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Are modern firefighting agencies inciting fear as a method of risk management rather than applying appropriate risk control measures?

Fear

Fear is a powerful tool, it sells newspapers, keeps the television ratings alive, gives our radio stations some great material to talk about and it helps to drive campaigns to increase public spending on reactive and expensive firefighting strategies that we simply cannot afford.

Image if we could return to a situation where our local firefighters looked after their own patch without the red tape associated with hazard reduction. Image how nice it would be if our land management practices were returned to a commonsense and balanced approach that our Indigenous Australians, farmers and graziers have used in the past.

Instead of cooking the guts out of the country, we could see improved forest health and reduced risk to our native animals and the bush that we love so much.

Instead, we see another story that warns us of a bleak bushfire outlook. There is no mention of the massive fuel loads that are the root cause of this problem.

Fuel

The elephant in the room is fuel.

Artwork by John Tiedemann, illustrator and cartoonist

Artwork (above) by John Tiedemann, illustrator and cartoonist

Fire chiefs around country warn Australia of bleak bushfire outlook

By Kate Doyle

Posted

Firies are gearing up for high risk fire season in 2018/2019. (Supplied to ABC by: Wallcliffe Volunteer Fire Brigade)

PHOTO: Firies are gearing up for high risk fire season in 2018/2019. (Supplied to ABC by: Wallcliffe Volunteer Fire Brigade)

As fire chiefs from around the country stood ready to announce the Southern Australian Bushfire Outlook for 2018/2019, there was a grim sense of inevitability.

Fires have already ripped through southern New South Wales during winter, the spring outlook is dire, and there is twice the normal likelihood of an El Nino this summer.

This year is looking bad and the line-up of official uniforms and shiny badges seemed to be saying: “This is your official warning.”

PHOTO: Areas with above-average bushfire risk this summer are marked in red. (Supplied: Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC)

Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) chief executive Richard Thornton said the season was looking “fairly bleak” in parts of Australia, particularly in the east.

“We are seeing an outlook that is really dominated by the drought conditions, particularly in Queensland, New South Wales and Gippsland, in Victoria,” he said.

State by state outlook

The following is the NSW content, click HERE to view the entire State by State outlook.

New South Wales is a tinderbox. Last summer was dry, autumn was dry, winter was dry and the entire state has been drought-declared, with spring not looking any better.

“There are literally millions of people at risk from bushfires this season in New South Wales,” said Anthony Clark, from the NSW Rural Fire Service.

The whole of the east coast in NSW is expecting above-normal fire potential — and that is forested country where the most people live.

“While we have had good rain in the last few weeks in some locations, it simply hasn’t been enough,” Mr Clark said.

He said last month alone there were more than 2,000 bush and grass fires across New South Wales.

“If you are wondering if you need to get ready for the bushfire season, this is your wake-up call — get ready now,” Mr Clark said.

Why are conditions so bad?

Drought in NSW has been the story of the season as dominant high pressure across the continent and cool oceans in the north-west this winter have stopped moisture from reaching most of the state.

But it has not just been dry, it has been hot too.

Nationally, it has been the hottest year to date on record, sitting at 1.3 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

PHOTO: Fire conditions are being worsened by the drought. (Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)

PHOTO: Fire conditions are being worsened by the drought. (Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)

Issues ‘right across the country’

Today the states and territories presented a united front.

“When it comes to fires and emergencies, the state boundaries are effectively rubbed out,” Country Fire Service South Australia chief officer Greg Nettleton said.

But Victorian Country Fire Authority chief officer Steve Warrington said there were “issues right across the country” this year.

And he said this could make it hard for states agencies to support one another.

“This year, potentially, we could be challenged. Already NSW has had 100 fires,” Mr Warrington said.

PHOTO: WA's south-west experienced bushfires at the start of the year. The region has had good rainfall recently, but this could turn dangerous if new growth dries out. (Supplied to ABC: Wallcliffe Volunteer Fire Brigade)

PHOTO: WA’s south-west experienced bushfires at the start of the year. The region has had good rainfall recently, but this could turn dangerous if new growth dries out. (Supplied to ABC: Wallcliffe Volunteer Fire Brigade)

Mr Warrington called on the public to work with authorities because they are unable to get to every house.

“Work with us to ensure everyone stays safe this summer,” he said.

Dr Thornton said it was “highly unusual” to see so many fires so early in the season, and is urging communities to begin their fire preparation.

“Having a plan, working out where to go if they are going to leave, and importantly, [identifying] the triggers for them to leave and not leaving it until the fire is at the end of the street,” he said.

The united message is clear: prepare now. We have been warned.

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