Tasmanian Times


Letter to the Editor on the Bushfires

Pic: Dan Broun

We really do need an independent  inquiry into the Huon Valley bushfires, as called for by Labor and the  Huon Valley Residents & Ratepayers Assoc. (HVRRA).

While we may have “dodged a bullet”, in avoiding a repeat of the disastrous 1967 fires, there was still millions of dollars in damage caused, and the fires   are in fact still burning, and could again become a threat to our community.

Huge areas of forest including parts of the World Heritage Area were destroyed, thousands of native animals were killed, some houses were lost, and major damage caused to the  economy of the Huon Valley.

Our volunteer fire fighters did an amazing job, assisted by crews from interstate and overseas, but in the end it  seems that the weather was kind and allowed the fires to be mostly contained, and not allowed to spread across the Huon River.

We need an inquiry to determine if the initial responses to the fires was  adequate, and timely enough to stop the spread of the dry  lightning strikes  in the forest ?

Could the initial  response have been handled better, and could additional resources at the start,  have better contained the outbreaks ?

Are we adequately equipped to handle future fires  in remote areas ?

Does  Sustainable Timber Tasmania (Forestry), still have enough fire fighting crews and equipment to carry out fast response actions for future  outbreaks ?

Do we need to invest in additional manpower, organisations  and equipment  to be better prepared for similar outbreaks the  next time they happen ?

Have we learned the lessons of past  outbreaks , and  adopted all of the recommendations of the inquiries into those fires ?

Our Government and the community all need to learn from past experience, to ensure we are better prepared for the expected extreme weather events in future.

Alan Robson

Cygnet. 7112

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Russell

    November 10, 2019 at 8:13 am

    Where is the Army and Airforce in the current NSW, QLD and WA bushfires?

    Once again, Morrison MIA.

    Maybe if a coal mine caught fire something positive would be done?

    • max

      November 11, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      Not only is Morrison MIA, he is a climate change denier and refuses to accept the new Australia climate he is trying to govern in.

      Australia needs a radical rethink on bush fire prevention. Australia is now facing catastrophic fire conditions and present outdated thinking is not going to solve the problem. In fact, present out dated thinking, eg fuel reduction burns, only create future fire hazards.

      The Australian Aborigines practiced fire stick farming and changed the landscape into grasslands, the most fire prone vegetation, and that is what is happening with fuel reduction burns.

      The first vegetation to recover from a fuel reduction burn is fire-loving plants. Fuel reduction burns carried out in Autumn can produce fire-loving grass for a summer burn. Unless we totally burn the country, and keep it black, then these fires are going to continue. Fuel reduction is a priority but fuel reduction by fire is not the answer as it only exacerbates future problems.

      In Tasmania’s 1967 fires the safest place to be was in an apple orchard as these were resistant to fire. This proves that it is possible to create a fire-safe environment, and if we are going to survive in this new world of climate change then we must promote fire retarding plants as a priority.

      I love the Australia I grew up in but we can no longer plant the Australian fire-loving plants that we love. The world we all grew up in has changed. It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who


      Who what, Max?

      — Moderator

  2. Simon

    August 2, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    This might interest any readers still lurking out there. It lobbed into my Inbox a couple of days ago.

    Maybe I will see some of you there.

    The Australia Institute

    Dear Simon,

    More Tasmanians live in and on the edges of the bush than any of their state counterparts. We have always lived with fire but the intensity and frequency of fires is getting worse.

    Come and join us, Saturday 17 August, in the first of our fire series looking at fire and how it interacts with previously logged areas.

    This forum will include:
    Mapping of 2015/16 and 2018/19 fires: What does it show us about the effect of previous clearing? – Sean Cadman

    Sean Cadman’s’ latest work uses spatial analysis to look for patterns in the response of broad-scale vegetation types to fires in the 2015/16 and 2018/19 fire seasons, noting that the existing climatic pre-conditions for these years was quite different. Early results show the dramatic impact associated with and on silvicultural regeneration.
    Did logging contribute to the severity of bushfires in Victoria’s Black Saturday fires? – Chris Taylor, Australian National University

    Chris Taylor from the Australian National University will discuss his 2014 report that found the logging of Victoria’s forest could have contributed to the severity of bushfires in wet forests, like the devastating fires on Black Saturday in February 2009.
    The complexities of fire management in Tasmania – Prof David Bowman, UTAS

    Tasmania is a microcosm of the challenges of fire management in a rapidly heating world. On the one hand, bushfire is an integral ecological component of some landscapes, shaped by 35,000 year of indigenous fire use. On the other, fire has the capacity to destroy the surviving Gondwanan vegetation, a key feature of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Infrastructure and settlements are vulnerable to destruction being intermixed with flammable vegetation, yet this bushland provides amenity and biodiversity values. Achieving sustainable fire management demands close engagement with communities, a sophisticated reading of landscape history and ecology, and working through multifaceted, trade-offs. Fundamentally there are no simple solutions.

    The venue is located in Sir Raymond Ferrall Centre (building X, room 130 – see floorplan). Launceston

    RSVP here: https://nb.tai.org.au/forum_on_fire_and_forestry?utm_campaign=fire_and_forests&utm_medium=email&utm_source=theausinstitute

    Leanne Minshull

  3. Simon Warriner

    March 16, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    I had an interesting conversation with a Labor MHA today which suggests that the previously unassailable status of certain TFS decision makers might have slid down the totem pole a few notches. I mentioned the tardy response to Revoiux Road and the response was, “yes, and that was just one of several inexplicably slow responses that need to be explained, if they can be. When I observed that “really smart arsonists don’t light fires, but fight them” he agreed.

    Watching to see what happens next with interest. An outbreak of arse covering seems immanent.

  4. max

    March 12, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    If you believe in climate change and by now only troglodytes have any doubts, we have to change our concept of fire control and how we can survive in the new world of global warming.
    STT are clear felling their way to an unsustainable future in this warming world. How long can we keep trying to grow eucalyptus trees, they are fire loving trees that the new warming world may no longer support in the future.
    The long range weather forecast is for an El Nino in the near future. This means hotter drier weather, how much hotter and drier can Australia take without collapsing? “Australia sweltered through the hottest month in its history in January, spurring mass deaths of fish, fire warnings and concerns among climate scientists that extreme heat is hitting faster and harder than anticipated.”
    “The term Watch and Act in Tasmania has turned out to mean, Watch it burn until it gets big then Act, when it is too late!” How true and if this practice continues there will be no need for FRB, there will be nothing left to burn.

    • Russell

      March 17, 2019 at 7:12 am

      If it weren’t for the plantations which surround and infiltrate the world heritage areas I doubt the recent bushfires would have got so out of control OR even happened there.

  5. Clive Stott

    March 12, 2019 at 3:16 am

    There is misguided thinking that if you regularly burn Tasmania every 3 -5 years (deliberately or not) you will reduce the number of bushfires.
    The term Watch and Act in Tasmania has turned out to mean, Watch it burn until it gets big then Act, when it is too late!

    We have been told all throughout our life fires should be extinguished in their infancy before they become big fires; these fires were no different.

    This state loves large campaign fires….politicians, BoM, fire chiefs on TV and it makes good news for the time they last, the longer the better it seems, and they can write their own script for the next ‘fire season’.
    It could be argued this is why previous fire inquiry recommendations have not been fully implemented.
    But people are getting sick of it and the apparent waste of money year after year. These fires were not put out they were left to burn out.

    And it is not only the actual fires…Research shows that brief exposures to smoke (less than one hour) can increase inflammation in the lungs and cause a thickening of the blood. In people who already have heart or lung problems this could cause their condition to get worse. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE FOR A THRESHOLD BELOW WHICH EXPOSURE IS NOT HARMFUL – Tas DHHS website.
    In other words any level of PM2.5 particulates (wood smoke) in the lungs is harmful.
    This smoke was allowed to go on for how long? Weeks.

    Our state Minister for Fire has conflicting interests; he is also the Minister for Health.
    Note: Pyromania is a disease.

    • Simon Warriner

      March 12, 2019 at 1:10 pm

      And smart pyromaniacs don’t light fires. They fight them. Or manage those do.

      “It’s only a little fire. Leave it til it’s big enough to fight properly.”

  6. Russell

    March 3, 2019 at 10:16 am

    In answer to your questions, Alan:

    The initial responses to the fires were definitely and obviously NOT adequate, and timely enough to stop the spread of the dry lightning strikes in the forest.

    The initial response definitely and obviously COULD and SHOULD have been handled better, and additional resources at the start WOULD have better contained the outbreaks.

    As demonstrated we are definitely and obviously NOT adequately equipped to handle future fires in remote areas.

    I don’t know if STT/FT still has any fire fighting crews and equipment to carry out fast response actions for future outbreaks, but I do know that they have been responsible for STARTING many of Tasmania’s fires in the past because they don’t know or understand how to go about it safely.

    Obviously we DO need to invest in additional manpower, organisations and permanently Tasmanian-based equipment (eg: large water bombers) to be better prepared for similar outbreaks the next time they happen, BUT prevention is better than cure.

    NO, teh Tasmanian Government has clearly demonstrated that they learned NOTHING from the lessons of past outbreaks, nor adopted all IF ANY of the recommendations of the inquiries into those fires.

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