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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The RFSA is to be congratulated in the continued support of volunteer firefighter, Michelle McKemey of Guyra Rural Fire Brigade, assisting her PhD research project, Cultural Burning: Using Indigenous practice and science to apply fire strategically.
Michelle started her PhD in 2014, her study involves investigation into fire ecology and empowering land managers to apply fire as a management tool.
Working with Bambai Indigenous rangers, Michelle is examining Indigenous cultural knowledge associated with fire management, as well as, conducting ecological experiments to improve understanding of fire on the landscape.
A short film detailing Michelle’s research has recently been published by the University of New England and her research group was awarded the CSIRO DNFC (Digital National Facilities and Collections) award for Indigenous Engagement. The RFSA is pleased to support Michelle’s valuable research.
Megafires, individual fires that burn more than 100,000 acres, are on the rise in the western United States, the direct result of unintentional yet massive changes we’ve brought to the forests through a century of misguided management. What steps can we take to avoid further destruction? Forest ecologist Paul Hessburg confronts some tough truths about wildfires and details how we can help restore the natural balance of the landscape.
The same can be said for Australia…