What California’s Fire Follies Can Teach Us

What California’s Fire Follies Can Teach Us

As is normal these days, the blame game is already being waged in the wake of the most recent 2018 Californian bushfires. On the one hand are the doomsdayers who claim the fires are a result of climate change. At the other end of the spectrum are those blaming “environmental terrorists” for preventing effective pre-fire management, such as forest thinning and fuel-reduction burning.

Re-engage with the Bush for a Brighter Future

Re-engage with the Bush for a Brighter Future

On Thursday 6th September 2018 – VFFA president, Mick Holton spoke to Shoalhaven CBF Radio (Chance, Barry and Frenchy)

We spoke about:

1. Minister Troy Grant and Acting Commissioner Malcolm Connellan  launching the arrival of our first Large Air Tanker (LAT) for the NSW fire season at Richmond RAAF Base.
2. Our failure to recognise the simplicity of a re-engagement to the bush, a reconnect with country that can save us huge amounts of money and more importantly, a return to cultural burning has the potential to restore the environment to a healthy status.
3. The bullying enquiry.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Are modern firefighting agencies inciting fear as a method of risk management rather than applying appropriate risk control measures? 

Fear is a powerful tool, it sells newspapers, keeps the television ratings alive, gives our radio stations some great material to talk about and it helps to drive campaigns to increase public spending on reactive and expensive firefighting strategies that we simply cannot afford.

Image if we could return to a situation where our local firefighters looked after their own patch without the red tape associated with hazard reduction. Image how nice it would be if our land management practices were returned to a commonsense and balanced approach that our Indigenous Australians, farmers and graziers have used in the past.

Instead of cooking the guts out of the country, we could see improved forest health and reduced risk to our native animals and the bush that we love so much.

Instead, we see another story that warns us of a bleak bushfire outlook. There is no mention of the massive fuel loads that are the root cause of this problem.

The elephant in the room is fuel.

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.

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.

Bega Valley Independent Review (Keelty Inquiry 2018)

Bega Valley Independent Review (Keelty Inquiry 2018)

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.

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.