Commissioner rejects calls for Blue Mountains fires inquiry

Commissioner rejects calls for BlueMountains fires inquiry

11 December 2006

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Australia — New South Wales Rural Fire Services (RFS)commissioner Phil Koperberg has rejected calls for a public inquiry into therecent fires in the Blue Mountains.

The State Opposition says an independent investigation isneeded into the way the bushfires were handled.

Opposition environment spokesman Michael Richardson saysa historic stand of blue gum trees in the Grose Valley was sacrificed due to alack of proper fire planning.

He says better remote firefighting methods are needed inthe future.

“There is a feeling that the backburning ordered byPhil Koperberg may have worsened the fire, destroyed biodiversity and placedseveral townships in the Blue Mountains at risk,” he said.

But Mr Koperberg says only a proportion of the GroseValley was burnt.

“I could well imagine, had we been counting houselosses or life losses today that there ought to be an inquiry, and I probablywould have supported it, but such is not the case,” he said.

“There are a few people around … who believe froma vantage point well removed from the actual fire fight that we should have doneit another way.

“Well there may be merits in that proposal, but itcertainly doesn’t require an independent review.”

Environmental lobby groups are also pushing for anindependent inquiry into the bushfire.

Colong Foundation for Wilderness spokesman Keith Muirsays the blue gum forest in the Grose Valley was the birthplace of the modernconservation movement more than 70 years ago.

Mr Muir says an inquiry is not a criticism offirefighters, but a way of preserving heritage areas.

“The understorey of the blue gum has gone, the treeshave been scarred around the base by the fire and there’ll be considerable treedeaths,” he said.

“If this was a row of houses there’d certainly be athorough inquiry into what went wrong.”

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