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑖𝑡!
    𝑖𝑡’𝑠 𝑠𝑜 𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑦 𝑡𝑜 𝑑𝑜
    𝑎𝑛𝑦 𝑜𝑙𝑑 𝑓𝑜𝑜𝑙 𝑐𝑎𝑛 𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑛 𝑖𝑡….

    𝐈 𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐛𝐛𝐞𝐝 𝐚 𝐟𝐞𝐰 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐱𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝟓𝐭𝐡 𝐔𝐓𝐆 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐥𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧:
    “𝑈𝑇𝐺 𝑐𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑠 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑎𝑙𝑙 ‘ℎ𝑎𝑧𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔’ 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑠, 𝑁𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑎𝑙 𝑃𝑎𝑟𝑘 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝐶𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑣𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝐴𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑠 𝑏𝑒 𝑠𝑢𝑠𝑝𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑑 𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑒𝑞𝑢𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑠𝑢𝑐ℎ 𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑒𝑠 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑠𝑐𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑓𝑖𝑐𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 𝑒𝑣𝑎𝑙𝑢𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑 ”

    𝐖𝐢𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐝𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐔𝐓𝐆’𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐢𝐧𝐠:
    𝑇ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑚𝑢𝑐ℎ 𝑑𝑖𝑠𝑐𝑢𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑢𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑢𝑠𝑒 𝑜𝑓 ‘𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑠’ 𝑜𝑟 ‘ℎ𝑎𝑧𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑠’ 𝑎𝑠 𝑎 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑚𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑜𝑟 𝑡𝑜 𝑏𝑢𝑠ℎ𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑒 𝑜𝑢𝑡𝑏𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑘𝑠. 𝐶𝑜𝑚𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑖𝑛𝑐𝑙𝑢𝑑𝑒𝑑:

    -𝐻𝑎𝑧𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔 ℎ𝑎𝑠 𝑙𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑒𝑓𝑓𝑒𝑐𝑡 𝑖𝑛 𝑚𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑔𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑏𝑢𝑠ℎ𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑒 𝑠𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑑 𝑑𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑒𝑥𝑡𝑟𝑒𝑚𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑠.

    -𝐷𝑜𝑒𝑠 ℎ𝑎𝑧𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑟𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑢𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑘? 𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑒𝑣𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒?

    -𝑅𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑠 𝑠𝑙𝑜𝑤 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑒𝑠 𝑑𝑜𝑤𝑛, 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝑤𝑒 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡 𝑡𝑦𝑝𝑒𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑖𝑙𝑦. 𝑊𝑒 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡 𝑡𝑦𝑝𝑒𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑛𝑜 𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑓-𝑑𝑒𝑓𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑚𝑒𝑐ℎ𝑎𝑛𝑖𝑠𝑚.

    -𝐹𝑖𝑟𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑚𝑜𝑡𝑒𝑠 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑒-𝑙𝑜𝑣𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠 (𝑠𝑜 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑏𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑠 𝑖𝑛𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑒 𝑝𝑜𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑎𝑙 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑓𝑢𝑟𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑒𝑠).

    -𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑢𝑔𝑔𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑒𝑢𝑐𝑎𝑙𝑦𝑝𝑡𝑠 𝑛𝑒𝑒𝑑 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑟𝑒𝑔𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒 𝑖𝑠 𝑞𝑢𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒 (𝑖𝑡 𝑜𝑛𝑙𝑦 𝑎𝑝𝑝𝑙𝑖𝑒𝑠 𝑡𝑜 𝑐𝑒𝑟𝑡𝑎𝑖𝑛 𝑠𝑝𝑒𝑐𝑖𝑒𝑠).

    -𝐴 𝑘𝑒𝑦 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑐𝑒𝑟𝑛, 𝑤ℎ𝑖𝑐ℎ 𝑖𝑠 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑏𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑦 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑜𝑔𝑛𝑖𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑤𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑙𝑦, 𝑖𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑦 ‘𝐺𝑜𝑛𝑑𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑎’ 𝑜𝑟 ‘𝑃𝑙𝑒𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑐𝑒𝑛𝑒 𝑒𝑟𝑎’ 𝑠𝑝𝑒𝑐𝑖𝑒𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑠 𝑠𝑖𝑚𝑝𝑙𝑦 𝑑𝑜 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑔𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒 𝑎𝑓𝑡𝑒𝑟 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑒𝑠 (𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑒𝑥𝑎𝑚𝑝𝑙𝑒, 𝐾𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝐵𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑦 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑝𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑖𝑙 𝑝𝑖𝑛𝑒𝑠, 𝑐𝑢𝑠ℎ𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑠𝑠, 𝑒𝑡𝑐.).

    𝐀𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐝𝐨𝐭𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐨𝐧:
    I recall, some years ago, taking a break from the fight against a fire – lit by a neighbour – some years ago. We split into two natural groups: the greenies and the rednecks. They, in the Liffey bush, sat in their vehicles, dropping their litter out through the door windows (‘as you do’) and we, well we sat under the gums and the banksias and discussed the importance of maintaining that mountainside’s existing habitat, so that there would be a platform (albeit trending towards vertical) to allow for the migration of certain species which presently grow at levels below the top of the bluff. With global warming then being posited, perhaps the mountain could be a ladder up to species’ survival.

    In my foolishness perhaps, those decades ago, I did not consider what was to become of the ‘stuff up the top’. Well, now I know – or are perhaps nowadays I’m better informed.

    𝐇𝐮𝐧𝐤𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐝𝐨𝐰𝐧:
    So what are we looking at? Is it simply just the danger of some of our wilderness areas getting ‘a bit of a touch up’, of sheds and shacks being in danger of incineration? You’d have to shake your head in dismay: to think that the majority (be it in Lyons, be it in Bourke, be it in Australia or be it in the whole world … the majority are simply ‘hunkering down’, as if like the ostrich with its head in the sands, it will all go away, it won’t happen, just as long as we keep on denying it.

    I suggest that our climate is changing and I further suggest, that according to the available science, we (humans around the world) are causing this change. And, in my opinion, it is preferable not to try and solve the problem of climate-changed-induced bushfires by burning more of the bush before climate-change does it for us. No, I suggest that we vote for politicians/governments that will put and advocate for our environment: first and foremost.

    As young Kaeo Landon-Lane told P.M. Kevin Rudd some years ago, in Launceston:

    “𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐧𝐨 𝐣𝐨𝐛𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐚 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐞𝐭”.

    He was a boy, then. At a local and at a global level, in my opinion, we are moving in the wrong direction. We should be trying for modesty in our lives, for reduced consumption, for trying to treat the planet on which we live, as if it’s a friend, like ‘Mother Earth’. We are getting the warning messages, we are getting the first arrows.

    What is our answer? It cannot be – it should not be – the simple resort, to that hackneyed cliche

    To ‘𝑓𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑓𝑖𝑟𝑒’ ?

    It’s delusional, in my opinion. I want some sanity in my world.

    • Mark Poynter

      February 19, 2019 at 9:11 am

      With all due respect, I read this stuff and think it is analogous to me – a mere non-medical potential patient – extolling my opinion about the ills of cardio-vascular surgery. I wouldn’t know the first thing about such surgery, just as UTG laypersons clearly don’t even know what they don’t know when it comes to forest fire, as is illustrated by questions such as : Where is the evidence that hazard reduction burning actually works?

      Questioning the so-called hackneyed cliche of “fighting fire with fire” is to step back in time to over 100 years ago when debate raged amongst forestry and land managers over this very question. In short, the field practitioners of the time who had to deal with fire in the field supported this concept, whereas academic foresters, particularly those with European training, opposed it because they believed that turning the tangled wilderness of the Australian bush into a neat, ordered virtual park would mean the end of uncontrollable forest fire! Eventually, the field practitioners were proven right, and the Stretton Royal Commission following the disastrous “Black Friday” bushfires in Victoria in 1939, formally recognised that the strategy of fighting fire with fire was needed to overturn the failed former strategy of trying to exclude all fire.

      Now, 80 years later, it seems that environmentalists and other lay-persons know better and want to turn back to the failures of the past by bringing in more aircraft at exorbitant costs to supposedly enable all fires to be quickly extinguished and thereby solve the fire problem. Anyone who thinks that is the answer should read the books by US fire historian Steven Pyne who has examined the shift to para-military emergency fire management in the USA and elsewhere, and has formerly begged Australia to continue with the preventative or mitigation approach (ie. off-season burning, but expanded to be more effective) rather than to go any further down the para-military aircraft-based path.

      • max

        February 19, 2019 at 1:06 pm

        Mark Poynter… your example of the ills of cardio-vascular surgery and you won’t know the first thing about it, highlights how wrong you are.
        I put the knowledge of present day foresters in the same class of as how uneducated butchers and barbers became today’s skilled surgeons. The first successful open heart surgery was in 1953
        I put forestry practices back in the Stone Age.
        What is the safe distance from the perimeter of fuel reduction burn, that a dry lightning strike will not start a fire given the right conditions? If you cannot answer this simple question then you know nothing.

        • Mark Poynter

          February 19, 2019 at 6:03 pm

          Oh dear Max ….. so my 40+ year career in forestry counts for nothing? Obviously I have to bow to your much greater wisdom – perhaps you could remind us just what your expertise is? I engage very rarely on here in good faith thinking that perhaps I can inject some informed viewpoints, but there is simply no point in engaging with someone like you. TT has largely become an echo-chamber of like-minded complainants to almost anything that happens in the state. Attitudes like yours will ensure that it will stay that way.

          • max

            February 19, 2019 at 8:31 pm

            Mark Poynter … Your 40 year plus career in forestry counts for nothing if you have failed to learn.

            All careers change over time and hopefully for the better, but all you continue to do is prove that you have a closed mind to any and all ways that could be better. If you’re taught something it doesn’t mean it is right.

            With your 40 year plus career in forestry and your total belief in the benefits of FRB, why refuse to answer my question? Here it is again …

            “What is the safe distance from the perimeter of fuel reduction burn that a dry lightning strike will not start a fire, given the right conditions?”

            If you cannot answer this simple question then you have learnt nothing.

          • Russell

            February 20, 2019 at 7:44 am

            Your 40+ years in forestry just demonstrates how little you’ve learned, or know about our forests or eucalypts in general, with the record on the board. I understand most fires are started by your burns.

            You replace wet forests with over-planted dry forests. You replace endemic forests with exotic forests. You put vast numbers of native species in danger of extinction even after you know they are vulnerable, and where the remnants survive. You drain the water table, rivers, streams, creeks and springs. You spread every invasive weed to proliferate wherever you go.

            All for what? Zero profit .. and a massive burden on the Australian public purse.

      • Simon Warriner

        February 19, 2019 at 6:13 pm

        Mr Poynter, This layperson is well aware that the quick extinguishing of all fires will not, and can not, possibly solve all wildfire problems as such a task is most likely impossible.

        Dismissing my observations and experience without knowing the full details is a demonstration of ignorance. Putting as many fires as possible out as fast as possible minimises the expense of fighting them and frees up resources for the ones that prove too difficult to contain and extinguish. That is the sort of straight forward time management approach taken by successful managers every day all over the world. It is not rocket science or heart surgery and to use the comparison demonstrates a failure to comprehend the nature of the problem. Failure to do so is all the more asinine when the resulting large fires require the same sort of resources that could have been used to deal with the initial fire, but in much larger numbers for much longer periods of time. Resources like exhorbitantly priced aircraft.

        If the approach you are advocating could be relied upon to reduce to insignificant the level of fire activity during the fire season you might have a product to sell, but it cannot and so we should have a prepared response to cover the gap between ambition and reality. Unfortunately the one we have at present is not working properly and needs a thorough tune up.

        Incidentally, I do not have a problem with using fire as a fire management tool. I do have a problem with the pretense that trash reduction following clear fell is actually hazard reduction though. It is not, it is just telling lies.

        So the Revoiux Road fire should not have been put out as fast as possible when it was small and the task was doable without excessive expense?

        Why the hell not?

        • Mark Poynter

          February 20, 2019 at 1:43 pm

          Mr Warriner, please explain where I have “dismissed your observations”. I don’t recall making a response to any of your posts on this article, and rarely if ever have I responded to you elsewhere. Perhaps you are mistaking me for someone else.

          Nevertheless your comment does provide an opportunity to address the theory, which seems to have taken root here, that simply detecting every fire ignition quickly will solve Tasmania’s fire problems.

          What do you think fire-fighting services do if you think they aren’t already trying to detect fires ASAP? As you say, quick detection is integral to effective fire-fighting, and there is no disagreement about this from agencies that would already be doing as much as they can to be quickly alerted to a fire ignition. That includes already trialling high tech methods that you or others have mentioned elsewhere herein. Perhaps these haven’t been trialled in Tasmania, but they have been trialled on the mainland and have been found to incur an extra cost while making little or no improvement to existing detection methods.

          The more important point to note is that detecting a fire ignition is only half of what’s required to quickly attack a just-started bushfire. The other half is actually getting to that just-detected fire to start doing something about it. This is effected by all sorts of variables that don’t ever seem to be mentioned on TT such as: the existence of trafficable road access (as distinct from un-maintained, grown-over tracks with unusable bridges) and the availability of fire-fighters in sufficient numbers; the availability of suitable earth-moving machinery for fireline construction; the presence of aerial resources which can either lower fire-fighters in, or start water-bombing operations; and the prevailing weather conditions which influence fire behaviour and the fire-fighting strategy.

          In particular, the availability of fire-fighters, machinery and aircraft is subject to the presence of other, already going fires or just-detected ignitions, and whether or not these have been assessed as having a higher priority.

          So, no matter how quickly a fire is detected, the most limiting factor is how long it then takes to attack the fire which is subject to the above-listed variables. It is impossible for anyone other than the fire controllers and fire-fighters to be aware of how, or if, these variables affect the capability to quickly attack a fire.

          I don’t disagree with you that there are problems with fire management right throughout southern Australia. These are rooted in a range of factors such as significant loss of fire expertise from land management agencies, the loss of much of the fire expertise and equipment that was traditionally supplied by the timber industry, the loss of much of the usable road and track access network (as most of the forest has been put into park and reserve categories that are poorly funded and under-resourced) and the evolution of a risk-averse OH & S culture which discourages aggressive direct attack of bushfires compared with the past. In Tasmania, these problems are exacerbated by the reality that the state rarely experiences bad fire seasons and therefore cannot justify paying for the resources and equipment (especially exhorbitantly expensive large aircraft) needed to deal with one on the off-chance it will occur. When these bad seasons do occur, the fire services are then caught out. This also occurs on the mainland even though they are prepared for a much higher level of fire activity compared to Tasmania.

          I don’t recall anyone specifically advocate slash burning after logging as a fuel reduction tool, because its primary purpose is to provide a receptive seedbed for successful regeneration. However, it’s a fact that it does remove fuel that could otherwise be burnt by a bushfire. A notable feature of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria was that areas of young post-logging regrowth up to 8 years old generally survived the fires despite adjacent/surrounding older forest being killed. This has been attributed to the fact that these areas had little dry fuel because it had already been removed by the earlier slash burn.

          I don’t understand your point about the Riveaux Rd fire. Who has advocated not dealing with it as quickly as possible? But as I have mentioned before there may be reasons why it was given a lower priority than it clearly should have been – with the benefit of hindsight. It certainly seems, from what Robin Halton has said, to have been poorly handled, but I have no insights into what actually occurred.

          • Simon Warriner

            February 20, 2019 at 7:45 pm

            “Now, 80 years later, it seems that environmentalists and other lay-persons know better and want to turn back to the failures of the past by bringing in more aircraft at exorbitant costs to supposedly enable all fires to be quickly extinguished and thereby solve the fire problem.”

            I was counting myself among the “other lay persons”. My apologies for being so touchy.

            Nowhere did I mention detection. I addressed that issue in depth in 2016 as I understand far better than most people, as a certified L2 thermographer, the issues involved. It is bloody difficult. What concerns here me is what is done once a fire is detected.

            My point about Revoiux Road arises from, and is informed by, hearing a conversation between a State Fire Commissioner and an incident controller, on my property, on Jan 4th 2013.It included the phrase “it’s only a little fire, wait ’til it is big enough to fight properly” .. with no dissent voiced, and is further informed by what I saw done as the partner of a now ex TFS employee. It is amplified by my being bothered to read considerable material on the subject of arsonists in fire fighting organisations, and my knowledge of several other incidents locally that point to very disturbing behavior. Incident, for example, like a stop message being sent to halt a tanker going to a remote vegetation fire by someone sitting in their lounge room without talking to the incident controller at the fireground, who told me about the event.

            I get very disturbed when a fire in heavy vegetation takes 4 days to grow from nothing to 6.5 hectares. It was not hindsight that prompted my unease. It was very expensive experience.

            Your discussion about trash burning is interesting, but time has run out and I have cattle to shift before it gets dark.

          • spikey

            February 20, 2019 at 8:15 pm

            ‘I don’t recall anyone specifically advocate slash burning after logging as a fuel reduction tool, because its primary purpose is to provide a receptive seedbed for successful regeneration.’

            Was that a variation on the old fertile ashbed, world’s best practice propaganda?

            I always thought it was primitive to burn off the natural source of nutrients provided by decay, affecting fungal symbionts that interact all the way into dissolving rock. Not to mention dozing it into heaps, instead of the natural sponges of old rotten logs providing what any gardener would call ‘good wet mulch.’

            I guess 40+ years of some of the world’s worst uneconomical forestry practices, championed still in a curious way by curious men more interested in good PR than good forestry practice, must count for a lot somewhere.

            Just not around here.

  17. Rob Halton

    February 18, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    I have read all of the comments to date and Simons Warriner’s is the closest at getting to the truth of the matter re. Riveaux Fire.
    From what I can understand a local forestry officer told Parks and or Fire service to get a dozed line around the initial fire for which I believe was 2ha in area and water down the edges immediately. working into the centre to extinguish all hot spots either or both using helicopter and ground based tankers and hand crews Immediately treating it as an rapid response and total extinguishment operation but oh no, either or both Parks and Fire Service treated the fire as an Wait and Act job, the rest is history and only equates to total stupidity and total lack of understanding of fire suppression in heavily timbered eucalypt forest.

    The same forest officer had previously extinguished a potential hazardous fire in Hasting Forest Block only days before the Riveaux “Watch and Act” wild fire which has now grown out of all proportion and caused enormous damage to standing timber and caused unnecessary alarm to the Geeveston , Castel Forbes Bay and Judbury- Lonnavale communities not to mention the cost of suppression for which is ongoing.

    The Riveaux Forest in the Picton was previously State Forest until the previous Labor Government under the Peace Talks of 2012-13 resulted in handing over valuable State Forest assets to create a larger SW WHA handing the fire managment responsibility to Parks for which is obviously beyond their capacity to act immediately within heavily timbered country to ANY fire outbreak during the middle of a drying summer!

    The pack of greedy fools that collectively brought about the Tasmanian Forest Agreement legislation 2013 taking away the Forestry Tasmania responsibilty for highly productive timber areas such as the Picton now have to face a situation of not only unnecessarily extended burnt Reserves but mind boggling permanent damage by degrade of valuable regrowth along with and plantation timber either reduced to fire wood or pulpwood quality only.
    Quality timber in the Arve and Picton and Kermandie forests as future sawlog is now a distant memory.

    It is essentially important that the Huon community need an inquiry into this fire as I am sure that the extent of this conflagaration could have been avoided or at least its impact mostly reduced had proper tactics and organisation by the fire authorities occured

    Nothing and absolutely nothing has been learnt from 1967 and more recently the Dunalley Fires only that the exclusion of forestry fire practitioners from the larger picture, future wildfire will only be harder to control without proper well practiced and reliable field operational expertise on the fire ground.
    Essentially the state is fighting a losing battle to retain experienced fire practitioners, and experienced machinery operator most of which came from the former forest industry.

    • Simon Warriner

      February 18, 2019 at 6:17 pm

      Thank you, Robin. Belief is truly beggared.

      I would suggest a class action for criminal stupidity should be pursued by those who have suffered as a result, but the Myer cock up proved the TFS is immune from legal responsibility for its stuff ups on the fire ground.

      PWS .. I am not so sure about.

    • Ted Mead

      February 18, 2019 at 10:34 pm

      Oh Robin .. Guru, Swami, the politically enlightened one!

      If ever I lose the plot and stand for election sometime, I think I should employ you as my senior advisor. That way whenever you advise me to do something, I should immediately do the opposite, because whilst I take the opposing view to you I know I will be on the right track to sane decision making.

      The whole concept and methodology of fuel reduction burning in this state is now questionable and under fire within a continuum of desperate and wasteful knee-jerk conservative politics.

      I very much doubt that, when we come out of the other end of what happened with this summers’ fires, the government we be any the wiser.

      It’s obvious that the Libs $55 million Fuel Reduction Burning program hasn’t made one iota of difference when it comes to controlling severe fire activity.

      What the government needs to do is shut down the fuel reduction program immediately, and put the available resources into purchasing high-tech equipment and competent staff which can suppress fire activity as soon as it arises.

      Forget the pussy-footing around with torching buttongrass plains just to get the numbers up. The focus should be on containing, suppressing or extinguishing wildfire when it immediately arises.

      None of this Neanderthal “burn, baby burn” claptrap.

    • Mark Poynter

      February 19, 2019 at 8:40 am

      Robin, It seems that the problems with forest fire in Tasmania (and elsewhere) is in large-part a case of “reaping what you sow” for environmental groups and the TT group-think which has campaigned for years to evict the practice of forestry from native forests. Throughout their campaigning they were repeatedly warned that this would significantly weaken forest fire management capability – and this has now come to fruition.

      If the initial dithering over the Riveaux Rd fire is accurate, it ranks alongside recent disastrous Victorian fires at Wye River and Harrietville as cases where what once would have been routine opportunities to control fires to a tiny size under benign weather conditions were missed or messed-up.

      As you have said, a key reason is the loss of experienced fire management practitioners forced out by unwarranted changes to forestry agencies to appease ‘green’ political sensitivities. This has severely weakened the formerly strong forestry culture whereby field personnel spent their summers on tenterhooks waiting to quickly jump on any fire outbreak that occurred. This must have changed drastically, if quick response to every fire is now being put forward as the answer to today’s fire problems.

    • Russell

      February 20, 2019 at 7:52 am

      Getting bulldozers in to run a line around fires or buildings is just plain non-nonsensical, and it’s a waste of time and STUPID .. just as putting up a fruit fly sign at the border is. How many weeds do you want to bring into these areas?

      Ash and embers travel a kilometre on the wind, jumping any bulldozer track easily. Bulldozers are useless.

      Water or suffocation is the ONLY answer when putting fires out.

      Advocating bulldozers is just another money-grab by morons with machinery to rent who care very little about the environment, or whether the fire is put out or not.

      • Ivo Edwards

        February 20, 2019 at 1:05 pm

        I’m sorry Russell, that you seem to need to be so plain rude, intransigent and abusive, thereby seriously lowering the tone and credibility of this site.

        Perhaps you should explain in detail just what you have against the use of bulldozers apart from them being advocated by morons, such being a waste of time .. and stupid, and being unable to usefully contribute to bush fire control.

        Perhaps embers might also have the capability to jump a water or suffocation line. Perhaps weeds might just as equally gain a foothold in burnt sites, as in bulldozer-generated disturbed ground.

      • mike seabrook

        February 21, 2019 at 12:23 am

        Only in Tassie!

        • Hunting the invisible fox cost the Feds $50 million ..
        • Exterminating a few mainland fruit flies in Tassie cost the Feds an estimated $30 million ..

        This federal loot is all that keeps the mendicant Tassie economy afloat ..

  18. Nicole Anderson

    February 18, 2019 at 10:34 am

    I’m not sure how “ongoing natural evolution” is expected to occur in the wake of human induced climate change and human managed rapid and extreme responses to dry lightning bushfires such as this group is really calling for.

    Ironically, this seems to prevent “natural” evolution without human intervention, particularly in a landscape known to have been shaped by humans using fire for around 45,000 years and thereby creating the fire tolerant and fire sensitive vegetation in close proximity that we observe today.

    Are they perhaps wanting a return to the prehuman occupation ecological situation? Sure. Vegetation community succession could probably transition from sedge and buttongrass to rainforest in several hundred, or a thousand years of ideal climate and total absence of fire .. but the chance of that happening in the climate change forecasts of hotter and drier conditions doesn’t seem realistic.

    • Geoff Holloway

      February 18, 2019 at 11:33 am

      Ye Nicole, what you say is true with respect to climate change and this presents something of a paradox. However, that does not mean that climate change should be used as a catch-all excuse for inadequate interventions or unpreparedness.

      Using fire for 45,000 years does not mean that it has been used as, in effect, a landscape management tool .. especially in Southwest Tasmania. All in all, that is why we need to be careful and to involve both science and communities in any decisions taken.

      I would also add that is not clear yet what the long-term effects of climate change will be in specific locations, such as Tasmania.

      • Jon Sumby

        February 18, 2019 at 5:06 pm

        Geoff, I suggest you think very carefully about your parameters and subsequent policy direction.

        • Clive Stott

          February 19, 2019 at 12:53 am

          Geoff, thanks for your article. I take it this will not be the only Inquiry. What others are coming up?

          United Tasmania Group Inquiry into Tasmanian bushfires 2019
          2e) Health care costs: the increasing medical costs for people vulnerable to air pollution was raised – and this is especially important when the 2019 fires have continued for such a long period (eight weeks). The question was raised, ‘has there been an increase in hospital admissions?’

          Hospital admissions are not a true indication of the harm caused to the population from smoke pollution.

          I live in Northern Tasmania. I was not in the direct line of fire from the smoke, but I did breathe that smoke and I had to use my arsenal of prescribed medications. However, I did not show up as a hospital statistic. Had these fires been snuffed out early then smoke travel across the state would not have been a problem.
          Smoke inhalation cost me financially and it has cost the state financially, but it can also be costed into the future with the numbers of lives or years lost.

          Hospital admissions could be a guide, but it must be remembered vulnerable people were told by Health to follow their action plan to self-medicate AT HOME, or to go to the supermarket or the gym. Hospital admission numbers would only record the few that sadly ended up in hospital.

          Maybe doctors’ visits would provide better statistics or pharmacist’s scripts being filled. We need to know the number of fire fighters who were treated for breathing/heart conditions at the fire scene or elsewhere.

          Additional EPA real-time ambient air quality monitors came online for the heavily smoked areas.

          The Health Dept flags unsafe levels of particle pollution (smoke) on its website of anything longer than 2 hours’ duration. Was this information updated to the general public?

          Geoff, in your summary comparison of the Erikson Sky Crane and the Canadair 415 you mentioned hire cost of the Sky Crane but failed to mention the hire cost of the Canadair.

          It might also pay to remember that Sky Cranes are now on average 60 years old! It’s best to be careful about what we wish for.

          • Geoff Holloway

            February 19, 2019 at 6:34 am

            Thankyou, Clive.

            I only reported on what people said in that section of the report, and of course you are correct .. hospital admissions would be a poor indicator of the true impact of air pollution associated with the fires .. and I agree, doctor’s visits or pharmacist’s scripts would be better measures.

            An even better measure could be a sample survey before and after fires so as to capture self-medication and the impact on health and activity restrictions.

            As for sky cranes .. surely they make equivalents today?

      • Russell

        February 19, 2019 at 8:51 am

        “Using fire for 45,000 years does not mean that it has been used as, in effect, a landscape management tool .. especially in Southwest Tasmania.”

        Wrong. Read “The Biggest Estate on Earth.” It has EXACTLY been the case on the mainland, and all over Tasmania, to keep pathways and plains open for travel, food, etc.

        Just because the European use of fire has been catastrophic doesn’t mean that Indigenous use was. The proof is the opposite and is still practiced in northern Australia today where indigenous Australians have even been employed by Parks and Wildlife departments.

        • Geoff Holloway

          February 19, 2019 at 12:26 pm

          Russell, I will have more to say about this topic soon with new research that is about to be published, but your assumption/extrapolation that because fire was used in some parts of mainland Australia and parts of Tasmania it was used everywhere, such as Southwest Tasmania, does not appear to be supported by the evidence, except for use on a very limited basis.

          • Russell

            February 20, 2019 at 8:14 am

            New research, shmechearch.

            New research to prescribe dangerous drugs with worse side-effects just to mask the symptoms of the problem instead of just giving sound advice to change your diet or use certain herbs to actually cure the cause. There’s a great example of modern research. What about all the research which has lead to Climate Change?

            Just read the book … PLEASE!

            Fire was used almost everywhere across Australia and Tasmania, and traditionally in other countries. It was ALWAYS used “on a very limited basis” where and when it needed to be done. It wasn’t some accident. There was no need to burn in rainforests, swamps or up on mountain plateaus like where some of the fires recently burned because it never got there due to responsible timely and knowledgeable burning to clean up all the surrounding country.

            Plus, these places just don’t need to be burned .. EVER.

            Is it really so hard to think in a wholistic way or learn from thousands of years of practice? It’s just an ignorant white problem believing somehow that we know better no matter what the consequence. Can’t admit our mistakes or admit we could learn something from those ‘primitives’, can we?

  19. There is some interesting material in this report, but basing findings on “comments” in Tasmanian Times seems a strange way to go!

    The Huon Valley Residents & Ratepayers Association supports calls for an independent inquiry in order to build on the lessons learned from this, and previous fire events, and to find out what worked well .. and what was less successful.

    This is an exercise in learning, not in finger-pointing.

    • Russell

      February 18, 2019 at 10:25 am

      I think if recommendations “based on comments made in the Tasmanian Times” were followed, the bushfires wouldn’t have got out of control as they did, and towns in your municipality and elsewhere wouldn’t have had to be evacuated, nor would there have been as much, if any, property damage.

      The firefighting should have been funded, and they should have been jumped on with everything our fire service had, as well as more and larger water bombers.

      The inquiry should definitely seek answers as to why our state government did not provide enough funding to immediately do this, and why it waited for the fires to get big enough to apply for federal funding.

      This should be about getting the best and safest outcomes for the community and the environment, and preventing such catastrophes ever happening again, and NOT about protecting the political elite.

      • max

        February 18, 2019 at 6:31 pm

        Russell, we have a first class treasurer called Peter who only thinks of the bottom line, in this case by letting the fire get out of control so it then became a Federal fire and for Peter .. money in the bank.

        We once had another Peter sometimes referred to as ‘the world’s best treasurer.’ Peter Costello, the man who sold off our utilities and caused high power prices, and the man who would sell everything that wasn’t nailed down.

        Is there something about Peters, treasurers and the Liberal Party?

        Perhaps it is just a Liberal policy to put the screws in because it is their neoliberalism outlook.

    • Geoff Holloway

      February 18, 2019 at 10:36 am

      The report also looks at six government reports over 2013-18, and the failure to fully implement some of the associated recommendations.

      The analysis of public perceptions is a reflection of these failings. If you have not done so already, I suggest that you read the full report. You should also note that with the support for an independent inquiry it is specifically stated that it should focus on failure implement recommendations from previous reports .. in other words, enhance present efforts.

    • Simon Warriner

      February 18, 2019 at 10:45 am

      The Revoiux Road fire took four days to grow from its ignition to 6.5 hectares. Four whole days. 96 hours. I have seen dozens of men deployed across whole hemispheres to respond to insurance events, in that space of time, by organisations far less well resourced.

      Surely a few local bulldozers and diggers could have been organised to bury that fire when it was only a two hectare problem! Instead, we saw two small and one medium tanker assigned to it. Some 3,000 litres of water .. and a need to leave the scene to refill. No aerial response shown. Why not? It was recommended in the 2013 inquiry recommendations. Section E, items 22 and 31, to be precise.

      “22 That Tasmania Fire Service considers adopting a primary tactic of an aggressive first attack on fires”

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

      The lessons have been provided, time and time again. It is long past time for those incapable (or unwilling) to learn them to be held to account. That is finger pointing, and it needs to be done for the safety of all of us.

      We need to know why there is a reluctance to hit little fires hard and fast, put them out and move on to the next one. The imperative for that response grows only greater with each fire season getting hotter, whatever the reason.

      Is it that those in charge are scratching their arsonists’ itch? Clever arsonists don’t light fires .. they fight them. Campaign fires are an arsonist’s dream.

      Are there perverse incentives that encourage the fighting of bigger fires, like federal funding or overtime payments? Or is it that bureaucratic constipation and stupidity have wreaked their usual havoc?

      Having had the opportunity to observe the TFS management up close, I see that a case can be easily made for a combination of all three.

      Do we have the political will and the ability to resolve the problem? Not if past performance is any guide.

      Do we have to fry Hobart again to get some common sense?

    • Rob Halton

      February 18, 2019 at 11:04 pm

      HVR&RA, well keep reading the TT comments on this site as more are posted over the next week or two and your group may learn something important that Parks have held the big stick over your community for too long, with the unmanaged SW WHA reserved forests and scrub all carrying high fuel loads to prevailing weather side west of your Huon settlements.

      Can you picture what I mean, 1934 fires from the Derwent Valley came very close to the NW side of Geeveston, there was plenty evidence of that when I was with FC in the late 60’s -early 70’s when we logged the severely fire damaged 1934 wildfire regrowth burnt in 1967 mainly for Pulpwood for the Local APM mill at Port Huon.

      This time the residents at the end of Fourfoot Road were very lucky that the Fourfoot Plains were burnt a couple of years ago by STT I believe, the advancing fire lapsed when it hit the recently burnt growth, half the button grass plain was burnt and the fire either passed over the remainder or was used for backburning a couple of days later giving the fire fighters an opportunity to re assess their tactics.

      Huon residents should be aware that mant parts of the spectacular SW Reserves loved by the Greens remain as an active time bombs as of now and into the future, but living in a wild fire prone areas close by, there needs to be some severe arse kicking especially towards the Parks Fire Management CEO Paul Black who publicly stated on the ABC News recently ” that we will be writing up FMP’s for the SWWHA over the next couple of years”

      What sort of nonsense is that as the WHA has been in existence for decades with tens of thousands of hectares of extensions added recently as a result of the TFA legislation 2013.

      There has been no fuel reduction carried out along the Huon Plains for decades, regular burning every 5-8 years would offer some protection from wildfire to the SW WHA and the important Timber production Areas to the east of the Picton River.

      At this point I cannot say how the Fire Service will fare within this mess but an Inquiry should sort them out at least to explain as to why the State does not have a annual contracted Heavy lift Erickson Sky crane on stand by in Tasmania from October till the end of March each year as does WA, SA Vic NSW and the ACT in some cases over the last decade. At present we are literally still playing with a series of toy helicopters for water delivery. The Sky Crane is capable of delivering up to 9000 lites per drop, when operating with experienced ground crew fire suppression tactics the Skycrane can perform as a high volume well targeted water dropping rotary aircraft that usually surpasses similar aircraft either rotary or fixed wing.

      I am aware that various country based bush fire experienced Volunteer brigades have performed well during the Huon fires and there is no doubt their long periods of the fire ground will be appreciated by the local community.

      I remain extremely disappointed that the previous Labor government under Premier Gidding as a result of the Peace Talks ticked the TFA legislation 2013 which effectively allowed the well experienced and respected Forestry teams a much lesser role in wild fire suppression decision making using machinery and manpower to aim to extinguish wildfires in heavily timbered rough terrain with rapid deployment of men and equipment.

      The Huon community should be well aware of the limitation of Parks and to a lesser degree total confidence in the Fire Service to act immediately with the right tactics for rapid response to future wildfire.

      My opinion is STT should be government funded to create a crack wildfire suppression teams to deal with difficult fires in timbered country almost irrespective of land tenure when fires actually threaten timber resources in the vicinity. This is a matter that needs to be taken seriously by the forth coming Fire Inquiry and by the State Fire Management Committee in order to vastly improve wild fire suppression!

      • Huon ValleyHVRRA

        February 20, 2019 at 9:09 am

        It’s always interesting to read all comments in TT (though some less interesting than others).
        I hear you raging against the SW WHA as being one of the reasons the Huon Valley is so vulnerable to bushfire due to insufficient fuel reduction burning.
        Was more burning undertaken prior to this area being declared a WHA?
        Are the PWS firefighters less resourced and less well-trained than they were previously?

        As you would know HVRRA is calling for a Public Inquiry ( https://huonvalley.org.au ) and hopefully you will have the chance to share your opinions and hear from others.

  20. max

    February 18, 2019 at 8:27 am

    “Since 2012 there have been several major bushfires in Tasmania, which have led to widespread damage including 119,200 hectares in 2012-2013 (including 44,700 hectares in the Giblin River area), 126,800 hectares across Tasmania in 2016 and the current fires that have consumed about 200,000 hectares in wilderness, National Park and reserve areas (2019).”

    That sums to 490,700 hectares across Tasmania since 2012. How many extra hectares could be added to this total from minor bush fires, fuel reduction burns and regeneration burns?

    These figures show a trend in bush fires and the fact that any of these fires could have turned into a mega-fire with enormous loss of lives and property. It is a world-wide trend and it’s a consequence of global warming.

    Unfortunately in Tasmania there is an entrenched idea that fuel reduction burns (FRBs) can protect this state from wildfires .. and clearly, they can’t.

    If Tasmania is going to survive the threat from catastrophic fires in a warming world, then entrenched old ideas like FRBs must be returned to the Stone Age from whence they originated.

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