Australia– Unlike drought, which creeps through the boundary fence and quietly eats away at each individual’s business and the social well being of towns out of the government’s sight, a firestorm razes all in its path, making it impossible to ignore.
Media attention attracts politicians like moths to a flame to express empathy and explain all the government is doing to fight the fires.
Yet, we’re still reactively focused instead of being proactive.
With the number of reviews into bushfires one aspect is becoming clearer – genuine attempt for actioning real change fades soon after the last embers die and the media spotlight disappears.
The reviews – which are important for those hit by the fires to find answers as to why the devastation occurred – tend to be hijacked as political flag flying and in the midst of the finger pointing, the actioning of useful change is forgotten.
Any given review – and there have been a few – is no silver bullet, but we keep winding up in the same place when each catastrophic fire season comes around.
We know what could help – better preventative burning regimes, improved telecommunications, better fire trail access into national parks, research to grow our understanding, faster response times and so the list goes on.
Research is underway at the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre to understand the effect of fuel reduction fires on soils and vegetation.
However, the subject is treated as if we’ve never used fire in this country before.
We know with a mosaic pattern of cool fires we can reduce the risk of big fires without wiping out vegetation.
We did, after all, inherit an intact landscape from the indigenous Australians.
So why can’t we put more resources into conducting more of these types of burns so we can achieve more when the conditions are right?
The status quo is only going to maintain the risk of extreme fires.
We’ve seen the alternative in the Canberra, Wambelong and Victoria’s Black Saturday fires, yet we still sit on our hands.
We need prospective action, not another review.
It seems a fire needs to be lit under our politicians before they’ll act, so let’s not allow them to forget that we want action.