MY observations on National Parks and RFS personnel during the recent November/December fires, and some suggestions on how to improve such events.
Firstly, local landowners were treated as kindergarten kids by the hierarchy of the above organisations. Suggestions of how to go about easing the fire threat by landowners who have lived in this area and seen many fires in their lifetime were greeted with threat of prosecution if their actions were to be carried out. In fact, three landowners that I know of in this area were issued with threats of serious fines and prosecution for legally carrying out hazard reduction burning in July and August, long before the fire problem.
The reduction burns that did occur subsequently saved at least one house and a large quantity of fencing in the area.
The actions that annoyed most locals and landowners were the complete waste of taxpayers' money sending choppers with precious water taken from dams and put on fires in mountain areas with no possible effect. Also, clearing of fire breaks by bulldozers, with no intention of back burning when the wind was suitable.
Dozer operators report that 99 per cent of all trails ended up burnt on both sides. Both these actions cost millions of dollars with very little effect.
Speaking to many RFS, locals and landowners, many firebreaks had many days of suitable conditions to back burn only to be told by National Parks and senior RFS that in no way would back burns be permitted. Many properties could have been saved if local RFS could have made decisions for their areas instead of having to wait for and obey decisions made by people with little knowledge of local conditions at the time.
The format for fire control by Parks and RFS has to change. The current way of fire control in the recent event is proof that it does not work. Something must change. More planes and choppers are not the answer. The anti-fire attitude of these organisations is the first thing that has to change. Then there has to be a proactive approach to this fire problem - not a reactive approach as is the present policy.
There are many examples where these organisations get offside with locals trying to protect their assets.
The local RFS as mentioned before do a mighty job but they are frustrated by red tape from above.
There is very little forward planning. All their thinking as I have witnessed is reactive.
One such incident involved the blocking of the Hickeys Creek fire on my property at Hickeys Creek and Taylors Arm. This was the only place that the fire could be stopped before reaching Billybyang, Sundown Valley, Brothers Settlement, Bakers Creek and east of Hickeys Creek. Yet no one from the RFS bothered to look at a map and act on this. Instead, landowners from Taylors Arm and Hickeys Creek spent two big days with our own dozer and Toyota with spray rigs to block this fire.
My policy in life is that if you think something is not right or not working you must come up with a better solution.
My suggestion is a committee be formed comprising the captain of each volunteer brigade in the valley, several landowners, a National Parks and a Forestry rep and a local Aboriginal Elder. This committee would meet at least twice a year and work out a hazard reduction plan for our shire. This would involve plans to burn areas at least every five to six years.