California scraps Aussie bushfire policy

California scraps Aussie bushfire policy

29 May 2009

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USA — Californian fire chiefs have abandoned the controversial “Stay and Defend” policy following Victoria’s devastating Black Saturday bushfires.

Many California counties were supporters of Stay and Defend after positive reports from Australian fire officials before February 7 bushfires that killed 173 people in Victoria, with 113 dying in their homes.

With what is expected to be a horror summer fire season approaching in drought-ravaged California, fire chiefs of some of its most populous counties – Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Orange, San Bernadino, Riverside and Ventura – announced this week they had scrapped Stay and Defend and would go with an alternative plan, Ready, Set, Go!

Fire chiefs in other counties have also abandoned Stay and Defend.

“They are all in agreement with the Ready, Set, Go! campaign,” Captain Michael Brown, spokesperson forLA County Fire Department, said.

“It is better understood by people who live in an urban interface as opposed to Stay and Defend.

Santa Barbara instituted Stay and Defend in their county, but quickly changed their thoughts due to what went on down in Australia.

“We in LA County examined Stay and Defend, but decided we would be more attuned to Ready, Set Go! because it offered more of an understanding to civilians of what they can do to prepare for wildfires.”

US Stay and Defend programs educate homeowners on how to defend their properties if they refuse to follow evacuation orders.

Research shows homes can be saved if floating embers from nearby fires are put out quickly by residents who stay behind to protect their properties.

The Ready, Set, Go! program focuses on early evacuation, clearing brush area around homes and using materials that help protect against flying embers and flames.

The 40C-plus summer days expected in the months ahead and the state’s drought conditions are not the only dilemmas facing California firefighters.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, struggling to fill California’s $US24 billion ($30 billion) budget deficit, is preparing to slash services across the state, including firefighting budgets.

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