Bushfire relief slow to arrive in razed village of Bumbalong, as tensions rise over bureaucratic bungles

The view is just about all Karen and Mick Gallagher have left of their riverside home at Bumbalong, about an hour south of Canberra.

On the first day of February this year, they evacuated with a shopping bag and a dog each, as fire jumped the river and flames licked the one road out.

“Everything is all gone and you don’t realise what’s missing until you go to get changed or something, and you go, I’ve got nothing,” Ms Gallagher said.

Since returning to their land, the Gallaghers have camped, hoping to build something warm enough to see them through the winter before the cold sets in.

Read the full ABC story here.https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-14/bushfire-recovery-slow-for-community-of-bumbalong/12352774

Who decides where to conduct fuel reduction burns and what goes into their planning?

An interesting article from the ABC on hazard reduction in Victoria.

Vase that survived Cobargo bushfire at potter’s studio accepted into National Museum

The Murray Valley Standard reported that when the New Year’s Eve bushfire tore through the the NSW South Coast it destroyed Daniel Lafferty’s pottery studio and came within metres of his house.

Later, when looking through about $10,000 worth of pottery lost in the blaze at his studio where he estimated the temperature would have hit 1200 degrees Celsius, he found a vase that was still mostly intact, but had remnants of the fire like ash and glass from the building stuck to it.

This vase has now been donated to and accepted into the historical collection at the National Museum of Australia for an exhibition on the 2019/20 bushfires.

Lives at risk due to inadequate air quality monitoring, bushfire inquiry told

THe ABC Central West reported that bushfire smoke affected the air quality in many regional areas during the 2019-2020 summer.

Courtney Partridge-McLennan was found in her bed with her phone torch on and her asthma reliever nearby. She went to bed one night in November 2019 as major bushfires bore down on her hometown of Glen Innes in northern New South Wales and never got up.

Her family was later told the 19-year-old died from an “aggressive” asthma attack.

Courtney’s sister, Cherylleigh Partridge, has shared her story at a NSW parliamentary inquiry examining the health impacts of bushfires and drought.

“I believe that she probably woke up mid-asthma attack.”

The inquiry heard Courtney Partridge-McLennan had not experienced any symptoms of asthma the day she died.

Her sister told the hearing that her death was an example of why communities in regional NSW were at a dangerous disadvantage.

“We don’t have air quality monitoring the same way metropolitan areas do,” Ms Partridge told the inquiry.

“You can look outside and use common sense and go ‘wow, it’s pretty smoky out there’, but the understanding of what levels are, if they’re hazardous, don’t exist for regional New South Wales.”

Hearings resume on 16 June 2020

Mirage News reports that the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements will resume public hearings on Tuesday 16 June 2020.

To ensure the Commission complies with current COVID-19 health measures, hearings will be conducted as electronic hearings (e-hearings) with proceedings live streamed via the Commission’s website.

Daily themes and the list of proposed witnesses will be published on the prior to the start of hearings. Daily transcripts and evidence will be published as soon as practicable after the relevant hearing day.

Dates for the hearings and associated themes are below.

16 – 18 June 2020  Time: 10:00 am (AEST)

Hazard reduction – focusing on division of responsibilities between Australian, state and territory governments; theory, administration and practice of fuel load management; and Indigenous land and fire practices.

22 – 24 June 2020  Time: 10:00 am (AEST)

Local government – focusing on the responsibilities of, and actions taken by, local governments in relation to preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural disasters, as well as co-ordination arrangements at local and regional level.

Week commencing 29 June 2020  Time: 10:00 am (AEST)

State and territory governments – focusing on the responsibilities of, and actions taken by, state and territory governments in relation to preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural disasters, as well as co-ordination and accountability arrangements.

Week commencing 6 July 2020  Time: 10:00 am (AEST)

State and territory governments (continued) – focusing on the responsibilities of, and actions taken by, state and territory governments in relation to preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural disasters, as well as co-ordination and accountability arrangements.

Week commencing 13 July 2020  Time: 10:00 am (AEST)

Australian Government – focusing on the actions of the Australian Government in relation to preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural disasters, as well as co-ordination and accountability arrangements.

Charities Commissioner responds to concerns on spending in bushfire communities

The ABC reports that the national charities regulator has warned public expectations about how bushfire donations should be spent do not match reality.

  • Millions of dollars donated to charities are yet to be spent helping affected communities
  • The Charities Commissioner says laws restrict how the money can be used to help people
  • Some people who have lost their homes are still in unsuitable accommodation, locals say

Nearly $300 million has been donated to the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul to help with bushfire relief and recovery since the recent horror bushfire season.

But so far, only about half the money’s been spent, and there is political and community pressure to direct more financial aid into housing to help people still living in caravans and tents.

Cobargo in NSW was one of the hardest-hit towns in the summer’s fires. Two people died fighting the fires and more than 120 homes were razed.

The town’s publican, Dave Allen, said some people were still living in unsuitable accommodation, six months after the fires.

“It’s really sad to still get those stories of people living rough, living in old caravans, in tents, in annexes, and in the middle of winter,” he said.

“It’s really not good enough.”

“A lot of people can’t move, they’ve got farms, they’ve got businesses, they’ve got livelihoods down here and they need some decent temporary accommodation.

“It just bewilders me that we can’t do better with this charity money.”

Backburns backfired at Balmoral and the Blue Mountains, RFS investigation finds

The ABC Reported that disastrous summer backburns devastated a village south of Sydney, scorched hundreds of square kilometres of the Blue Mountains and destroyed at least 50 homes during the last fire season, according to internal investigations by the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).

  • Backburns around Balmoral and Bilpin in NSW are being scrutinised by the RFS
  • Increasingly extreme fire seasons in Australia mean backburning is becoming riskier
  • RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers says backburning is one of the few options available to control large fires

The RFS has released details of two separate internal investigations to the ABC which blame mapping errors, communications breakdowns and unforeseen weather conditions for the failed backburns in the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands.

The backburns led to fires that destroyed much of the village of Balmoral, south of Sydney, and destroyed more than 20 properties in the Blue Mountains towns of Bilpin and Mount Wilson.

The ABC has learned the NSW bushfire inquiry is examining whether backburning should be limited as a result of the cases — because of the higher risk of disaster during Australia’s increasingly extreme fire seasons.

The inquiry is posing a dilemma for new RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers, who describes backburns as a risky but essential strategy.

“For this last fire season, there were more than 1,000 backburns put in. Of that, 4 per cent got out of containment,” he said.

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