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Green Tape Prevents Volunteer Rural Firefighters from Reducing Bushfire Risk

VFFA Media Release – 3rd September 2013

The Volunteer Firefighters Association (VFFA), the body representing the Voice of Volunteer Rural Firefighters in NSW refutes the claim by green alarmists that climate change is the cause of the recent bushfires in New South Wales.

It’s ridiculous to blame climate change when we know there has been far worse bushfires stretching back to the earliest days of European settlement in Australia including the Black Saturday Victoria 2009, NSW Bushfires 1994, Ash Wednesday Victoria 1983, Blue Mountains NSW 1968, Black Tuesday Hobart 1967 and Black Friday Victoria 1939, said Peter Cannon, President of the VFFA.

The VFFA is angered by comments from the green lobby groups that tackling climate change was more important than prescribed burning of forest fuels to reduce bushfire risk. The real blame rests with the greens and their ideology as they continue to oppose and undermine our efforts to conduct hazard reduction in the cooler months and to prevent private landowners from clearing their lands to reduce bushfire risk.

Hazard reduction is the only proven management tool rural firefighters have to reduce the intensity and spread of bushfires and this has been recognised in numerous bushfire enquires since the Stretton enquiry into the 1939 Victorian Bushfires.

The amount of ‘green tape’ we have to go through to get a burn approved is beyond frustrating; says Peter Cannon. The VFFA is calling on the NSW State Government to reduce the amount of green tape involved in planning and conducting hazard reductions, so that our Volunteer Firefighters can get on with the job of conducting fire prevention works in the cooler months to prevent the inevitable summer bushfire disasters that are now becoming a more regular feature.

The NSW State Government must also provide sufficient funding for bushfire hazard reduction works on a planned and sustained basis, including the creation of asset protection zones and upgrades of all fire trails in high bushfire risk areas.

Remember that it’s far more cost effective, say around 66 to 100 times more cost efficient, to prevent wild fires through hazard reduction than it is to have reactionary fire response, which is what we have at the moment. With the great number of lost homes and decreasing property values through these wild fires, what then will the total fiscal amount be…….when it could have all been prevented by effective Hazard reduction!

To increase the area treated by prescribed burning on bushfire prone lands from the current level of less than 1% per annum to a minimum of 5% per annum, as recommended by the Victorian Royal Commission and many leading bushfire experts.

Hazard Reduction by prescribed burning has been identified as a key management tool to reduce the intensity and spread of bushfires in national bushfire enquiries since the 1939 Stretton Royal Commission. In this regard the VFFA supports:

  1. Strategic and targeted hazard reduction by prescribed burning to reduce forest fuel levels and bushfire threat to human life (including fire fighter safety), property and the environment in areas identified as high bushfire risk.
  2. Bushfire risk management planning approach based upon the ‘Canobolas’ Model in NSW.
  3. Integrated hazard reduction by prescribed burning and complementary methods such as slashing, grazing and cultivation.
  4. The provision of adequate recurrent state and commonwealth funding to rural fire agencies, land management agencies and local government for the creation and maintenance of asset protection zones and fire trails in high bushfire risk areas on a planned and sustained basis.

Ongoing relevant research on fire behaviour, prevention and management and the effects of fire on biodiversity through the bushfire Cooperative Research.

Mr. Peter Cannon

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NSW RFS Library – July 2013

Bush Fire Research and News

This paper presents findings from the 2009 fires; “The results of this study highlight that people who are inadequately prepared and who take action at the last moment are more likely to be forced into dangerous responses such as late evacuation, untenable defence and passive shelter.”

“People say ‘They’re just things’, but they’re not. They’re our memories”.

In May 2011, wildfires destroyed around 500 homes along with buildings, churches and a library in the Town of Slave Lake in Alberta, Canada. On a recent visit to Canada, our own Elise Tasker met the Mayor of Slave Lake Karina Pillay-Kinnee. Along with a personal message Karina sent this book which tells of harrowing escapes, courage and fear, relief and despair, community and caring, sacrifice and service.

In 2010 a cave-in at the San José mine in Chile trapped 33 men under 700,000 metric tons of rock Experts estimated the probability of getting them out alive at less than 1%. Yet, after spending a record 69 days underground, all 33 made it out alive. The rescue is a case study in how to lead in situations where the stakes, risk, and uncertainty are incredibly high and time pressure is intense.

Extreme Fire Behavior (EFB) as defined by The National Wildfire Coordinating Group describes a level of fire behaviour which includes one of more of the following; high rate of speed, prolific crowning/spotting, fire whirls and strong convection column. This book presents current and emerging research into EFB including contributions from Australian scientists. “Predictability is difficult because such fires often exercise some degree of influence on their environment and behave erratically, sometimes dangerously.”

The Sydney Basin Bioregion contains large and densely populated urban centres including Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. The authors caution that the potential for arson ignitions due to the increase in population settlements close to vegetation and an increase of severe fire weather conditions points to an increased risk to human and property loss. “The Sydney Basin Bioregion, New South Wales (NSW) is the most populated area of Australia situated within landscapes dominated by fire-prone, sclerophyll forests (Bradstock et al.2009).”

Commencing on page 71 this updated report from the Climate Commission includes a state by state appraisal of what they foresee as key climate change risksThe Commission continues to warn of a link between climate change and the increase of extreme weather events.

Evidence based research into role of gender in emergency management is a field of research that is gaining momentum. An ageing population associated with longer life expectancy and increases in people living alone will present ongoing challenges for emergency services especially within the areas of community engagement and education.

Firewise estimates there is around 8.8 million school students living in the WUI presenting an enormous but largely untapped opportunity. Generally this age group can understand basic fire science and how to reduce risk. They are able to pass on this information to family members including households where English is not the primary language. However the real challenge is how the messages are framed and delivered to particular age group in order to be effective.

Read about the CFA’s adoption of satellite broadband capability in their new mobile command vehicles. This new capability increases communications resilience in the event of disasters such as fire and flood. This function is expected to support their already existing Command Centres.

“The mobile command vehicles will never fulfil the role of these Centres, but they may take the role of Divisional Command, mobilising to a staging area and talking back to the Command Centre.”

Craig Brownlie CFA

Clinton Neumann from the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service gives advice to brigades on how they can implement an effective training plan. The service has developed a simple template to assist in identifying needs and gaps. If you would like a copy please contact the library.

See other recent additions to the Library catalogue

Many of these are available as full-text documents for immediate viewing.
New Books, DVD’s, web links, journal articles…

If you have any queries please contact us in the Library by email:  or phone: 8741 5455.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Library is a member of ALIES – Australasian Libraries in the Emergency Sector.

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NSW RFS Library – May 2013

2 new Bushfire CRC Fire Notes have just been released.

“Awake, Smoky and Hot – Fighting Fire Without Fire”

Exposure to smoke and high temperatures, coupled with little sleep, can impair firefighters’ cognitive (mental) and physical capacities on the fireground. This Fire Note presents research currently being undertaken to discover more about the combined effects of these stressors by simulating bushfire suppression activities indoors, while controlling temperature, carbon monoxide levels and the sleeping environment. This Fire Note discusses the firefighting simulation developed by researchers at Central Queensland University and Deakin University as part of the Operational readiness of rural firefighters during bushfire suppression project. It is also available on theBushfire CRC website. A short video showing the simulation in action is on the Bushfire CRC YouTube channel.  A project resource is attached to provide further information on the environmental factors that commonly contribute to sleep disturbance.

“Defend or evacuate? Why residents delay this decision”

This Fire Note outlines research into community preparedness undertaken in the Perth Hills over the 2011/12 bushfire season. The research was conducted as part of the Information processing under stress: community reactions project, under the Bushfire CRCresearch theme Communicating risk research theme. It is also available on the Bushfire CRC website. This research has investigated why many residents of bushfire prone areas delay their decision to defend or evacuate in response to a bushfire until the day of a fire. The research showed that a lack of difference in the attractiveness between the options of defending a house or evacuating was the only significant predictor of householders’ decision delay. This Fire Note discusses this finding, and presents opportunities and obstacles to overcoming the problems associated with decision delay.

Previous Bushfire CRC Updates and Fire Notes can be found here, or search the NSW RFS Library catalogue.


Bush Fire Research and News

Ongoing research into the January 2003 Canberra fires by various scientists is presented in this article which according to the authors confirm the incidence of a tornado the first recorded instance of pyro-tornadogenesis in Australia, one which amplified destruction upon the city. They observe “Pyro-tornadoes are potentially an extremely dangerous companion to large wildfires, which can negate any fire suppression efforts and can pose an extreme risk to fire-fighting personnel and aircraft”.

“It is hard to explain to your loved ones the internal war you experience”. Nicole Robinson (King) Rivers Volunteer Bushfire Brigade Member

Post-traumatic stress suffered by firefighters following Canberra’s 2003 fires was the impetus for Vivien Thomson to publish a book which features personal stories from both men and women firefighters. Vivien who was a firefighter for over 25 years is now an advocate of the issues surrounding women and resilience within the agricultural and firefighting communities.

For policeman Allan Sparkes post-traumatic stress slowly but steadily emerged.

“By 1996, after nearly 20 years of operational police work, my post-traumatic stress disorder bank account had far too many deposits.” Despite receiving the Cross of Valour for his rescue of a young boy from a flooded storm water drain, it was this event that led him into a deep personal crisis. His just released book “The Cost of Bravery” however is one of hope and recovery.

Prescribed burning has been use in eucalypt forests of southern Australia since the 1950s. Author W. Lachlan McCaw presents an historical perspective on the accomplishments, complexities and challenges surrounding Australia’s form of fuel management.

“Implementing an ongoing program of prescribed burning places additional demands on land management agencies beyond those traditionally associated with fire suppression response”.

The Victoria Planning Provisions (VPPs) include site and design regulations incorporated into local government planning schemes to mitigate risk in areas prone to bushfires. Introduced in 1997, these provisions were previously called the Wildfire Management Overlay (WMO). Now updated and renamed the Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO), the provision’s ongoing development has been informed by fire behaviour and an understanding of how houses ignite. The aim of the research reported here, conducted following the catastrophic February 2009 Victorian fires, was to review dwelling losses in terms of the WMO’s effectiveness. Empirical evidence compares house losses of dwellings referred to the Country Fire Authority (CFA) via the WMO, with overall house losses. The results suggest that proportionately fewer houses referred to the CFA were lost, compared with those not assessed under the WMO.

After the Fire (Article)

Since 2009 and without any government funding BlazeAid has organised some 13,000 volunteers around the nation to rebuild a staggering 2000 kilometres of fencing destroyed by fire or flood. Read about those who gave of their time following the Aberfeldy-Donnelly fires in Maffra many of whom relocated to assist in the repair of the fences. “Fences are a critical first step in seeing the land returning to its productive capacity again.” Cr Rossetti, Wellington Shire Mayor.

This provides the reader with an overall perspective on the nature of fire in NSW parks and reserves. It highlights often competing issues such environmental and cultural heritage concerns, community protection and our ageing population along with future risks including climate change and changing fire weather patterns.

Changing Severity of Home Fires (Workshop Report)

In response to an invitation from the U.S. Fire Administration, leading national fire services, fire researchers and other stakeholders in home fire safety came together to explore how changing building construction meth­ods, materials and building contents are affecting the way fires react in today’s homes especially in regard to their size, building materials and flammable contents. “A significant proportion of the workshop agenda was dedicated to interactive discussion with the fire safety or­ganizations represented, to fully understand the risks presented by the speakers and to identify specific strategies to address them.”

Learning and Development has supplied the library with copies of

This excellent training resource covers valuable information on all areas of community engagement within the framework of the NSW RFS’s bush fire risk policies.

See other recent additions to the Library catalogue

Many of these are available as full-text documents for immediate viewing.
New Books, DVD’s, web links, journal articles…

If you have any queries please contact us in the Library by email:  or phone: 8741 5455.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Library is a member of ALIES – Australasian Libraries in the Emergency Sector.

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NSW RFS Library – March 2013

This month’s new arrivals highlights a selection of recent memoirs and research following some of our worst natural disasters both here and abroad.

This month’s featured resources are:

Faith under Fire (Book Extract)

“Suddenly, we were overtaken by a deafening, roaring din…like the force of a thousand jet engines bearing down on us”.

February 16 1983 started out as an ordinary day for Ann Fogarty but finished in horror. After a failed last minute attempt to leave with her neighbours, Ann suffered burns to 70% of her body while sheltering her two young daughters under a blanket.

After the Wave (Book Extract)

“I thought nothing of it first. The ocean looked a little closer to our hotel than usual. That was all”.

Sonali Deraniyagala lost her entire family in the 2004 Tsunami including her husband, two young boys and her parents. In the ensuing years she refrained from telling people her story.

Living with Fire: people, nature and history in Steels Creek (Book)

Ten people lost their lives in Steels Creek in the Black Saturday firestorm with over 60 structures destroyed. Recovery for the residents of this small and quiet town has been gradual, ongoing, private with many finding an outlet in creating art from the remnants. Historians Tom Griffiths and Christine Hansen trace both the history of fire in the region and the human history of the Steels Creek valley in a series of essays which examine the relationship between people and place.

Build Back Better Principles for Economic Recovery: case study of the Victorian bushfires (Journal Article)

BBB takes the “opportunity” following a natural disaster to rebuild a stronger and more resilient community;physically, economically and socially. BBB was introduced following the 2004 Tsunami which affected 14 countries on “an unprecedented scale”. This paper applies this principle to the reconstruction of communities affected by the Black Saturday fires. What worked and what didn’t along with issues that are yet to be resolved are explored in this article. A list of BBB principles is provided by the authors that can hopefully assist governments in future post-disaster economic recovery.

Forest Phoenix (Book)

Authors including Professor David Lindenmayer were asked following the 2009 fires “Will the forest ever recover? Will the animals come back?”…the answer to both is an unequivocal yes” but fires also “create winners and losers”. Some animals will stay put, some will make the burnt forest their new home, others will disappear and then return quickly and sadly those that will disappear and take longer to return. Recovery of animal population “is intimately tied to the structure and recovery of plants in the forest”.

Essential Bushfire Safety Tips 3rd Edition (Book)

Following the 2009 Victorian bush fires, Joan Webster has released an updated edition of “Essential Bushfire Safety Tips” published by the CSIRO and with assistance from its leading scientists. Included are new chapters on township protection, shelters, refuges and bunkers. Joan also wrote a feature articleUnearthing Fire Clues from the Ashes in The Age on the recent 30th anniversary of Ash Wednesday.

Next Time: the lessons and literature of Black Saturday (Journal Article)

Writers, artists and social commentators are drawn to the beauty of the bush. Many live in the outskirts of Melbourne where they witnessed often firsthand the events on February 9 2009. This article published in The Monthly reflects on what appears to be a changing perception of the realities of living in the world’s most bush fire prone regions. “Australians need to develop ‘fire literacy’, to inculcate a sense of the place we’re living in and understand that bushfire is not an aberration.”

Need more information?

See new books, DVD’s, web links, journal articles for a complete list of all the latest additions to the Library catalogue.

We can also help you track down information on a specific topic or for a research project. If you have any queries please contact us in the Library by email:  or phone: 8741 5455.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Library is a member of ALIES – Australasian Libraries in the Emergency Sector.

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NSW RFS Library – January 2012

This Friday will mark the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Canberra bush fires, and February sees the 30th anniversary of the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires. Subsequent research into these events and the 2009 Black Saturday fires has contributed significantly to our knowledge about bush fires. This month we feature a few examples of the research which has followed major fires in Australia.

 This month’s featured resources are:

Five to six years following the Canberra bush fires, interviews were conducted with 25 adults directly affected with 6 of these participants interviewed following Black Saturday. How are they now? What influence has these fires had on their lives? The findings of this important research are both encouraging and life affirming. “All participants reported one or more positive life events arising from the fires or achieved despite the fires.”

Immediately following the February fires, the Bushfire CRC established a research taskforce to undertake extensive data collection and analysis of these devastating fires. This 2010 paper written by Dr Richard Thornton is compelling reading, especially in regard to their initial findings regarding human behaviour on the day. “There was evidence that a considerable amount of last-minute planning and preparation took place on the day and many examples of ‘weak links’ in people’s planning and preparation that affected their ability to implement their fire plan”.

We Have Still Not Lived Long Enough (2009 Alfred Deakin Prize Essay Advancing Public Debate)

Tom Griffiths took the title for his essay from Judge Leonard Stretton, describing Australia’s relationship with fire following the 1939 Black Friday fires in Victoria and applied it the events of 2009. “There is a dangerous mismatch between the cyclic nature of fire and the short-term memory of communities.”

This article provides detailed research and analysis into the circumstances surrounding 32 people who perished in the Ash Wednesday. First published internationally in 1992, this research is still considered to be of significant value especially in relation to bush fire preparedness and the dangers of late evacuation, especially by vehicle.

“The victims of these fires died because they (a) implemented an ineffective survival strategy; (b) had insufficient warning; or (c) were incapable of implementing an effective survival strategy without support.”

Scientific research into bush fire house loss began in earnest following these fires. CSIRO scientists surveyed 1153 houses that survived the 1983 fires, publishing their findings in 1987. The article includes an explanation of so called “exploding house” phenomenon and the crucial part people play in house survival along with further data on ember ignition.

This updated edition of what is now considered one of the finest collection of essays in fire ecology and management by leading scientists including;

  • The Prehistory of Fire in Australasia
  • Fire Regimes and the Evolution of the Australia Biota
  • Global Change and Fire Regimes in Australia

With a concluding chapter Future Fire Regimes of Australian Ecosystems: New Perspectives on Enduring Questions of Managementby editors Bradstock, Williams and Gill. They observe that traditionally “fire research was strongly centred in forestry disciplines” but much has now changed.

“Social scientists, geographers, spatial and remote-sensing scientists, and climate modellers, among others, are now vigorously engaged in ‘solving’ the puzzle of fire”.

We can also help you track down information on a specific topic or for a research project. If you have any queries please contact us in the Library by email: or phone: 8741 5455.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Library is a member of ALIES – Australasian Libraries in the Emergency Sector.

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NSW RFS Library – December 2012

FYI – Issue 100 of the Bushfire CRC’s Fire Note has just been released. To mark the occasion this special edition looks back at some Fire Notes with impact.

The Bushfire CRC was established in 2003 following the 2001-2002 Sydney bush fires. The first Fire Note was published in 2005 and has been an invaluable source of information and communication regarding the centre’s research into fire prevention and management. The focus has broadened over time to include emergency management which now dominates our national agenda.

The RFS has collaborated with the CRC on projects in the areas of community engagement and volunteer recruitment and retention including;

Fire Note 15 Bushfire Community Engagement Programs

Fire Note 23 Recruiting and Retaining Women Fire Service Volunteers

It has also provided facilities at Eurobodalla and Mogo to conduct experiments including;

Fire Note 68 Tanks on Trial

Fire Note 69 Passenger Vehicle Burnover in Bushfires

Fire Note 70 Residential Boundary Fences in Bushfires

Previous Bushfire CRC Updates and Fire Notes can be found here, or search the NSW RFS Library catalogue.

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NSW RFS Library – November 2012

It is estimated that nationally 30-50% of all bush fires are the result of arson. The NSW Police Force has re-activated Strike Force Tronto for the 2012/13 fire season and will work with NSW RFS investigators to detect bush fire arsonists. This month’s New Arrivals reviews current literature on deliberately lit bush fires.

This month’s featured resources are:

(Journal Article)

better data on bushfire ignitions and working with high risk communities and individuals offer the best chance of minimising bushfire ignitions in Australia at the present time”

John Beale and Warwick Jones from the Australian Institute of Criminology review past and potential areas of research into bush fire arson. Statistical findings and analysis show that up to one-half of bush fires occur around capital cities and around major regional centres and that in most areas just a few postcodes account for the vast majority of fires. These areas also reflect a low socio-economic demographic.

Amongst the data used by these writers is from this Bushfire CRC report “Spatial and Temporal Trends in Bushfire Arson” report by C.J. Bryant and M. Willis.

(Journal Article)

Similar findings are also presented in this newly released paper where 60.1% of intentionally lit fires in known hotspots for the years1995-2006 were located in the densely populated areas of Catalonia. The writers hope that this information will assist and optimise the allocation of law enforcement and educational resources.

“We have shown that fire ignition causes in the region of Catalonia are not randomly distributed in space, and that the identification of ignition hotspots where most ignitions occur provides useful information on the spatial location of ignitions most likely to be affected by firefighting and police actions.”

 This one stop national website contains prevention initiatives, news, and links to other websites regarding bush fire arson. Importantly, it provides advice and information to communities about the destructive impact of deliberately lit fires on the social and economic welfare of society in order to encourage proactive preventative action.

Psychiatry, Psychology and Law (Journal: Special Bush Fire Arson Issue)

This journal issue featured six articles by leading researchers covering arson prevention, profiling, sentencing and treatments. These articles are;

  • Understanding and Preventing Bushfire-setting: A Psychological Perspective
  • “Terror among the Gum Trees” – Is our Criminal Legal Framework Adequate to Curb the Peril of Bushfire Arson in Australia?
  • Risk factors and Risk Assessment in Juvenile Fire-setting
  • Juvenile Fire-setting: A Review of Treatment Programs
  • Risk Factors for Recidivistic Arson in Adult Offenders
  • Looking at Characteristics of Adult Arsonists from a Narrative Perspective
Troy McEwan and Ian Freckelton in their opening editorial “Assessment, Treatment and Sentencing of Arson Offenders: An Overview” express concern that that “there are no specific in-custody treatment programs for arsonists, making it extremely difficult for these offenders to engage in offence-specific rehabilitation”.

The Man Who Played with Fire (Sydney Morning Herald Article)

While research into bush fire arson within the Australian context is still emerging, high profile cases such as the trial this year of a Black Saturday arsonist can be revealing. The offender was a known misfit in the Churchill community whose application to join the CFA was rejected following security checks. Leading authority on arson Rebekah Doley states that it is “not very often that the fire-starter turns out to be a surprise”. However, in our culture most people are reluctant to “dob” someone in but Doley argues that is something “we really should think harder about”.

 “You wished you took five minutes to just jot down something as small as a window was open”

Last year the IAAI (International Association of Arson Investigators) released this hands on training DVD for firefighters first on the scene of an incident. Information first responders gather, preserve and document upon arrival at a fire may become key evidence leading to a successful prosecution.

In addition the library has gratefully received two important donations from Pam Gilchrist (Sutherland) and Barry Aitchison (Monaro Team).

On 19 August 2012, Sydney photographer Sharon Quandt photographed District Exercise: Operation Reflex involving most of the brigades in the Sutherland District. This series of photos begins and concludes with a Briefing Session and Debriefing Session at ANSTO Lucas Heights, with various exercises photographed at different locations during the day. Sharon has produced a visually stunning collection of colour, and black and white photographs capturing in time the vitality, humour and commitment of a diverse group of volunteers. This item is not currently for loan but will be on display in the library.

 “At the age of sixteen, 43 years ago I was taken to my first fire by my father Henry Bottom. There was no real training in those days, but you learnt from the older members, people who knew the practical ways of fighting fire using their skills and knowledge of the bush and countryside.”  Peter Bottom

As a result of the 1939 Black Friday fires and the subsequent Royal Commission the Berridale Bush Fire Brigade was established in 1940, known then as the Snowy River Shire Fire Brigade. Since their humble beginnings, the first meeting was held on the verandah of the Berridale Hotel, these volunteer firefighters have been involved in some of the state’s major fires. Read memoirs of past and current volunteers, find out how a correctional centre became involved with the brigade, watch the CD of a series brigade photographs set to some well known songs from favourite Australian artists.

Need more information?

See new books, DVD’s, web links, journal articles for a complete list of all the latest additions to the Library catalogue.

We can also help you track down information on a specific topic or for a research project. If you have any queries please contact us in the Library by email:  or phone: 8741 5455.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Library is a member of ALIES – Australasian Libraries in the Emergency Sector.

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