Associations go head to head over fire management

Associations go head to head over fire management

11 July 2013

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Australia — A union representing volunteer firefighters says a bushfire at Coonabarabran that destroyed 53 homes and burned for weeks could have been less devastating if it had been managed differently.

The Volunteer Fire Fighters Association has criticised the Rural Fire Service (RFS) for not properly implementing the ‘Canobolas model’ an overarching fire management package, endorsed in 2006, that includes national parks, crown and private lands.

The Association’s President Peter Cannon says under the model, the outcomes of January’s bushfire would have been different.

“The Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers stated that the Canobolas Plan’s been split up into the risk management plan,” he said.

“Well, I’m having trouble trying to find it, if it’s been split up where the hell is it, because we cannot see anywhere there’s evidence of it being used.

“Now this is what we’re about is preventing fires and not reacting to fires.”

He says the advice of local volunteers was largely ignored by the RFS.

“I was invited up to the Toorawheena area to meet with captains that were at that fire and I just couldn’t believe after hearing some of the feedback that I was getting, how that fire was run.

“I just could not believe that local knowledge was ignored, the captains were ignored, now this is your greatest asset you got in fighting a fire is your captains on the ground and your local knowledge.”

However, another organisation representing firefighters says the Canobolas model has been implemented, but is split up into what are known as Bushfire Risk Management Plans.

The Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) represents both volunteers and paid staff of the RFS.

An inquiry into the bushfire has been listed for call over in the state’s Coroner’s court in November.

The RFSA’s Vice President and paid staff member of the RFS David Hoadley, has praised the work of volunteers, saying the response was excellent.

“The volunteers in that community did an excellent job in responding the way they did.

“Sure, there was significant losses but the conditions were extreme and catastrophic and sometimes we just have to move from putting the fire out to protecting life and property.”

” I’d only encourage the Coonabarabran community to learn from what happened this time and I’m sure that the community and the fire protection that’s provided for it in future will be of an excellent standard.”

The Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers says local firefighters were involved in the response to the blaze, from its earliest stages until it was extinguished.

He says Coonabarabran exceeded the state average for Hazard Reduction Burns, in the lead up to the fire.

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