As is normal these days, the blame game is already being waged in the wake of the most recent 2018 Californian bushfires. On the one hand are the doomsdayers who claim the fires are a result of climate change. At the other end of the spectrum are those blaming “environmental terrorists” for preventing effective pre-fire management, such as forest thinning and fuel-reduction burning.
With reference to the article by Emma Partridge, that appeared in The Daily Telegraph on 5th October 2018, titled Firey’s Charge Extinguished.
The article stated that Police never saw it, no one was hurt, but it still took two years and $74,000 for a Rural Fire Service volunteer to overturn a conviction for driving dangerously during a hazard reduction burn.
VFFA President, Mick Holton talks to Shoalhaven CBF about this terrible situation.
Listen to the interview here.
This situation was so unbelievable that others who were not privy to the full transcript were judging Oliver as being guilty, saying things like “he must be guilty, how else could it have gone on for so long”.
But, this is a case of bullying and harassment at a local level that quickly got out of control. It became a very ugly and costly, fuelled by coverups, deceit and atrocious behaviour by representatives of the Rural Fire Service right to the top.
This podcast was published on the 2GB network on the 9th November 2018.
Drought this year is expected to deliver catastrophic bushfire conditions.
Just out from the start of Summer, rural property owners are being reminded it’s not too late to start preparing.
Rural reporter Eddie Summerfield caught up with New South Wales Farmers Conservation Committee member Mitchell Clapham.
WARNING: Fire service bureaucrats are warned that this podcast may contain simple and common sense solutions.
I love the simplicity, culture and attitudes of my local Bushfire Brigade. The members of the Dry Plains Brigade are a practical bunch of rural people that don’t like wasting money and are willing to fix things when they are broken or damaged. All around us, we see a world that is becoming wasteful and items are discarded in place of the newer product.
I love the new stuff as much as anyone else, but I do try to move things along to another user, recycle and reuse wherever possible.
In a stark contrast, the NSW Rural Fire Service and the NSW Government seems to be wasting huge amounts of money on many unnecessary empire building developments including expensive fire suppression strategies. Meanwhile the simple things like accepting and allowing Aboriginal land management practices to be used by communities and Brigades gets kiboshed by red tape. These simple and effective land management practices have the potential to save huge amounts of money and the environment from certain destruction.
I’m not suggesting that we discard new firefighting technologies but we seem to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, discarding much of the local knowledge, bush skills and practical firefighting skill (formerly referred to as firemanship).
By Michael Eburn, PhD and Barrister – September 24, 2018
This question touches on a significant issue in rural or bush fire fighting. The details provided by my correspondent, a volunteer with the NSW Rural Fire Service, are very extensive, but I have edited them down to distil the essential facts whilst trying not to identify the participants, the location or the fire.
The gist of the issue is that my correspondent was with a volunteer brigade that had been sent out of area to assist at a large campaign fire. The incident controller had determined ‘that there would be no active, direct firefighting’. Even so the firefighters were approached by people whose properties were at risk. They understood that they were ‘being directed not to help the local farmers when they are in effect begging for help’.
This is not the first time this has happened – see Self help firefighting in Victoria(August 30, 2014).
The VFFA received an email from a member, suggesting that the HSR program for volunteers has not been properly addressed by the NSW RFS.
The RFS has published the following key HSR election dates:
12 September to 8 October 2018 – Notice of Election sent to members and HSR nominations open
5 November 2018 – Ballot papers posted to members
10 December 2018 – Voting closes at 12:00pm
31 January 2019 – Results of HSR elections announced by this date
1 March 2019 – Elected HSRs commence their three year term
The VFFA is concerned that the period (12 September to 8 October 2018) is insufficient time to properly advertise this important program to all volunteers across the state.
The RFS is seeking to fill 47 HRS positions for NSW.
The VFFA is concerned that 47 HSR’s across the state is simply a compliance exercise designed to appease the legislation and SafeWork NSW is allowing it.
FRNSW have over 100 HSR’s for their 22,000 membership.
The RFS claims to have over 70,000 volunteers. Even at a more realistic figure of 20,000 volunteers fighting fires, the number of HSR’s should be greater than 47.
The RFS claims to have 47 work places (Districts). The VFFA does not feel that 47 work places is an accurate representation of actual work places within this diverse organisation.
Do you want to help make your fire fighting workplace a safer, healthier and cohesive workplace?
Do you want to make a real change in your workplace in ensuring compliance to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act)?
Become a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and help make your workplace a safer and healthier place to be.
If there is more than one nomination for one position an election needs to take place.
By Vic Jurskis (Feature Photo and Video Link: You Tube – Helmreich Joinery)
In autumn 1968, CSIRO and New South Wales Bushfire Council carried out only the second aerial hazard reduction burn in NSW, in Vacant Crown Land that is now National Park and Wilderness. Danny Christopher, the Fire Control Officer reckoned that the burn saved Bega in spring that year. Other parts of the state had a devastating fire season. Fourteen people died, 156 homes and buildings were lost and a million hectares were incinerated. Later on, wildfires in the rough country between Bemboka and Brogo in 1986 and 1988 were contained by backburning from the network of fire trails constructed by the Bush Fire Council.
Another wildfire started in this area on 15thAugust 2018. Just as well it happened when it did. After 30 days of fire control operations using ground crews and water-bombing helicopters, under mostly favourable conditions, crews were evacuated in anticipation of extreme winds on Saturday 15thSeptember. A house, several sheds and possibly some livestock were lost. Conditions eased with a southwesterly change. On Sunday a Rural Fire Service airtanker commenced bombing operations with fire retardant from its base in Sydney.
On Thursday 6th September 2018 – VFFA president, Mick Holton spoke to Shoalhaven CBF Radio (Chance, Barry and Frenchy)
We spoke about:
1. Minister Troy Grant and Acting Commissioner Malcolm Connellan launching the arrival of our first Large Air Tanker (LAT) for the NSW fire season at Richmond RAAF Base.
2. Our failure to recognise the simplicity of a re-engagement to the bush, a reconnect with country that can save us huge amounts of money and more importantly, a return to cultural burning has the potential to restore the environment to a healthy status.
3. The bullying enquiry.
There are many examples of how the NSW Government is cutting back services and expecting our volunteers to pick up the slack.
The lack of Ambulance Officers in some rural areas creates a situation where our volunteers are too often, required to drive the Ambulance to emergency medical care, whilst the paid officer tends to the patient. Most volunteers are happy to provide support from time to time, but there comes a point in time that these expectations become unreasonable.
The same could be said for the restructure of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
The NPWS claims that the cuts and restructure has not impacted upon the service’s firefighting capacity, but the VFFA is receiving a very different story from many NPWS staff. They say that a large number of very experienced NPWS firefighters have left the service and the restructure has not always replaced those people with a comparable experience base.
It has been suggested that the NSW Government is cashing in on the good will of NSW Volunteers (not limited to firefighting).
The NSW Government needs to be reminded that volunteers are a valuable resource that must be respected, not abused.