Cultural burning more than just fire for Indigenous rangers
The Riot ACT reported that after the summer’s horror bushfire season, emergency service leaders around Australia began turning their attention to Indigenous concepts like ‘cool-burning’ and ‘traditional hazard reduction’ to manage future fire risk.
But the intricacies and cultural significance of Indigenous burning practices are often misunderstood, as are the benefits of traditional land management, as Indigenous Parks and Conservation Service (PCS) rangers explained to Region Media,
“It is empowering. It gives [us] a sense of self and pride,” Tidbinbilla Indigenous Field Officer Kie Barratt said.
“Identity is also a big one for me. Growing up, a lot of mob did not know their culture or who they were, and it gives them that belief, identity and pride in themselves knowing that the country is looked after right by our people.
“When you walk away from doing a burn, you go ‘geez, we have just done a good thing there’. It is a good feeling.”
Sally Moylan, the PCS Bushfire Operations Plan Team Leader, says the confluence of traditional cultivation practices and modern hazard reduction techniques is the most important factor when incorporating perspectives from local Indigenous rangers.
Read the full story here.
Further support for bushfire affected primary producers and small businesses
Mirage News reported that more time and wider eligibility has been given to primary producers impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires to apply for the $75,000 Special Disaster Grant. Small businesses have also been given more time to request support, with timeframes extended for small business bushfire recovery grants and loans.
Hawkesbury City Council is encouraging bushfire-impacted primary producers and small businesses to reach out and contact the Rural Assistance Authority via www.raa.nsw.gov.au to see if they are eligible rather than self-assess.
The Mayor of Hawkesbury, Councillor Barry Calvert welcomed the changes and the decision to extend the application timeframes to 15 December 2020.
“The time extension recognises that, while these grants have been made available, many primary producers have experienced drought, bushfires and now COVID-19, and so farmers and small businesses need more time to make a claim,” Mayor Calvert said.
“This decision highlights the understanding by Federal and State agencies that the recovery journey is different for everyone and some may not have progressed on their journey as far as others.
“The $75,000 Special Disaster Grant has been critical in keeping farmers on the land and supporting local regional economies, which is why it’s important every eligible farmer makes the most it, so please contact a support officer at the Rural Assistance Authority or contact Hawkesbury City Council.”
NSW needs 1,000 new firefighting workers to avoid another Black Summer
The Echoi Daily reported that the Public Service Association (PSA) says that any increase in hazard reduction or land clearing targets, must be managed by a paid and permanent workforce.
The PSA is calling on the NSW government to end its over-reliance on volunteers to prepare for and fight bushfires.
General secretary fo the PSA Stewart Little says that NSW will face another Black Summer – climate change guarantees this. ‘Is it fair to keep relying on a temporary, unpaid workforce to be preparing and responding to these future catastrophes?
‘This Black Summer we saw the consequence of staffing cuts and a lack of investment in our bushfire preparedness.
‘The RFS went into a catastrophic bushfire season with a fifth of its permanent roles unfilled, because of budgetary pressures. NPWS is responsible for 75% of the state’s hazard reduction, but its firefighting workforce has shrunk by a third in less than a decade.
‘The reduction to National Parks firefighting staff include remote area firefighters, who play the vital role of chasing remote lightning strikes before they spread out of control.’
The union, which represents the professional staff of the Rural Fire Service, as well as park rangers and Forestry Corp staff, says the state urgently needs 1000 permanent firefighting staff to reverse a decade worth of cuts and to begin properly preparing NSW for future bushfire risks.
“These would be paid, secure regional jobs which would keep communities safe. If the government is serious about keeping regional NSW safe they must demand permanent firefighting skilled staff, rather than try and shift more responsibility onto farmers and private landowners to clear land and manage hazard reduction.’
In its submission to the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry, the union also called for more aircraft and better equipment for those on the front line of bushfires.
Moorbel Rural Fire Brigade Shed Arson Attack
The RFS reported that NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) and NSW Police are investigating the deliberate destruction of a Rural Fire Brigade station and two fire trucks at Cabonne, in the state’s central west.
The Moorbel Rural Fire Brigade shed was ransacked and set alight by unknown persons overnight.
An initial investigation indicates forced entry to the station, the theft of several items and arson.
Both the station and the fire trucks were destroyed as a result of the fire.
The NSW RFS Canobolas Zone and Cabonne Council are making arrangements so that the Moorbel volunteer firefighters can continue providing fire protection to their local community.
Anyone with information about this incident should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Could COVID-19 lead to a fire retardant shortage in Australia?
The Riot ACT reported that manufacturing shutdowns and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic could significantly hamper Australia’s bushfire fighting capacity with all of the country’s fire retardant being imported from one supplier in the US and no domestic manufacturing of it, the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements heard.
Director-general of Emergency Management Australia Robert Cameron said during the bushfire season, states, territories, the Australian Defence Force and international military assistance combined to sure up the supply of fire retardant.
“I am of the view that the risks inherent in that supply chain – well served as we are by that particular manufacturer and importer – would be mitigated significantly were there to be onshore manufacture,” he said.
“That is probably where we should be focusing. Anything that is shipped has got quite the time lag and if there is a sudden spike in demand, obviously there is a delay in getting replacement.”
Repeated iterations of how important it is for firefighters to be able to hit a developing bushfire hard and fast before it becomes out of control during high-risk conditions preceded Mr Cameron’s testimony in response to whether Australia should have a national cache, similar to the national medical stockpile.
Read more here.
Gunnedah RFS headquarters refurbished with drought funding
Gunnedah Rural Fire Service (RFS) members will soon be able to use a new shower, toilets and a fully functioning kitchen. The volunteer branch has received $32,000 through the latest round of the Drought Communities Program and work is already well advanced on the amenities in the RFS headquarters.
NSW RFS launches online portal for planned hazard reductions or burn offs
The Wingham Chronicle reported that the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) have just made it quicker and easier for landholders to notify if they’re planning a burn off on their property.
A new online portal allows residents to use their mobile phone, tablet or desktop computer to lodge their notifications about planned hazard reductions or burn offs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
NSW RFS District Manager, Superintendent Kam Baker said by using the new tool users can help prevent unnecessary emergency calls.
“As we approach the bush fire season, many landholders are taking the opportunity to burn off – but it’s important they do it safely and let us and their neighbours know,” Mr Baker said.
“Landholders need to make sure they’ve obtained any required permits and permissions, as well as notifying neighbours and fire authorities 24 hours before lighting up.
The tool makes it easier to notify the NSW RFS before conducting a burn.
“If fire services know about it, it can help prevent unnecessary emergency calls and firefighters from being responded,” Superintendent Baker explained.
By using the new tool, landholders will be notified of any Total Fire Bans and will be advised to not proceed with their burn.
“While landholders are encouraged to reduce fuel loads on their property, it is imperative that it is done so safely and legally,” Superintendent Baker said.
Before lighting any fire you need to have adequately prepared fire breaks and have firefighting equipment on hand to ensure the fire does not escape.
“Every landholder has a responsibility to prevent fire spreading from their property and there can be serious consequences for people who light fires and leave them unattended,” Superintendent Baker said.
To notify of your intent to burn off, use the new online burn notification tool at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/notify.
Landholders can still notify the NSW RFS by contacting their local Fire Control Centre.
Australian community ravaged by bushfire shocked by PNG donation of more than $60,000
The ABC reported that when Andy Thorp heard his rotary club in the seaside town of Merimbula was being sent a donation from people in Papua New Guinea to help bushfire victims, he was shocked to learn of the amount.
“I thought there might be anything from a couple of hundred dollars to $1,000. But I was wildly wrong,” he said.
The donation totalled more than $60,000.
“What a generous thing to do. I thank them very much.”
Merimbula is one of many towns on the New South Wales east coast that is still recovering months after some of the worst bushfires Australia has ever seen.
More than 12.6 million hectares across Australia were burnt, nearly 3,000 homes destroyed and almost 3 billion koalas, kangaroos and other animals were estimated to have been killed or displaced, in Australia’s Black Summer bushfires.
Images of blood-red skies over the Bega Valley and thousands of people who had been trapped and then evacuated by the Navy were broadcast around the world.
In Papua New Guinea’s second-largest city, Lae, Sheila Harou saw those pictures on the news and was inspired to take action.
“We called out to all our Morobeans to be united in one heart, to give from the heart to console our neighbour,” she said.
She started a bushfire appeal which saw young people take to the streets pushing wheelbarrows, asking for public donations, while more than 20 organisations also gave money.
“Youth groups, churches, businesses, schools, and corporate houses … they all participated and gave their contributions in cash and kind,” she said.
In total, they raised $61,000, which has made its way in recent weeks to communities in the Eden-Monaro electorate.
The money was given to the Merimbula Rotary Club, which gave $50,000 to the Bega Valley Council.
The Rotary Club kept $11,000 for bushfire recovery projects in their town.
The act of kindness left Bega Valley Council Shire Mayor Sharon Tapscott astounded.
“To read that these people were donating what little they had, I cannot tell you how much this money means to me, not so much in dollar terms but the value in humanitarian terms, it’s amazing,” she said.
Just over 70,000 people live in Lae, the capital city of PNG’s Morobe province.
Many earn less than a dollar a day, with the Asian Development Bank estimating that 37.5 per cent of Papua New Guineans live below the national poverty line.
Ms Tapscott and Ms Harou were able to virtually meet for the first time this week.
“I can’t express our heartfelt thanks enough for you and the people of Lae,” Ms Tapscott told Ms Harou over a video call.
“It has been the most remarkable thing that has happened out of all of these fires.”
They have promised to visit each other once border restrictions between the two countries are lifted.
“I’m going to come and say hello,” Ms Tapscott said.
‘Blues’ boots delivered to juniors at bushfire-affected clubs
The NRL reported that Blues captain Boyd Cordner has backed a $250,000 goodwill gesture by the NSWRL to deliver free football to junior players on the NSW South Coast from areas effected by last summer’s bushfires.
Former Blues great Paul Sironen joined NSWRL CEO David Trodden at Sussex Inlet on Thursday to launch the partnership with Score Zone, which is part of a wider relief package to help regional clubs in need after the devastation of the fires.
The exclusive “Blues” boots will be delivered to players under the age of 12.
“It’s a great initiative from NSWRL to bring in the ‘Blues Boots’ and hand them out to communities that have done it really tough in 2020,” Cordner said.
“It’s going to help out our little Blues brothers and sisters and if I was a little kid coming in knowing I was going to get a pair of boots I’d be pretty chuffed.”
Competitions resumed across the state on July 18 after being suspended over the COVID-19 pandemic and Trodden said it had been a tough season, particularly for clubs and communities still coping with the effects of the bushfires.
“The NSWRL wanted to help out wherever we could and I’d like to thank Score Zone for supplying the new range of blue football boots so we can get kids back on the field playing footy,” Trodden said.
Score Zone managing director Greg Parker, who along with CEO Pat Molihan previously covered league for the Seven Network, said the boots included a unique ‘red dot’ design which teaches junior players the correct way to kick a ball.
“Boys and girls in all codes need to know how to get the basics right – right from the start – and Score Zone helps them from their first kick,” said Parker.
“Having spent so much time with the Blues it was the perfect way to launch Score Zone boots which are for all boys and girls and all codes.”
Trees offered to bushfire affected landholders as alternative to cancelled National Tree Day
The Mudgee Guardian reported that with National Tree Day cancelled due to COVID-19, Council is partnering with Watershed Landcare to redistribute trees to bushfire affected residents, to assist in revegetating their properties following the devastating summer fires that destroyed 255,000Ha.
General manager, Brad Cam, said eligible landholders can apply to receive 40 native trees each, which will be grown in Landcare’s new greenhouse.
“In addition to the native plants, landholders will also receive tree guards and stakes,” Mr Cam said.
“There will be an opportunity to purchase additional trees which will be available for planting in Autumn and Spring 2021.”
To help landholders get the most out of the planting project, a workshop will be held with a focus on revegetating after fire.
Employee warned Essential Energy of ‘impending fire situation’, Tathra bushfire inquiry told
The Islander Online reported that a bushfire inquiry has heard there were systemic issues around identifying potentially hazardous trees near powerlines at the time of the blaze.
Essential Energy vegetation officer Darrell Worley told the Tathra inquiry on Thursday, he had warned his employer of a potential bushfire hazard near the area where the March 18, 2018, fire originated.
On Monday, the inquiry heard investigators believe the fire was likely caused by dead trees, some dead for years and infested with termites, falling on powerlines.
Under the guidance of Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott, the three-week long inquiry will investigate the origin and cause of the fire, as well as the management of energy infrastructure, the management of fuel loads before the fire and the response of emergency services.
The fire burned through more than 1000 hectares of forest, causing $63.5 million worth of damage, and destroying 56 homes and 35 outbuildings in and around Tathra.
Mr Worley said before the fire he had advised state-owned company Essential Energy of an “impending fire situation” at powerlines at nearby Murrays Flat.
He told the inquiry he had not been advised by contractors of any tree hazards in the easement where investigators believe the fire began.
The inquiry heard two other fires on the day in the Bega Valley were started by falling branches on power lines.
Mr Worley told the inquiry he told a senior supervisor in 2016 via email and in meetings he did not agree with changes to the structure of inspections for hazards, which left a percentage unchecked.
He said he believed the changes were made in order to “speed things up”.
He told the inquiry scoping work had been outsourced by the state government to private companies in 2015, with his role becoming one of auditing any cutting work, and not identifying potential hazards.
Mr Worley said there were times contractors had told him there were no hazards in areas, which upon later inspection had tree branches touching power lines.
He said there were “multiple” times he had been told hazards had been removed when they had not, and he had sent multiple photos to superiors showing insufficient work had been done by contractors.
Mr Worley said he felt contractors were less likely to conduct work in difficult to get to areas, and in the time since he began work in Bega in August, 2016, and the bushfire in 2018 he had not been advised of any possible “fall in” hazards in the Reedy Swamp area.
He told the inquiry Essential Energy had shown an increased interest in doing its own scoping of easements in Bega, Jindabyne, Moruya and Cooma from January of 2018 due to concerns around tree diebacks.
He said he was not aware of any contractor’s qualifications in identifying hazardous trees, and agreed he is not formally trained, but received informal training while on the job.
The inquiry heard the area where the fire is believed to have started was last inspected by air by contractor Oberon in the early half of 2016 as part of a pre-summer bushfire inspection.
The area was considered of high risk before 2016, the inquiry heard.
Mr Worley told the inquiry during state-owned Essential Energy restructuring the number of vegetation officers in the Bega and Cooma area dropped from four to just one.
CatholicCare and Primary Health Network partner to provide free counselling for bushfire victims on Mid Coast
The Gloucester Advocate reported that nature may well have rejuvenated much of the Mid Coast’s bushfire-scarred landscape, but restoring human mental wellbeing is a longer process.
To help aid the process, the Primary Health Network Hunter New England and Central Coast is partnering with CatholicCare’s Counselling and Clinical Services team to deliver counselling services for bushfire victims, free of charge.
Feeling depressed, anxious and a loss of confidence or direction, are normal human responses to this kind of unpredictable hardship, Kelly Pavan is a psychologist and manager of Counselling and Clinical Services at CatholicCare said.
“Even vicarious trauma experienced through close friends or neighbours’ losses, and exposure to the sombre media coverage at the time, can trigger underlying or past worries.”
Counselling with a qualified professional from outside an individual’s immediate support network can be useful to make sense of what has happened and plan a way to get back on track. The Bushfire Recovery Service will help identify vulnerable people affected by the disaster of the past summer.
“Improving the mental health and wellbeing of bushfire-impacted individuals collectively increases the resilience of affected communities and promotes linkages with broader health agencies,” Kelly said.
“In establishing referral pathways and facilitating linkages with other relevant services, it provides the wellbeing and social assistance that best supports individuals and families.”
The service is designed for individuals requiring mental healthcare who are unlikely to have their needs met solely through Medicare-subsidised mental health services. These individuals will be able to access up to 10 free, counselling sessions that focus on client-led goals.
The Bushfire Recovery Service will be delivered Taree, Forster, and Gloucester, and can work with whole families, or individuals of any age, who would benefit from support.
For enquiries about accessing this new service, contact the CatholicCare head office on 02 4979 1120 for more booking information.
Koala breakthrough following bushfire devastation[
2GB reported that there’s a glimmer of hope for Australia’s Koala population devastated during the Black Summer bushfires.
Australian National University (ANU) researchers are examining how koalas recover after fire and how fire impacts their habitat, including if their dietary needs can be met.
Dr Karen Ford, ANU Researcher told Deborah Knight koalas have been “severely impacted” with the fires burning so hot many lost their lives and habitats.
The researchers have discovered the early tree regrowth is providing adequate food for the surviving koalas.
“We’re finding that they seem to manage quite well in those severely burnt areas, as long as there’s enough trees regrowing.
Australia Post dedicates new collectible stamps to wildlife bushfire recovery efforts
The West Australian reported that Australia Post is dedicating this year’s Stamp Collecting Month to wildlife recovery, six months after bushfires scorched native flora and fauna across Australia.
Nearly three billion animals were killed or displaced by last summer’s devastating fires.
In a bid to bolster education on now-threatened species, six stamps will highlight some of Australia’s most vulnerable native animals.
The fauna have been selected from those most recently identified by the Federal Government’s wildlife and threatened species bushfire recovery Expert Panel as in need of immediate conservation management.
Each stamp has affiliated online educational resources, which includes curriculum-linked lesson plans and literacy activities for primary students.
Australia Post community and consumer executive general manager Nicole Sheffield said the collection aimed to inspire children across the country to learn more about Australia’s wildlife and species protection.
“We want this year’s Stamp Collecting Month to encourage a lifelong passion for Australian wildlife,” she said.
“Alongside the stamps, the teaching resources we’ve developed will encourage education, literacy and knowledge about the threats wildlife face.”
RFS Commissioner stresses need for patience in fire fuel debate
2GB reported that the RFS Commissioner is insisting the Emergency Services Minister is “on top of” the debate over fuel load clearing.
Bega MP Andrew Constance yesterday called for landowners to be given the power to clear fire fuel off their own properties without facing massive fines.
RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers gave Jim Wilson a cautious response on the issue, noting he has raised the matter in discussions with Emergency Services Minister David Elliot.
“He’s quite keen to see homeowners enabled to do appropriate works.
“What we’ve got to do is just give the government time to receive that report … and then obviously provide a response.
“You don’t want to do one thing that’s out of kilter with the whole review.”
Six LGAs in the Northern Tablelands have already entered an early fire season.
Two projects receive bushfire recovery funding
Coast Community News reported that two projects have been selected to support bushfire recovery on the Central Coast as part of a Federal Government grants program to help our native wildlife and habitat recover from the devastation of last summer’s bushfires.
Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, said projects involving the post-fire recovery of the Regent Parrot, commonly found on the Coast, and erosion control and revegetation on the Hawkesbury River to benefit native fish will attract over half a million dollars.
“It is going to take time, but the community, with the right backing from the Government, will play a vital role in making it happen,” Wicks said.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the Government had made a $200M commitment to the long-term recovery of threatened species, native animals and local habitats and was working with ecologists, Indigenous leaders, bushfire experts, scientists, wildlife experts and community organisations in preparing strategies to build back better for our wildlife and landscapes.
The funds will be invested in bushfire affected regions over the next two years.
Landcare Australia Ltd and partners Native Fish Australia and OzFish will receive $384,550 to release Macquarie Perch and restore fish habitat in bushfire affected areas, including the Hawkesbury River.
The project will undertake restoration of 20km of riparian habitat impacted by bushfires to improve habitat for turtle, fish and crayfish.
BirdLife Australia and partners Australian National University and Taronga Conservation Society Australia will receive $150,575 to raise the Regent Parrot from the ashes.
The project will support the post-fire recovery of the Regent Parrot, including by post-fire surveys (in both burnt and unburnt habitat), undertaking Noisy Miner control, and trialling the reintroduction of Needle-leaf Mistletoe in critical breeding habitat at multiple locations including the Central Coast.
Goulburn SES Unit and NSW RFS work tirelessly all day
The Goulburn Post reported this:
It’s getting late.
In fact, it’s past 9pm and after a horrendously wet day in the Southern Tablelands, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Goulburn SES Units are just about done for the day and deservedly so.
Local controller Daryl Skinner said some SES crews began their shift at 5am including himself.
“It’s been a pretty long day and pretty tiring, but we’re coping pretty well at the moment,” Mr Skinner said.
“There’s still one crew out working at the moment, but we’ll be closing operations for the night after that.
We’ll be picking things up again in the morning at 8am.”
As we come to the latter stages of Sunday night, there are about 10 roads closed at the moment.
“The worst ones would be the underpass at Blackshaw Road going through to Eastgrove and Mulwaree Ponds.
“Things may be steady at Mulwaree Ponds, but there is still a lot of water to come through,” Mr Skinner said.
“We’ll be keeping a close eye on those overnight.”
As for the RFS, they are just about done too after a long day’s work.
“We’re finished for the night and just waiting to see if the SES Unit need our help, but we’ll be ready to go when that time comes.”
Bushfire-hit coastal communities now bracing for major flooding
The ABC reported that residents along parts of the New South Wales south coast have been ordered to evacuate overnight, after heavy rains sparked fears of major flooding.
They were among the hardest-hit communities in the Summer bushfire disaster, and COVID-19 has meant evacuate centres can’t be set up.
Coronial inquiry hears regulator had been critical of Essential Energy bushfire risk management
The Canberra Times reported that day five of the March 2018 Reedy Swamp/Tathra bushfire coronial inquiry focused on state-owned company Essential Energy’s alleged failure to properly manage bushfire risks around the time of the fire.
The company’s manager of external delivery, Patrick Kelleher, was questioned on Friday over the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s late-2017 audit, which found the company was not complying with its requirements around managing bushfire risks.
The regulator said the company had failed to properly complete vegetation clearance work, which at the time was contracted to Asplundh Tree Expert, who had subcontractor scoping work to Pinnacle ArborPro.
On Thursday, Essential Energy vegetation officer Darrell Worley told the inquiry he had warned his employer of a potential bushfire hazard near the area where the fire originated.
The fire caused $63.5million worth of damage, destroying 56 homes in and around Tathra.
The three-week long inquiry will investigate the origin and cause of the fire, as well as the management of energy infrastructure, the management of fuel loads before the fire and the response of emergency services.
Mr Kelleher said following “robust” talks, Essential Energy agreed to address high-risk bushfire defects by October 2019, and low-level defects by 2021.
He said the cost and availability of better training for identifying hazard trees was seen as an issue by the company.
The inquiry heard the last pre-summer bushfire inspection of the Reedy Swamp easement was completed in 2016.
Mr Kelleher told the inquiry the annual cost of vegetation management in comparison to the company’s total earnings was “modest”, and arboricultural consultants ENSPEC were approached this year to develop better training for identifying hazard trees.
The inquiry heard Asplundh operations manager Mark Bennett will likely give evidence the issue of hazard trees not being identified was raised in an internal Essential Energy audit, and there were concerns the required time period of six months in dealing with hazard trees after they were identified was too long.
When asked by Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott whether local employees would be more committed to identifying defects than contractors, Mr Kelleher said while he “can understand that opinion” he does not agree with it.
Essential Energy’s network risk manager Ian Fitzpatrick told the inquiry, at the time, infrastructure was set to allow electricity to flow through a powerline for six seconds after a fault was recognised, even on total fire ban days.
Former Bega vegetation officer and current Essential Energy program compliance auditor Robert Saric also gave evidence of Friday, saying the regions “undulating hills” required scopers carry out “a lot” of walking to properly check for hazards.
He and Mr Worley searched the Reedy Swamp area where investigators believe the fire started after the bushfire, taking photographic evidence of downed lines, a fallen tree at the base of a powerpole and downed conductors.
The inquiry was told arborist Marcus Lodge will likely tell the inquiry more training is needed in identifying dead, dying and structurally unsound trees.
Day one of the inquiry heard Mr Lodge believes termites had likely damaged decaying dead trees around the easement, causing them to fall in high winds.