Andrew Campbell, a Victorian forester with professional training in fire behaviour, fire suppression and fire management with experience as a ‘sector boss’ in the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires has set down some very clear thoughts about life after the Victorian bushfires.
Offended by rabid media comments such as “it’s all the greenies’ fault” Andrew says claims that fuel reduction burning would have prevented these fires are a nonsense due to two crucial facts:
The fact that these conditions followed strong growth during an unusually wet November-December and a decade of drought made for an ‘explosive tinderbox’.
Answers for Andrew lie in these areas:
1. Dramatically improved fire detection and first attack capabilities, with many more aircraft already in the air over high risk areas on high risk days and highly trained first attack crews in helicopters distributed around the state (although no first attack would have succeeded on saturday 7 February).
2. Dramatically ramped up efforts to identify arsonists (psychological profiling of fire volunteers etc) penalties for arson and monitoring of known firebugs (including GPS bracelets) with huge increases in the size of police arson aquads (at the expense of anti-terror squads) and stronger penalties for arson.
3. Mandatory fire survival bunkers for houses/communities in fire prone areas – easily integrated with water tanks etc in rural residential areas – and changes to building codes to mandate fire-sensitive design for measures such as window shutters, leafless guttering systems, under-floor venting, gas bottle storage etc.
4. Much better and manadatory training in fire preparedness for everyone on high risk areas.
The ‘leave early or stay, prepare and fight’ policy is the right policy.
BUT the bar has been lifted for both options. Leave early means before the high risk day…Stay and fight means being trained, equipped and ready with a Plan B (the survival bunker) for those rare conditions >40C and >100km/hr winds…
Personal fire shelters (clipped to belts or back-packs) as worn by US firefighters (they look a bit like a single person tent or swag made of aluminium foil that ‘pop open’ like a beach shelter) could also be investigated for both residents and firefighters.”
“We have had our bushfire, literally and figuratively. The old structures have been flattened. Let’s not put them back as they were. Let’s take the opportunit to redesign, to re-wire, to replumb and to replenish our landscapes, our economies, our basic systems fotr food production, energy, transport, water and housing, to fit new climatic. ecological and economic circumstances.”
Andrew’s full article is well worth the read at http://www.triplehelix.com.au/documents/ThoughtsontheVictorianBushfires_000.pdf