Neil Burrows remembers Cyclone Alby

Neil Burrows remembers Cyclone Alby

Forty years ago in April 1978, Cyclone Alby brought one of Western Australia’s worst storm and bushfire crises to the South-west and Great Southern regions. Both were severely hit. Five lives were lost in the storm and dozens injured. Hundreds of houses were burned down or damaged, thousands of hectares of farms were burnt, stock killed and orchards and plantations smashed. The entire region was paralysed as roads were blocked by fallen trees and power lines. Power and telephones were out for up to a week.

At the time, few people imagined that a Category 5 Tropical Cyclone would ever hit the South-west and the community was caught entirely by surprise.

This book by forester and Bushfire Front Chairman Roger Underwood is the first to undertake a thorough analysis of the event. What happened and why, what were the impacts and costs? What are the lessons for the future?

This book is available at a cost of $40 posted. email: yorkgum@westnet.com.au

Tathra Bushfire – Indigenous Burning Story

Tathra Bushfire – Indigenous Burning Story

Why don’t we listen to Indigenous land management experts?
In the Bega Valley Fires Independent Review, there was no mention of the case study where the Tathra fires did not burn previously treated, cultural burn areas.
There has been no follow up at all (with the Aboriginal Land Council or the Indigenous People) on how we can extend that outcome.
Indigenous People are burning country on the South Coast right now in a bid to prevent wild fires to the land just like Tathra example and healing it with native vegetation instead of dead leaves and rubbish.
These young Indigenous people are only in their early twenties and already ten times more connected to the country than most of the so called experts on fire mitigation.
They are doing all this with no wage, no vehicles, and no fire fighting equipment at all.
There are young Indigenous people in Tathra burning the effected areas right now to prevent invasive native regrowth which makes the country full of fuel to make the next fires in ten years far worse.
This is the first project of its kind in modern history in recovery of torched country.
Victor Steffensen has been burning all over Australia this year, have said “the window to burn is huge if you know how to read the country. You mob gotta stop leaving us and the land out of the conversation”.
Meanwhile…
The RFS Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons challenges aspects of the Independent Review into the Bega Valley Bushfires.

VFFA response to the Bega Valley Fires Independent Review

VFFA response to the Bega Valley Fires Independent Review

The Bega Valley Fires Independent Review was commissioned by the NSW State Government in response to public pressure and media interest in the Reedy Swamp Fire that occurred on 18 March 2018, and subsequently impacted on the township of Tathra.

The media reported a long-standing turf war between the two predominant fire services in NSW and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services responded with an announcement that Mr Keelty will be conducting a full review for the government so that we don’t get these questions in the future.

The VFFA welcomes any opportunity to openly and transparently review and debate topics that impact upon public safety and the provision of emergency services to the people of NSW.

This post contains the VFFA response to this review other related documentation.

The Sky’s the Limit – It’s a Different Story if you need a Shed

The Sky’s the Limit – It’s a Different Story if you need a Shed

Are we Forgetting Something?
There is no disputing that aviation plays a vital role in our firefighting capability, but is the state government spending too much time and taxpayers money developing RFS capability whilst they are neglecting the simple principles of mitigation, early detection and suppression using their vast network of volunteer firefighters on the ground.
When it comes to fire suppression, the VFFA is not convinced that large fixed wing aircraft are the answer. We do support using smaller fixed wing aircraft and helicopters for transportation of remote area fire teams (RAFT) and to support ground crews with aerial suppression activities.
With reference to fixed wing aircraft, it should be noted that a fire retardant drop using a DC10 (Very Large Air Tanker – VLAT) costs us $45,000 per drop. Operation of helicopters for firefighting activities is significantly cheaper.
Whilst we acknowledge that this helicopter aquisition has the potential to enhance the states remote area response reach and capability, but we must not neglect the resources that we already have.
It has also been suggested that the money could have been invested into fire towers and early detection systems that have the potential to alert firefighters of a fire before it becomes too large.

Cyclone Alby by Roger Underwood

At the heart of the book are memoirs collected from people who were there at the time: the firefighters, farmers, foresters, ambos, nurses, school bus drivers, policemen, timber workers, orchardists, fishermen, wives and children. The stories are dramatic and exciting, often heart-breaking and poignant, even in one or two instances humorous. They speak of the courage, resilience, toughness and selflessness of rural West Australians. You will feel proud to read these stories and you will recognise many of the people who wrote them.

Fighting Fire with Fire – Cultural burning at Bundanon brings life back to the land

Fighting Fire with Fire – Cultural burning at Bundanon brings life back to the land

On a day topping 30 degrees in tinder-dry bush at Haunted Point, Indigenous elder Sonny Timbery is showing a group of teenage boys how to light fires.

“The knowledge is held within the landscape. Once we learn how to read that landscape and interpret that knowledge, that’s when we can apply those fire practices.”

Firefighters from the NSW Rural Fire Service watch as the teenagers use firesticks made from bark to ignite leaf litter that has accumulated on a ridge above the Shoalhaven River.

A Discussion on Ecological and Hazard Reduction Burning

A Discussion on Ecological and Hazard Reduction Burning

Ecological burning does not have to be completed by firefighters. Farmers have been conducting agricultural burning for a long time without strict regulation.

The right fire can be good for the environment and prevent destruction.

Private landowners, groups like Landcare and other similar organisations that care for our environment could get involved in hazard reduction and ecological burning. Local brigades could then provide a single truck with a small crew to assist. This would become less of a logistical burden to our volunteer firefighters.

You don’t need PPE for super low intensity burning (cool burns), just sensible clothing.

Cool Season Burns

Cool Season Burns

The following two films (a snap shot and an extended version) capture the Cool Season Burning Masterclass that was run on June 24, 2017. The workshop was led by Traditional Fire Knowledge Holder Rod Mason and was held on private land in the Kiewa Valley in the North East CMA region of Victoria.
Big fires can destroy everything in their path, but the right fire can prevent the destruction.

Cultural Burning – Evolving with community and Country – Canberra 10th and 11th May 2018

Cultural Burning – Evolving with community and Country – Canberra 10th and 11th May 2018

We are pleased to announce the inaugural South-east Australia Aboriginal Fire Forum to be hosted by ACT Natural Resource Management (ACT NRM) and ACT Parks and Conservation Service (ACT PCS).

The Forum, titled Cultural Burning: Evolving with community and Country, will give participants the opportunity to network, learn, and establish collaborations with others committed to cultural burning and caring for Country. The Forum will be held on Ngunnawal Country at the Ann Harding Centre, University of Canberra, Bruce, ACT from Thursday 10 to Friday 11 May 2018 and will be followed by a demonstration field day on Saturday 12 May 2018. Keynote speakers include:

Bruce Pascoe—author and historian.
Dean Freeman—ACT Fire Management Unit.
Oliver Costello—Firesticks.
Terrence Taylor—Jigija Indigenous Fire Training Program.
Victor Steffensen—Mulong Indigenous Fire Management.
To help celebrate the Forum we invite you to attend a networking dinner hosted by Steven Oliver on the evening of 10 May 2018.

Registrations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members are free. Please note that spaces are limited and are aimed at those who are available to attend the whole three days.

2018 National Indigenous Fire Workshop – NSW South Coast

2018 National Indigenous Fire Workshop – NSW South Coast

This year the workshop will be hosted by the local indigenous Mudjingaalbaraga Firesticks team and the Bundanon Trust. This is the 10th workshop and is the first time for the event to leave its birth place of Cape York and travel to honour other communities within the indigenous fire networks. Each year the firesticks network will deliver the workshop to a different state and location to share this privileged event. The aim is to maximise the traditional learning of aboriginal fire knowledge in all the different countries, and the challenges faced in strengthening healthy people and country through fire.