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.
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.
In the interest of promoting an open and honest debate, the VFFA has decided to publish our submission. We hope that other groups will do the same.
The VFFA is somewhat disappointed in the way that this inquiry has been handled as follows:
1. The timeframes for groups to make submissions was very short and rushed
2. The information regarding the review was not actively promoted by the NSW State Government, and
3. What is happening with the referral of this fire to the Coroner?
One could be excused for thinking that the NSW State Government just wants these problems to go away, particularly with an election just around the corner.
The VFFA is promoting open debate from all persons involved. This includes the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW), NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Forestry Corporation of NSW, the Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA), the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA), the Fire Brigades Employees Union (FBEU), the insurance companies and most importantly, the firefighters (from all fire services) and the public of NSW.
Click the Read More link to see the VFFA submission.
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.
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…
In this paper, Michael Eburn and his colleague Geoff Cary argue that the statement ‘Whoever owns the fuel owns the fire’ implies a duty on landowners to manage fuel on their land to reduce the likelihood of bushfires, however started, from spreading to neighbouring properties. However, the notion ‘Whoever owns the fuel owns the fire’ has not been analysed from a legal perspective. This paper reviews Australian law to identify who is legally responsible for fire that starts on privately owned land. We argue that the correct interpretation of existing Australian law is: ‘Whoever owns the ignition owns the fire’ – that is, liability to pay for losses caused by bushfire has always fallen on those that intentionally start a fire, not on the owner of the fuel that sustains the fire. That legal conclusion could have dramatic implications for fire management policies. It will be shown that liability for starting a prescribed burn is clear-cut whereas liability for allowing accumulated fuel loads to contribute to the spread of fire is almost unheard of. As a result, we argue that the law is pushing landowners in a direction away from the policy direction adopted by all Australian governments. After identifying the current legal position, we recommend changes to align the law with the national policy direction.
Governments and fire authorities needed to consider taking a more local approach, and introduce on the outskirts of towns and cities clever landscape designs that included irrigation and green fire breaks in the form of parklands, that could work in conjunction with burn-offs to help mitigate bushfire risks.
Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park. With extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands and abundant wildlife, it evoked a country estate in England. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than we have ever realised.