Backburning no solution to bushfires: RFS chief

Backburning no solution to bushfires: RFS chief

15 December 2013

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Australia — The commissioner of the Rural Fire Service says a new Climate Council report into bushfires, which calls for a five-fold increase in hazard reduction burning in the Sydney region, is ”too simplistic”.

A key finding of the report states: ”One analysis indicated that under a relatively modest warming scenario, the area of prescribed burning in the Sydney region would need to increase two- to three-fold to counteract the increased fire activity. Under a more realistic scenario, the amount of hazard reduction will need to increase five-fold.”

The report also states, in the Blue Mountains, approximately 38,000 homes are within 200 metres of bushland, and 30,000 are within 100 metres, with many homes backing directly onto bushland.

Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said: ”I think it is way too simplistic to single out any one argument and say this is what we have got to do going forwards.

”If you look at NSW, if we knew then what we know today a lot of those suburbs, townships and villages simply wouldn’t be allowed to be built in the way that they were. There are at least 1.2 million properties directly on the bushland interface around NSW.

”Let’s not forget it is called hazard reduction not hazard elimination, you are not going to stop fires.”

He said that many in the community regularly complained about respiratory illnesses and transport difficulties during controlled burning, and the wine industry was concerned about smoke damaging harvests.

”Saying you should burn a percentage of the landscape every year is way too simplistic,” he said.

The report concludes: ”This is the critical decade to get on with the job. Australia must strive to cut its emissions rapidly and deeply to join global efforts to stabilise the world’s climate and to reduce the risk of even more extreme events, including bushfires.”

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