Tag: Wambelong Fire

VFFA response to the Wambelong Fire Inquiry

The President of the Volunteer Firefighters Association (VFFA), Mr. Peter Cannon OAM , has welcomed the findings and recommendations of the NSW Upper House Inquiry into the Wambelong Fire, released today, as a positive step towards a system that will deliver far better outcomes for bushfire management and suppression for NSW and the Coonabarabran community.

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Upper House committee publishes report on the Wambelong fire

The committee has set out a number of strategies to build greater respect for volunteers into the practices, procedures and culture of the RFS.

Recommendation 19 states that the NSW Rural Fire Service formally recognise the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association as a legitimate advocacy organisation representing volunteer bush fire fighters, and duly consult with it on policy and operational matters.

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RFS not told of plans for back-burning during Coonabarabran bushfires – inquiry hears

ABC News Logo

By Claire Aird, 12 Nov 2014

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) was not told of plans for a controversial back-burning operation during last year’s bushfires near Coonabarabran in the state’s north-west, an inquiry has heard.

Deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon is overseeing an inquiry into the “Black Sunday” bushfires, which destroyed 53 homes and burned 90 per cent of the Warrumbungle National Park.

The blaze was sparked at the park’s Wambelong campground on January 12, 2013.

That night, a decision was made to change the firefighting strategy from direct attack to back burning on the Sunday, despite weather forecasts of high temperatures and strong winds.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service’s overnight incident controller on duty, Wayne Dornbusch, confirmed no-one within the RFS was advised the back burning was to go ahead.

“There was plenty of time to get in touch with someone senior to tell them about the wholesale change of the plan?” counsel assisting the inquest Christina Stern asked.

“Yes, I accept that. I had my head down going flat knacker,” Mr Dornbush replied.

Mr Dornbusch said direct attack was not an option due to staff safety.

The inquiry also heard no advice was given to private property owners in the area about the potential threat of subsequent spot fires because Mr Dornbusch was confident the back-burning strategy would work.

It also heard no steps were taken to close a main road through the park to stop the public from entering the fire ground or protect camp areas or visitor facilities.

“In hindsight it’s probably something that I should done,” said Mr Dornbusch.

The inquiry has previously heard that a report on the 2013 Coonabarabran fires described the firefighting effort as the worst some of the brigades involved had seen.

The inquiry continues…..

Click HERE to read this article on the ABC News web site.

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Ranger says he warned against back-burning during Coonabarabran bushfire disaster

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By Claire Aird, 12 Nov 2014.

The Rural Fire Service (RFS) made a “very bad decision” by back-burning during last year’s bushfires in north-west New South Wales, an inquest has heard.

Deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon is overseeing an inquiry into the “Black Sunday” bushfires, which destroyed 53 homes and burned 90 per cent of the Warrumbungle National Park after starting at the Wambelong Campground near Coonabarabran in January 2013.

The inquest heard several back-burning fires were lit the day after the blaze began, when a maximum temperature of 46 degrees Celsius and strong winds were predicted.

Senior National Parks Wildlife Service fire ranger Peter Brookhouse told the inquiry he raised concerns with the RFS before the back-burning was conducted.

He was “very alarmed” by the weather forecast, he said.

“I could see very quickly what the conditions were going to be, and with the burning going up slope it wasn’t going to be very pretty.

“There was no doubt in my mind that direct attack would’ve been the way to go.”

When asked why he did not take his concerns further, Mr Brookhouse said: “I felt at the time I had spoken to appropriate person.”

“It was very much in his court of action to pursue,” he said.

The inquiry is considering whether the damage could have been prevented.

Mr Brookhouse told the Glebe Coroner’s Court there had been very little hazard reduction work done in the Warrumbungle National Park before the blaze, and the Browns Creek area of the park had not been attended to in more than 40 years.

If a prescribed burn had have been conducted it would have had a “substantial effect” on the firefighting effort, he said.

“The fire would have become quiet and very manageable,” Mr Brookhouse said.

The hearing continues…..

Click HERE to read this article on the ABC News 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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Response to ‘Black Sunday’ fires one of the worst we’ve seen, Firefighters say

Sydney Morning Herald

By Paul Bibby, Court Reporter, November 10, 2014

The attempt to control the “Black Sunday” bushfires that destroyed scores of homes and thousands of animals in northern NSW last year was described by firefighters as “one of the worst large-scale firefighting efforts they had been involved in”, the NSW Coroner’s Court has heard.

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

Ckick HERE to read the full article.

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