Ar­son at­tacks in forests prompt se­cret cam­era sur­veil­lance

Na­tion­wide ef­forts to help com­bat fire po­ten­tial

Australian Forests and Timber - - In The News -

Just the men­tion of bushfire is gen­er­ally enough to bring out a ner­vous twitch or two, but when there are de­lib­er­ate at­tempts to start fires then the ner­vous­ness turns to unadul­ter­ated anger and dis­may.

Such has been the case in New South Wales.

So much so that ad­di­tional hid­den cam­eras have been set up in State forests around Wau­chope, Ta­ree, the Hunter, Coffs and Casino ar­eas and ranger pa­trols are be­ing ramped up in all State forests to catch ar­son­ists, fol­low­ing a spate of sus­pi­cious fires.

Forestry Cor­po­ra­tion’s For­est Pro­tec­tion Man­ager Karel Ze­jbr­lik said many fires had been de­lib­er­ately lit in north coast State forests and tim­ber plan­ta­tions, putting com­mu­ni­ties and for­est vis­i­tors in dan­ger.

“It is sick­en­ing that any­one would reck­lessly en­dan­ger peo­ple’s lives by de­lib­er­ately light­ing a fire and we are pulling out all stops to catch the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble,” Mr Ze­jbr­lik said.

“We now have a to­tal of 120 in­fra-red equipped cam­eras that can pho­to­graph faces and num­ber plates hid­den in strate­gic lo­ca­tions through­out north coast State forests and we will have ad­di­tional rangers out in the for­est every day look­ing for any­thing sus­pi­cious and record­ing the de­tails of every num­ber plate on every ve­hi­cle in the for­est.

“We are also urg­ing mem­bers of the com­mu­nity to help us catch th­ese crim­i­nals by con­tact­ing Crimestop­pers on 1800 333 000 if they see any­thing sus­pi­cious.

“Fire sea­son has been de­clared early and with the forests and con­di­tions as dry as they are, we are al­ready on high bushfire alert, with ad­di­tional fire fight­ers and equip­ment on standby.

“So far we have man­aged to get th­ese de­lib­er­ately lit fires un­der con­trol and we are do­ing what­ever we can to put a stop to th­ese ar­son at­tacks to pre­vent a de­lib­er­ately lit fire tak­ing hold and threat­en­ing lo­cal homes and com­mu­ni­ties.”

Across the bor­der in Vic­to­ria, com­mu­ni­ties in high-risk bushfire ar­eas will be safer thanks to the gov­ern­ment’s $750 mil­lion Pow­er­line Bushfire Safety Pro­gram, bury­ing pow­er­lines to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the risk to lives and prop­erty from bush­fires.

“We’re keep­ing the res­i­dents of Healesville and the sur­round­ing ar­eas safer from the risk of bush­fires. Th­ese are not just words, it’s prac­ti­cal ac­tion,” said Min­is­ter for En­ergy, En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change, Lily D’Am­bro­sio.

The pro­gram was es­tab­lished to de­liver on rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Vic­to­rian Bush­fires Royal Com­mis­sion to re­duce the risk of pow­er­lines start­ing bush­fires.

The high volt­age pow­er­line re­place­ment works in Healesville, due for com­ple­tion in Jan­uary 2018, are be­ing ac­cel­er­ated for the com­ing sum­mer sea­son.

This will see a to­tal of 43km of bare-wire high volt­age pow­er­lines re­placed with safer tech­nol­ogy, en­sur­ing res­i­dents will ben­e­fit from in­creased safety.

“The risk this sum­mer is very real and we’re work­ing to en­sure Vic­to­ri­ans have the best pos­si­ble pro­tec­tion against bush­fires.”

Healesville and the sur­round­ing re­gion will also ben­e­fit from other safety ini­tia­tives in­clud­ing:

In­stal­la­tion of a new so­phis­ti­cated pro­tec­tion de­vice at the Woori Yal­lock zone sub-sta­tion pro­tect­ing over 650 km of pow­er­lines

In­stal­la­tion of 60 ad­justable au­to­matic cir­cuit re­closers

The pro­vi­sion of three back-up gen­er­a­tors in res­i­den­tial care fa­cil­i­ties in Healesville and a fur­ther nine in res­i­den­tial care fa­cil­i­ties in the Yarra Val­ley.

“By bury­ing th­ese pow­er­lines peo­ple in Healesville and sur­round­ing ar­eas will be safer if bush­fires strike,” said Emer­gency Ser­vices Min­is­ter James Mer­lino.

Fire au­thor­i­ties in all states and ter­ri­to­ries have been warn­ing of above nor­mal fire po­ten­tial this sum­mer. Gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and ma­jor forestry or­gan­i­sa­tions have been work­ing hand-in-hand to en­sure ev­ery­one is as well pre­pared as pos­si­ble.

Lach­lan Spencer, VicForests Gen­eral Man­ager Stake­hold­ers and Plan­ning said: “The Vic­to­rian tim­ber in­dus­try per­forms an im­por­tant ser­vice in fire sup­pres­sion. Our skilled staff, spe­cialised for­est equip­ment and road main­te­nance ac­tiv­ity pro­vides sig­nif­i­cant fire­fight­ing re­sources. “There are 63 cur­rent em­ploy­ees at VicForests that are skilled and trained in deal­ing with bush­fires and every year they work to­gether with For­est Fire Man­age­ment Vic­to­ria to help min­imise the risks and dev­as­ta­tion that ma­jor bush­fires bring with them,” he said.

The sit­u­a­tion is sim­i­lar through­out the na­tion.

■ Bush­fires .... the po­ten­tial is high but na­tion­wide ef­forts are be­ing co­or­di­nated to be ready.

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