Bushfire commission lashes government ‘failures’

Our View: Station Fire burns for second review

Read more:http://www.sgvtribune.com/opinions/ci_15141467#ixzz0pDT6Rxye
 

Bushfire commission lashes government ‘failures’

28 May 2010

published by www.theage.com.au


Haunted by specters of raging wildfires and horrific personal injuries, Arizona cities are preparing a counterattack on fireworks that were legalized this month by the state Legislature.

Selling consumer fireworks such as sparklers, ground-based fountains, pinwheels and snakes will be legal in Arizona as of Dec. 1 because of House Bill 2246. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and was signed May 10 by Gov. Jan Brewer.

 

Unlike a similar bill that Brewer vetoed last year, the new law allows cities to ban or restrict the use of such devices, and several are likely to do just that.

“There’s nobody within any of the mountain communities that feels fireworks and the forests are a good mix,” said Eric Kriwer, a division chief and spokesman for the Prescott Fire Department.

Kriwer said he has been in touch with fire departments across northern and eastern Arizona to see if the cities can develop a united front on the issue. One question is whether to ban the devices outright or allow their use when fire danger is low.

It’s an issue not just in the high country, where several towns have suffered disaster or had close calls over the past two decades. Valley cities also are concerned.

Mesa Councilman Scott Somers, who is a paramedic and fire engineer with the Phoenix Fire Department, said fire officials from across the Valley will meet next week to map a strategy.

The aim, he said, is “a rational law that restricts the use of fireworks near the wildland-urban interface but perhaps allows them in areas that are not susceptible” to wildfires.

“Wildland-urban interface” is a term firefighters and forest managers use to describe areas where homes are built close to, or even amid, fire-prone forests and desert vegetation. The Valley has several such areas.

“My nightmare scenario,” Somers said, “is a group of teenagers who buy fireworks, go out in the desert by Usery Mountain, light a brushfire, can’t put it out, and it carries right into homes. That’s the challenge we’re going to face.”

Although dry lightning causes numerous Arizona wildfires, including the 1995 Rio Fire in the McDowell Mountains north of Scottsdale and the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire, people are responsible for many others – sometimes accidentally and sometimes not.

Republic archives contain no records of major Arizona wildland fires caused by fireworks, but some urban fires have been.

In July 1987, fireworks ignited hay sheds at Turf Paradise; the blaze burned for two days. Two years later, fireworks torched a Phoenix home; four firefighters escaped serious injury when they fell through the roof.

A committee of the Mesa City Council planned this week to talk about a fireworks ordinance, but backed off when it learned the League of Arizona Cities and Towns is working on a model ordinance that cities can use.

“There have been a few (cities) that actually asked us if we would assist them in drafting an ordinance,” said Dale Wiebusch, the league’s legislative associate.

A unified approach makes sense, said Mesa Fire Department spokesman Mike Dunn. “I think we all need to be on the same page, but I don’t know what that page is yet,” he said.

Somers said fireworks also could cause problems in unincorporated areas. He said counties might need to draft laws.

Scottsdale, meanwhile, is likely to act soon, said that city’s fire marshal, Jim Ford.

“At this point, we’re putting together something that we can take to council,” he said. “With us here in Scottsdale, a third of our city is preserve, and citizens have paid for that.”

Ford said he knows of at least two cases where small fires in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve were started with bottle rockets, which will remain illegal.

It’s not just the threat of wildfires that concerns firefighters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 people died and an estimated 9,200 people required hospital treatment in 2006 for fireworks-related injuries in the United States. Sparklers caused 1,000 of those injuries and one-third of the people hurt by sparklers were younger than 5.

Kriwer said statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association showed 36 percent of fireworks-related injuries in 2007 were caused by the types of devices that Arizona is legalizing.

“Why in the world anybody would allow their children to play with these things is beyond me,” Somers said. “The tip of a sparkler burns at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. We scream at our children if they try to touch a sheet of cookies that just came out of the oven at 450 degrees, but we’ll hand them a sparkler. I don’t get that.”

Read more:http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2010/05/21/20100521arizona-fireworks-ban.html#ixzz0pDLNJ3yN
 

Haunted by specters of raging wildfires and horrific personal injuries, Arizona cities are preparing a counterattack on fireworks that were legalized this month by the state Legislature.

Selling consumer fireworks such as sparklers, ground-based fountains, pinwheels and snakes will be legal in Arizona as of Dec. 1 because of House Bill 2246. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and was signed May 10 by Gov. Jan Brewer.

 

Unlike a similar bill that Brewer vetoed last year, the new law allows cities to ban or restrict the use of such devices, and several are likely to do just that.

“There’s nobody within any of the mountain communities that feels fireworks and the forests are a good mix,” said Eric Kriwer, a division chief and spokesman for the Prescott Fire Department.

Kriwer said he has been in touch with fire departments across northern and eastern Arizona to see if the cities can develop a united front on the issue. One question is whether to ban the devices outright or allow their use when fire danger is low.

It’s an issue not just in the high country, where several towns have suffered disaster or had close calls over the past two decades. Valley cities also are concerned.

Mesa Councilman Scott Somers, who is a paramedic and fire engineer with the Phoenix Fire Department, said fire officials from across the Valley will meet next week to map a strategy.

The aim, he said, is “a rational law that restricts the use of fireworks near the wildland-urban interface but perhaps allows them in areas that are not susceptible” to wildfires.

“Wildland-urban interface” is a term firefighters and forest managers use to describe areas where homes are built close to, or even amid, fire-prone forests and desert vegetation. The Valley has several such areas.

“My nightmare scenario,” Somers said, “is a group of teenagers who buy fireworks, go out in the desert by Usery Mountain, light a brushfire, can’t put it out, and it carries right into homes. That’s the challenge we’re going to face.”

Although dry lightning causes numerous Arizona wildfires, including the 1995 Rio Fire in the McDowell Mountains north of Scottsdale and the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire, people are responsible for many others – sometimes accidentally and sometimes not.

Republic archives contain no records of major Arizona wildland fires caused by fireworks, but some urban fires have been.

In July 1987, fireworks ignited hay sheds at Turf Paradise; the blaze burned for two days. Two years later, fireworks torched a Phoenix home; four firefighters escaped serious injury when they fell through the roof.

A committee of the Mesa City Council planned this week to talk about a fireworks ordinance, but backed off when it learned the League of Arizona Cities and Towns is working on a model ordinance that cities can use.

“There have been a few (cities) that actually asked us if we would assist them in drafting an ordinance,” said Dale Wiebusch, the league’s legislative associate.

A unified approach makes sense, said Mesa Fire Department spokesman Mike Dunn. “I think we all need to be on the same page, but I don’t know what that page is yet,” he said.

Somers said fireworks also could cause problems in unincorporated areas. He said counties might need to draft laws.

Scottsdale, meanwhile, is likely to act soon, said that city’s fire marshal, Jim Ford.

“At this point, we’re putting together something that we can take to council,” he said. “With us here in Scottsdale, a third of our city is preserve, and citizens have paid for that.”

Ford said he knows of at least two cases where small fires in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve were started with bottle rockets, which will remain illegal.

It’s not just the threat of wildfires that concerns firefighters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 people died and an estimated 9,200 people required hospital treatment in 2006 for fireworks-related injuries in the United States. Sparklers caused 1,000 of those injuries and one-third of the people hurt by sparklers were younger than 5.

Kriwer said statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association showed 36 percent of fireworks-related injuries in 2007 were caused by the types of devices that Arizona is legalizing.

“Why in the world anybody would allow their children to play with these things is beyond me,” Somers said. “The tip of a sparkler burns at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. We scream at our children if they try to touch a sheet of cookies that just came out of the oven at 450 degrees, but we’ll hand them a sparkler. I don’t get that.”

Read more:http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2010/05/21/20100521arizona-fireworks-ban.html#ixzz0pDLNJ3yN
 

Haunted by specters of raging wildfires and horrific personal injuries, Arizona cities are preparing a counterattack on fireworks that were legalized this month by the state Legislature.

Selling consumer fireworks such as sparklers, ground-based fountains, pinwheels and snakes will be legal in Arizona as of Dec. 1 because of House Bill 2246. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and was signed May 10 by Gov. Jan Brewer.

 

Unlike a similar bill that Brewer vetoed last year, the new law allows cities to ban or restrict the use of such devices, and several are likely to do just that.

“There’s nobody within any of the mountain communities that feels fireworks and the forests are a good mix,” said Eric Kriwer, a division chief and spokesman for the Prescott Fire Department.

Kriwer said he has been in touch with fire departments across northern and eastern Arizona to see if the cities can develop a united front on the issue. One question is whether to ban the devices outright or allow their use when fire danger is low.

It’s an issue not just in the high country, where several towns have suffered disaster or had close calls over the past two decades. Valley cities also are concerned.

Mesa Councilman Scott Somers, who is a paramedic and fire engineer with the Phoenix Fire Department, said fire officials from across the Valley will meet next week to map a strategy.

The aim, he said, is “a rational law that restricts the use of fireworks near the wildland-urban interface but perhaps allows them in areas that are not susceptible” to wildfires.

“Wildland-urban interface” is a term firefighters and forest managers use to describe areas where homes are built close to, or even amid, fire-prone forests and desert vegetation. The Valley has several such areas.

“My nightmare scenario,” Somers said, “is a group of teenagers who buy fireworks, go out in the desert by Usery Mountain, light a brushfire, can’t put it out, and it carries right into homes. That’s the challenge we’re going to face.”

Although dry lightning causes numerous Arizona wildfires, including the 1995 Rio Fire in the McDowell Mountains north of Scottsdale and the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire, people are responsible for many others – sometimes accidentally and sometimes not.

Republic archives contain no records of major Arizona wildland fires caused by fireworks, but some urban fires have been.

In July 1987, fireworks ignited hay sheds at Turf Paradise; the blaze burned for two days. Two years later, fireworks torched a Phoenix home; four firefighters escaped serious injury when they fell through the roof.

A committee of the Mesa City Council planned this week to talk about a fireworks ordinance, but backed off when it learned the League of Arizona Cities and Towns is working on a model ordinance that cities can use.

“There have been a few (cities) that actually asked us if we would assist them in drafting an ordinance,” said Dale Wiebusch, the league’s legislative associate.

A unified approach makes sense, said Mesa Fire Department spokesman Mike Dunn. “I think we all need to be on the same page, but I don’t know what that page is yet,” he said.

Somers said fireworks also could cause problems in unincorporated areas. He said counties might need to draft laws.

Scottsdale, meanwhile, is likely to act soon, said that city’s fire marshal, Jim Ford.

“At this point, we’re putting together something that we can take to council,” he said. “With us here in Scottsdale, a third of our city is preserve, and citizens have paid for that.”

Ford said he knows of at least two cases where small fires in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve were started with bottle rockets, which will remain illegal.

It’s not just the threat of wildfires that concerns firefighters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 people died and an estimated 9,200 people required hospital treatment in 2006 for fireworks-related injuries in the United States. Sparklers caused 1,000 of those injuries and one-third of the people hurt by sparklers were younger than 5.

Kriwer said statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association showed 36 percent of fireworks-related injuries in 2007 were caused by the types of devices that Arizona is legalizing.

“Why in the world anybody would allow their children to play with these things is beyond me,” Somers said. “The tip of a sparkler burns at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. We scream at our children if they try to touch a sheet of cookies that just came out of the oven at 450 degrees, but we’ll hand them a sparkler. I don’t get that.”

Read more:http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2010/05/21/20100521arizona-fireworks-ban.html#ixzz0pDLNJ3yN
 

Haunted by specters of raging wildfires and horrific personal injuries, Arizona cities are preparing a counterattack on fireworks that were legalized this month by the state Legislature.

Selling consumer fireworks such as sparklers, ground-based fountains, pinwheels and snakes will be legal in Arizona as of Dec. 1 because of House Bill 2246. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and was signed May 10 by Gov. Jan Brewer.

 

Unlike a similar bill that Brewer vetoed last year, the new law allows cities to ban or restrict the use of such devices, and several are likely to do just that.

“There’s nobody within any of the mountain communities that feels fireworks and the forests are a good mix,” said Eric Kriwer, a division chief and spokesman for the Prescott Fire Department.

Kriwer said he has been in touch with fire departments across northern and eastern Arizona to see if the cities can develop a united front on the issue. One question is whether to ban the devices outright or allow their use when fire danger is low.

It’s an issue not just in the high country, where several towns have suffered disaster or had close calls over the past two decades. Valley cities also are concerned.

Mesa Councilman Scott Somers, who is a paramedic and fire engineer with the Phoenix Fire Department, said fire officials from across the Valley will meet next week to map a strategy.

The aim, he said, is “a rational law that restricts the use of fireworks near the wildland-urban interface but perhaps allows them in areas that are not susceptible” to wildfires.

“Wildland-urban interface” is a term firefighters and forest managers use to describe areas where homes are built close to, or even amid, fire-prone forests and desert vegetation. The Valley has several such areas.

“My nightmare scenario,” Somers said, “is a group of teenagers who buy fireworks, go out in the desert by Usery Mountain, light a brushfire, can’t put it out, and it carries right into homes. That’s the challenge we’re going to face.”

Although dry lightning causes numerous Arizona wildfires, including the 1995 Rio Fire in the McDowell Mountains north of Scottsdale and the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire, people are responsible for many others – sometimes accidentally and sometimes not.

Republic archives contain no records of major Arizona wildland fires caused by fireworks, but some urban fires have been.

In July 1987, fireworks ignited hay sheds at Turf Paradise; the blaze burned for two days. Two years later, fireworks torched a Phoenix home; four firefighters escaped serious injury when they fell through the roof.

A committee of the Mesa City Council planned this week to talk about a fireworks ordinance, but backed off when it learned the League of Arizona Cities and Towns is working on a model ordinance that cities can use.

“There have been a few (cities) that actually asked us if we would assist them in drafting an ordinance,” said Dale Wiebusch, the league’s legislative associate.

A unified approach makes sense, said Mesa Fire Department spokesman Mike Dunn. “I think we all need to be on the same page, but I don’t know what that page is yet,” he said.

Somers said fireworks also could cause problems in unincorporated areas. He said counties might need to draft laws.

Scottsdale, meanwhile, is likely to act soon, said that city’s fire marshal, Jim Ford.

“At this point, we’re putting together something that we can take to council,” he said. “With us here in Scottsdale, a third of our city is preserve, and citizens have paid for that.”

Ford said he knows of at least two cases where small fires in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve were started with bottle rockets, which will remain illegal.

It’s not just the threat of wildfires that concerns firefighters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 people died and an estimated 9,200 people required hospital treatment in 2006 for fireworks-related injuries in the United States. Sparklers caused 1,000 of those injuries and one-third of the people hurt by sparklers were younger than 5.

Kriwer said statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association showed 36 percent of fireworks-related injuries in 2007 were caused by the types of devices that Arizona is legalizing.

“Why in the world anybody would allow their children to play with these things is beyond me,” Somers said. “The tip of a sparkler burns at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. We scream at our children if they try to touch a sheet of cookies that just came out of the oven at 450 degrees, but we’ll hand them a sparkler. I don’t get that.”

Read more:http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2010/05/21/20100521arizona-fireworks-ban.html#ixzz0pDLNJ3yN
 

Haunted by specters of raging wildfires and horrific personal injuries, Arizona cities are preparing a counterattack on fireworks that were legalized this month by the state Legislature.

Selling consumer fireworks such as sparklers, ground-based fountains, pinwheels and snakes will be legal in Arizona as of Dec. 1 because of House Bill 2246. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and was signed May 10 by Gov. Jan Brewer.

 

Unlike a similar bill that Brewer vetoed last year, the new law allows cities to ban or restrict the use of such devices, and several are likely to do just that.

“There’s nobody within any of the mountain communities that feels fireworks and the forests are a good mix,” said Eric Kriwer, a division chief and spokesman for the Prescott Fire Department.

Kriwer said he has been in touch with fire departments across northern and eastern Arizona to see if the cities can develop a united front on the issue. One question is whether to ban the devices outright or allow their use when fire danger is low.

It’s an issue not just in the high country, where several towns have suffered disaster or had close calls over the past two decades. Valley cities also are concerned.

Mesa Councilman Scott Somers, who is a paramedic and fire engineer with the Phoenix Fire Department, said fire officials from across the Valley will meet next week to map a strategy.

The aim, he said, is “a rational law that restricts the use of fireworks near the wildland-urban interface but perhaps allows them in areas that are not susceptible” to wildfires.

“Wildland-urban interface” is a term firefighters and forest managers use to describe areas where homes are built close to, or even amid, fire-prone forests and desert vegetation. The Valley has several such areas.

“My nightmare scenario,” Somers said, “is a group of teenagers who buy fireworks, go out in the desert by Usery Mountain, light a brushfire, can’t put it out, and it carries right into homes. That’s the challenge we’re going to face.”

Although dry lightning causes numerous Arizona wildfires, including the 1995 Rio Fire in the McDowell Mountains north of Scottsdale and the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire, people are responsible for many others – sometimes accidentally and sometimes not.

Republic archives contain no records of major Arizona wildland fires caused by fireworks, but some urban fires have been.

In July 1987, fireworks ignited hay sheds at Turf Paradise; the blaze burned for two days. Two years later, fireworks torched a Phoenix home; four firefighters escaped serious injury when they fell through the roof.

A committee of the Mesa City Council planned this week to talk about a fireworks ordinance, but backed off when it learned the League of Arizona Cities and Towns is working on a model ordinance that cities can use.

“There have been a few (cities) that actually asked us if we would assist them in drafting an ordinance,” said Dale Wiebusch, the league’s legislative associate.

A unified approach makes sense, said Mesa Fire Department spokesman Mike Dunn. “I think we all need to be on the same page, but I don’t know what that page is yet,” he said.

Somers said fireworks also could cause problems in unincorporated areas. He said counties might need to draft laws.

Scottsdale, meanwhile, is likely to act soon, said that city’s fire marshal, Jim Ford.

“At this point, we’re putting together something that we can take to council,” he said. “With us here in Scottsdale, a third of our city is preserve, and citizens have paid for that.”

Ford said he knows of at least two cases where small fires in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve were started with bottle rockets, which will remain illegal.

It’s not just the threat of wildfires that concerns firefighters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 people died and an estimated 9,200 people required hospital treatment in 2006 for fireworks-related injuries in the United States. Sparklers caused 1,000 of those injuries and one-third of the people hurt by sparklers were younger than 5.

Kriwer said statistics from the National Fire Prevention Association showed 36 percent of fireworks-related injuries in 2007 were caused by the types of devices that Arizona is legalizing.

“Why in the world anybody would allow their children to play with these things is beyond me,” Somers said. “The tip of a sparkler burns at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. We scream at our children if they try to touch a sheet of cookies that just came out of the oven at 450 degrees, but we’ll hand them a sparkler. I don’t get that.”

Read more:http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2010/05/21/20100521arizona-fireworks-ban.html#ixzz0pDLNJ3yN
 THE state government faces a brutal week at the Bushfires Royal Commission, as the lawyers assisting the commission accuse it of ”substantial policy failure” that placed ”at least some of those who died at great risk”.

In a devastating critique of the state’s management of bushfires over many years, the submissions to be put to commission chairman Bernard Teague, and seen byThe Sunday Age, say the government and its fire agencies have still ”failed to grasp” that the ”stay or go” policy has been discredited, preferring to ”tinker” with it during the recent fire season.

”There has been substantial policy failure … the existing policy should be abandoned,” the final draft submission says.

‘It is known that the policy itself … placed at least some of those who died at great risk.”

The commission’s lawyers, led by Jack Rush, QC, call for the abandonment of the policy because it contributed to the deaths of some of the 173 people killed on Black Saturday.

They call for voluntary evacuation to be introduced as the primary response and are scathing about the slow pace of identifying and building refuges for those who cannot leave.

”It is extraordinary that as late as April 2010, the state is still in the position of running workshops directed at preparing a discussion paper about refuges … the progress to date has been glacial and it is submitted that the delay is inexcusable,” counsel assisting will say.

They will advise the commissioners to urge the government to produce a new policy on refuges by September 30 at the latest, and have shelters in all at-risk communities by the next fire season.

They also say the current number of designated shelters in Victoria, 73, ”seems extraordinarily low” compared to NSW’s 600.

With an election in November, the state government has been keen to limit the political damage from the royal commission, but the submissions point to failures of government policy going back at least a decade, particularly by persisting with ”stay or go” despite substantial evidence, commissioned by the Country Fire Authority, that it did not work.

The government is also accused of ”the worst traditions of management-speak” by using timid words such as ”relocation” instead of the stronger ”evacuation”, and for creating terms such as ”Neighbourhood Safer Places – Places of Last Resort”, which are better called ”shelters”.

Another submission, to be presented this week, condemns the entire upper hierarchy of the fire and police services, including former police commissioner Christine Nixon and retiring Country Fire Authority chief Russell Rees, who they say ”presented as managers, not leaders”.

”The evidence leaves a sense of bewilderment … a lamentable lack of responsibility and leadership from the most senior personnel involved in the response to the unfolding disaster,” the submission says.

A third submission recommends a new structure for fire agencies, with the CFA chief officer fully in charge on a bushfire day, and a new supervisory board trying to iron out the conflicts between agencies.

Commission chairman Teague will consider the submissions – and the response to them by lawyers acting for the government and other parties – and deliver his final report to the government on July 31.

The government’s lawyer, Allan Myers, QC, is expected to reject some submissions, particularly in relation to how leaders responded on Black Saturday.

The submission dealing with ”stay or go” – the policy officially known as ”prepare, stay and defend or leave early” – is the most critical. The commission’s lawyers say it should be replaced by a new policy called the ”Bushfire Safety Policy”.

Under this policy, evacuation from the fire zone should become ”the primary protective action to be considered for a community threatened by fire”. Fire agencies, in consultation with local communities, should make detailed evacuation plans for each town, with contingency plans for fires coming from different directions.

On the day of the fire, the incident controller would be responsible for ordering a voluntary evacuation, because he or she has access to the best local information. Only when evacuation is not safe should people seek shelter, either in their home or in a designated refuge or shelter. Every vulnerable town should have at least one shelter by the next fire season.

The counsel assisting will ask royal commissioners Teague, Susan Pascoe and Ron McLeod to find that leaving late from a fire zone is not nearly as dangerous as fire agencies continue to believe. Black Saturday, they say, has ”turned that … on its head”.

The submissions make stinging criticisms of the policy that stood in the lead-up to Black Saturday. In spite of faults that had been pointed out in the CFA’s own studies in 1999 and 2004, ”stay or go” was so dominant that it ”forbade CFA personnel from advising or providing residents with direction”.

The policy meant that all but one of the state’s fire refuges was decommissioned, because they ”sat somehow outside the … policy”, and because ”policy consistency” was more important than what worked in practice.

The policy glossed over the risks and difficulty of defending a home against fire, it left hard judgments up to individuals without any help from authorities, and it left people without second options.

It even ”promoted the extraordinary position” that warnings of approaching fire were only for those who were well prepared – so they failed to inform people about how to escape.

”Stay or go” had convinced many people, wrongly, that they were capable of defending their properties, the lawyers will say. The people of Pine Ridge Road in Kinglake, for example, would have been better off leaving, ”even when the fire had reached the street and houses were alight”.

The lawyers will argue that the government’s faith in the policy is based on the ”badly misplaced” idea that people can be ”re-educated” to change their behaviour. But most people will always ”wait and see” if a fire is threatening them before they make a decision to act.

As a result of these failings, ”when fires commenced to burn across the landscape on 7 February, the community was, because of the stay or go policy, pre-disposed to suffer major losses”.

However, the counsel will say that blindness to these faults is alive and well, despite the commission’s interim report which called for fundamental change. Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin told the commission last month that the real problem was in the ”selling” of the message.

The lawyers will say this approach is ”disquieting” and that it is ”regrettable” that ”a plain and open acknowledgement of the failures of the ‘stay or go’ policy was … not forthcoming”.

 

Last Updated: Thursday, May 20, 2010 | 6:49 PM CTComments21Recommend16

A 3,500-hectare fire continued to consume forest near Berens River First Nation on Thursday.A 3,500-hectare fire continued to consume forest near Berens River First Nation on Thursday.(Province of Manitoba)Fifty-five people from Berens River First Nation were airlifted out of the Manitoba community Wednesday night because of a health hazard posed by billowing smoke from a massive forest fire burning nearby.

Of 136 forest fires currently burning in the province, the one 24 kilometres northeast of the reserve is the largest at 3,500 hectares, fire officials said.

About 80 firefighters are battling the fire, and the province is using water bombers and other aircraft to try and contain it.

Fire officials said they believe a person set the fire but can’t say yet whether they did so intentionally.

People living on the reserve were forced out largely because the smoke was so thick it presented a health hazard for people with respiratory problems.

Three planes were contracted to airlift them to Winnipeg, about 270 kilometres southwest of the reserve.

Rene McKay told CBC News he’s lived on the reserve all his life and has never seen such heavy smoke.

“Never — not that close anyway. It was quite heavy, McKay said.

Officials said the fire poses no threat to homes or other buildings in the community.

The fire risk is high throughout the area because it has been an extremely dry spring, officials said.Billowing smoke from the fire forced the province to airlift 55 people from the community on Wednesday night. Billowing smoke from the fire forced the province to airlift 55 people from the community on Wednesday night. (Province of Manitoba)

Read more:http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/05/20/man-berens-river-forest-fire.html#ixzz0pDI9Rvfp
 Billowing smoke from the fire forced the province to airlift 55 people from the community on Wednesday night. (Province of Manitoba)

Read more:http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/05/20/man-berens-river-forest-fire.html#ixzz0pDIsVG00
 


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