Tag: Media Watch

The Fire Fight over Potato Point

The second in a series of adverts has been published in The Land newspaper (page 32) on Thursday 11th December 2014.

VFFA Potato Point Advert 2

The text reads as follows:

The Fire Fight over Potato Point

Imagine for a minute you’re a resident of Potato Point. You remember only too well the 1985 bushfire that sparked spot fires amongst houses and almost took out the village.

It was stopped (just), thanks to some very brave fire fighters and a 600 metre firebreak.

That firebreak has now gone.

It’s been replaced by bushland the responsibility of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Now imagine a village much larger than it was in 1985. Feel the frustration as a local, who for 13 years has been asking for the restoration of a smaller (200 metre) firebreak, as well as some other preventative measures recommended by one of the world’s most eminent authorities on bushfire behaviour.

Imagine your annoyance when all that is seemingly received from the NPWS, after a very protracted “consultative process”, was some token ground cover and canopy reduction.

Well, we’ve fought enough fires to know that they are never stopped by talk … and tokenism.

So the locals asked their State Member, Andrew Constance, and the NSW Minister for the Environment, Robert Stokes to familiarise themselves with the facts and help break the nexus.

They did. A meeting was held on the 7th August at Parliament House with all parties, including a representative from NPWS.

Imagine our relief when a ten-point plan was agreed by everyone.

Now imagine our anger when the NPWS has seemingly decided to implement just 3 of those ten points and ignore the rest.

It’s time for our politicians to step-up and remind the NPWS that they are there to implement ministerial decisions.

Because, no one wants to imagine the consequences of a catastrophic bushfire anywhere near Potato Point this summer.

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The battle to make Potato Point safe from bushfires

Sydney Morning Herald

By Tim Barlass, November 30, 2014.

Potato Point

It is a remote clifftop enclave boasting seclusion and enviable views.

There is only one blot on the landscape for the 150 or so residents of Potato Point, in Eurobodalla Shire on the south coast – it has become surrounded on three sides by dense bush and, in the event of a bushfire, there is only one road out.

In 1995, part of the area was declared a national park and since then there has been little work to preserve firebreaks, say residents, who have been calling on the National Parks and Wildlife Service to do something since 2003.

A bushfire in 1985 almost reached the village but a 600-metre grass firebreak saved the day, as many scrambled to the beach. The Volunteer Fire Fighters Association says the firebreak no longer exists.

In an advertisement to be published in The Land this week, the association calls on the service to implement what local state member Andrew Constance (NSW Treasurer) and the NSW Minister for the Environment Robert Stokes have already promised the local community and give Potato Point the fire break it needs.

In May, National Parks presented three studies into environmental factors, impact on flora and fauna and an assessment of bushfire risk.

The only animal found to be endangered was the striated fieldwren – and that was the tussocky grassland it favours had been overrun by the trees the NPWS hadn’t thinned.

Residents called in bushfire expert Phil Cheney, whose report said residents of Potato Point were vulnerable to high-intensity bushfire.

He recommended significant fuel reduction, establishment of a substantial firebreak and identification of a safe place for evacuation of the elderly and infirm.

Community representatives met Mr Stokes in August and say a 10-point action plan was agreed by the minister.

Caged in

Caged in (image above): Lindy Hudson with her children Emily and Tom, and deputy mayor of Eurobodalla Shire Council Rob Pollock.

Deputy mayor of Eurobodalla Rob Pollock said three months on only a watered-down program the National Parks and Wildlife Service had decided on before the meeting with the minister was being implemented.

Mr Pollock told The Sun-Herald: “I think the NPWS is more interested in preserving their bush, which didn’t exist until it was declared a national park. We used to burn it every year and it would be perfectly green grassland again after four weeks.

“If we have another fire I don’t think there’s any doubt there would be loss of houses and I would hope to God that we don’t have personal injury or loss of life.”

But a spokesman for Mr Stokes said a number of outcomes were agreed at a meeting with the community and were being implemented by NPWS and the RFS.

“Not only are the report’s findings being responded to in full, but further fire risk mitigation measures are being carried out following community consultation,” he said.

Tim Shepherd, of the NPWS, said Potato Point was one of the better-protected coastal villages with a bush interface in NSW.

Extensive work carried out provided an effective firebreak, he said.

“We also note that there are divergent views in the community and the comment that the community says there is still not an effective firebreak in place is only one viewpoint,” he said.

Click HERE to view this story on the Sydney Morning Herald web site.

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Senior RFS officers ignored advice on back burning Black Sunday fire, inquest hears

Sydney Morning Herald

By Paul Bibby, Court Reporter, November 11, 2014

Rural Fire Service officers in charge of combating a fire chose to try a risky back-burning operation during the 2013 “Black Sunday'” bushfire, despite being strongly advised not to, an inquest has heard.

The Wambelong fire destroyed 53 homes and tens of thousands of animals in January, 2013, when it was sparked in the Warrumbungle National Park, near Coonabarabran.

An inquest into the fire at the NSW Coroner’s Court has heard that the response to the blaze was characterised by communication breakdowns, mistaken predictions by fire analysts and local residents being given incorrect information.

On Thursday a Senior Fire Ranger with the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service, Peter Brookhouse, told the inquest that early on morning of January 13 – the day firefighters lost control of the blaze – he was contacted by the Acting Zone Manager for the RFS.

He said the zone manager, Stuart Green, had asked him what he thought of their plan to undertake back burning on the Wambelong fire.

“You became despondent, said it was a bad idea, but they said it was going ahead, is that correct?” Junior Counsel Assisting the inquest Adam Casselden asked.

“I was looking at the weather forecast – it was a very powerful one – could see what the conditions were going to be,” Mr Brookhouse replied.

“High temperature, low humidity, the ground slope … the probability was very high that a back burn going up slope it wasn’t going to stay in the box,” he said.

“Did you have a sense it could eventuate into a landscape fire?” Mr Casselden continued.

“I felt it was going to be a large fire. I didn’t think it was going to be a small fire,” Mr Brookhouse replied.

Mr Brookhouse said that he passed on these concerns to Mr Green, but, despite this advice, senior RFS officers went ahead with the back burning operation.

The inquest has previously heard that the back burning operation may have exacerbated the severity of the fire by setting off smaller spot fires in other locations.

Later Mr Brookhouse said that computer modelling used to predict bushfire behaviour was flawed.

“There is no really good prediction for fires under extreme conditions,” he said.

“The parameters of the models were exceeded. I think the models just don’t work when it’s under extreme conditions.”

Mr Brookhouse said he hoped that one of the lessons to be learnt from Black Sunday was that crews coming in from other areas to help fight bushfires would be able to make full use of local knowledge.

“One of the criticisms that always comes out is that local knowledge wasn’t listened to,” he said.

“With large fires you have a lot of resources from out of area. But often local knowledge is sitting in the back of trucks.

It’s Important for local brigade members to be allocated to section leaders from outside the area, and other leaders, so that the local knowledge can be utilised with outside units.”

The inquest continues.

Click HERE to see this article on the SMH web page.

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The RFS is Not Listening

Radio 2ST

Published: 02 September 2014 on the 2ST web page.

Blue or Yellow Shirts for RFS Volunteers?

In recent times there’s has been a great deal of angst amonst RFS volunteers about the yellow shirts replacing the blue drill shirt.

Barry Mac spoke to Ben Sheppard Media Officer from the RFS and Mick Holton, Chairman of the Volunteer Firfighters Association Region South.

Have a listen to Mick’s comments on this issue.


Click HERE to read the original media article.

This post is intended as a means of sharing media information. The views or opinions expressed in the content may not be shared by all NSW FRS Volunteer. Readers are encouraged to form their own opinions based upon a wide range of information and experience.

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