When I dug into this issue the main thing that shocked me was that a group of people in Australia (the Stretton group, formed in 2003) has been actively warning and lobbying about this threat for years. More importantly, they have also presented strategies about how to prevent such destructive fires. This group has had some success in implementing their policies in Western Australia but have been largely ignored in Victoria, which is the worst bushfire region in the world.
Fuels build up year after year at an approximate rate of one tonne a hectare a year, up to a maximum of about 30 tonnes a hectare. If the fuels exceed about eight tonnes a hectare, disastrous fires can and will occur. Every objective analysis of the dynamics of fuel and fire concludes that unless the fuels are maintained at near the levels that our indigenous stewards of the land achieved, then we will have unhealthy and unsafe forests that from time to time will generate disasters such as the one that erupted on saturday.After studying some of these documents I see it this way:
- David Packham, Victoria bushfires stoked by green vote
- we can’t control the weather - there will be very hot days, droughts etc., sooner or later
- we can’t stop fire from starting - lightning strikes, arsonists, faulty electrical equipment etc.
- we can’t or won’t stop people from living in the bush, it’s a free country.
The one big thing we can realistically control is fuel supply, by controlled burning in the non fire season. This won’t stop bushfires but will make them less intense and dangerous when they do occur. The Stretton group and some others, such as Phil Cheney and Roger Underwood have been arguing this for some years now.
Victoria has the worst climate and vegetation in the world for bushfires. Bushfires in Victoria are inevitable but by reducing fuel supply their devastation can be dramatically reduced.
Some of the relevant data from David Packham, in a 2002 (sic) submission is:
- the fire exclusion policy has resulted in the highest and most dangerous fuel loads for 47,000 years
- a running disaster fire intensity exceeds the maximum capability for fire fighting by between 4 and 80 times
- reducing the fuels to one-quarter will reduce the areas burnt to between one quarter and one sixteenth
- it will take 2 decades of effort to achieve healthy fuel levels ... There is however no alternative except major fire disasters at the rate of one or two per hundred years
- the lessons of 1926, 1939, 1944, 1965 and 2003 do not appear to have been learnt. Policies or comments that oppose this help to perpetuate a situation that leads to massive destruction of life, property and the environment
Victoria bushfires stoked by green vote by David Packham
Bush Fire Front by Roger Underwood, David Packham and Phil Cheney
Two myths have emerged about climate change and bushfire management and are beginning to circulate in the media and to be adopted as fact by some scientists:Inquiry on Bushfire Mitigation and Management - 2002 submission by David Packham OAM
1. Because of global warming, Australia will be increasingly subject to uncontrollable holocaust-like “megafires”.
2. Fuel reduction by prescribed burning must cease because it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus exacerbating global warming and the occurrence of megafires.
Both statements are incorrect.
Lessons not yet learned by Max Rheese
Max Rheese, Executive Director of the Australian Environment Foundation --> preventative burning is the best solution
Submission to Victorian Bushfire Inquiry by Norman Endacott
fuel reduction burning - advantages listed
The Green Inferno by Phil Cheney
do we really want to minimise disaster fires?
Manage Bush Better so Climate Change won't Matter by Roger Underwood
refutes Wilderness Society bushfire strategy
Examples of the Value of Prescribed Burning
- cites an example from West Australia where many prescribed burns got out of control owing to a cyclone moving faster than expected. It was far easier to contain these out of control fires once the fire ran into areas burnt under prescribed mild conditions in previous years
This burning issue of life and death by Miranda Devine
lists many green organisations that are opposed in practice to prescribed burning, while sometimes paying lip service to it