Fire management changes

Fire management changes

29 July 2008

published by

Australia — A lot has been achieved since the January 2005 Wangary bushfire and there is still a lot left to do but CFS chief officer Euan Ferguson said the CFS had already changed for the better.

Mr Ferguson told a forum in Port Lincoln last Thursday what changes the CFS has made since the fire.

He said the Wangary bushfire was one of the defining moments in South Australia’s bushfire history.

“After every significant bushfire there is review and there is debrief and our systems change.

“The way we manage bushfire is informed by our experience and informed by research.”

Mr Ferguson said a lot of changes were implemented before the coronial inquest findings were handed down and there have been more changes since.

“We (CFS) are quite a different organisation in how we operate today than how we operated in 2005.”

Changes include new bushfire management courses, regional and State management teams, annual operational updates, use of a situation analysis tool, revised governance and committee structures, a new approach to bushfire risk planning, a greater emphasis on codes of practice, and changes to CFS command and incident management framework.

n Mr Ferguson said there was a move toward a landscape approach for fire prevention and management because fires don’t recognise council boundaries or who owns what land.

He said new Bushfire Management Committees would cover large zones based on climate, vegetation, land use, community attributes, and existing boundaries.

He said Port Lincoln’s Greater Port Lincoln Bushfire plan was an example of how these zones and plans would overlap council areas.

For example the north and west of Eyre Peninsula could have one committee and one plan across a number of local government areas.

Mr Ferguson said there would be community engagement to help define the boundaries of these zones.

n Mr Ferguson said it was often extremely difficult to liaise with landowners during major fires but the CFS has undertaken to consider appointing a landholder liaison officer on their incident management teams.

This will help the CFS take advantage of landholders’ local knowledge in relation to topography, vegetation, existing fire breaks and accessibility, and possible fire fighting strategies and containment measures.

n The CFS included risk assessment in annual operational update sessions before the inquest findings were handed down

n Since 2005 the CFS has implemented an electronic information system that simultaneously sends information from the fire ground to headquarters and to everyone on the network.

n A nationally accredited Suppress Wildfire Course has been developed and is mandatory for all CFS operational staff.

n The inquest called for pre-planned, trained level 2 incident management teams in each region and the CFS has responded with two of these teams for each region.

n The inquest recommended the Incident Controller and/or Planning Officers in level 2 incident management teams be professional, paid staff.

However Mr Ferguson said the CFS would continue to use both paid and unpaid people for these roles, based on demonstrated competency.

He said the CFS was moving toward a system to assess competency on an annual basis.

n The recommendation for the CFS to have a logistics officer on level 2 and level 3 incident management teams to locate water sources has been implemented but the CFS regional coordinator can choose to direct a water authority to fill the role.

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