Cool burns cut fire risk

But they need lo­cals’ ap­proval

Daily Mercury - - NEWS - ZIZI AVER­ILL Zizi.Aver­[email protected]­ly­mer­cury.com.au

THE prop­erty de­struc­tion, ter­ror and chaos of the Finch Hat­ton fires last week could have been avoided had there been con­trolled burns over the past three years, ac­cord­ing to the Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice’s act­ing re­gional man­ager (Cen­tral) An­drew Houley.

Planned burns around the Finch Hat­ton ranges down to Mount Pin­na­cle had re­peat­edly re­ceived ap­proval by ru­ral fire bri­gades, fire war­dens and na­tional parks rep­re­sen­ta­tives and a ma­jor­ity of landown­ers. But for the past three years they burns have been ve­toed by a hand­ful of res­i­dents.

Mr Houley said a few res­i­dents had been con­cerned with is­sues in­clud­ing the lev­els of smoke, the dif­fi­culty of or­gan­is­ing and con­trol­ling the fire and po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­ment ef­fects of con­trolled burns.

Mr Houley said the con­trolled burns had to be can­celled, say­ing, “if two peo­ple in the mid­dle don’t want to be in­volved well you can’t skip them – they’re there. You can’t go above them and you can’t go be­low them”.

Rather than burn­ing fuel in the cooler months of the year, Finch Hat­ton was dev­as­tated by the roar­ing fire that tore through the re­gion in the dri­est, hottest time of the year.

“The more we burn and the more fuel we re­duce, the less risk there will be for a big­ger fire.”

Mr Houley said it was “naivety and ig­no­rance” of these res­i­dents that re­sulted in fire fuel loads reach­ing a crit­i­cal mass.

Older land own­ers have been frus­trated by the lack of con­trolled burns, Mr Houley said, as newly ar­rived res­i­dents “didn’t lis­ten to the lo­cals”.

While veg­e­ta­tion laws and land clear­ing poli­cies have been blamed by many, Mr Houley said it was a lack of “com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­pro­mise” that left all Finch Hat­ton res­i­dents vul­ner­a­ble to bush­fires.

He said Finch Hat­ton suf­fered from a “bro­ken re­la­tion­ship be­tween res­i­dents and (na­ture) re­serves”.

A num­ber of con­flicts over land man­age­ment, es­pe­cially in re­la­tion to fire poli­cies, had led to dis­trust be­tween cat­tle farms, cane grow­ers, life­style blocks and na­tional parks in the re­gion.

The veg­e­ta­tion laws “wisely” pro­tected rare forestry and wildlife but “you will never have a per­fect one-size fits all to any leg­is­la­tion”.

Res­i­dents may com­plain the laws re­strict their abil­ity to de­fend prop­erty but “if peo­ple go through the right pro­cesses they can work through (the rules)”.

Photo: Emma Mur­ray

NAR­ROW ES­CAPE: Fire­fight­ers saved this house in Finch Hat­ton when fire swept through the re­gion re­cently.

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