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18 Oct 2013

No Fuel Reduction Burns, No Backburns And No Firemen

Comment.  We lay the blame for last January's Tasmanian bushfires with the Labor-Green government. They were so busy cutting costs they ignored an entire report on bushfires.
From the Mercury.   
Requests by locals for backburns to try to contain the fire that destroyed Dunalley were denied the night before the fire ran out of control into the town, it has been revealed.
But the state's fire chief says a more aggressive attack on the fire by backburning could have made things worse, not better. Public submissions to the Hyde inquiry into last summer's devastating bushfires were revealed yesterday with some identifying information redacted.
The strongest criticism from some local farmers centred on a failure to backburn, while other locals complained of late evacuation warnings and an inflexible police roadblock policy.
In his submission, Robert Downie said his discussions with Tasmania Fire Service personnel on January 3 confirmed their expectation the fire would hit Dunalley the following day.
"[Name redacted] a long-serving and highly respected member of the Dunalley brigade, my brother and myself were desperately seeking approval to backburn on the Thursday evening or Friday morning but head office said no," he said.
"A backburn from the highway and [redacted] paddocks would have been risky but the alternative of doing nothing was more catastrophic."
A submission from a Dunalley farming group to the inquiry said the night before the fire raged out of control across the Tasman Peninsula, requests to use established tracks to conduct backburns were denied. Tasmania Fire Service chief officer Mike Brown said backburning would have been counter-productive.
"We very regularly use backburning as a very effective technique in bushfire fighting ... but there are times when we don't backburn," he said.
"The research we've done shows that if there was backburning done down Copping way the fire would have reached Dunalley earlier than it did."

In his submission, Geoff Curran said he understood why fire crews withdrew from Dunalley when the fire front approached but he did not understand why they did not return.
He said there were many "eminently controllable" fires that could have been extinguished after the fire front had passed.
"Dunalley was left to burn while the fire crews were off chasing the fire down the peninsula," he said.
Mr Brown said fire crews were flat out defending communities farther south.
"If we'd had more crews there it probably wouldn't have made much difference," he said.

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