Time to bring in the big guns in Tasmania´s bushfire fight

Time to bring in the big guns in Tasmania’s bushfire fight

25 January 2016

published by www.themercury.com.au

Australia — FIRES ravaging the Tasman­ian wilderness are a major historical event, says bushfire expert David Bowman.

University of Tasmania’s Professor David Bowman said the number of fires and the Area burnt was unprecedented and previously unimaginable.

He said the inferno, which has burnt at least 52,000ha of Tasmania’s World Heritage Area, was a taste of things to come as climate change ­progressed.

“Previously I was sitting on the fence. It is difficult for a scientist to come out and say, ‘this is the real deal’, with ­climate change,’’ he said.

Prof Bowman said rather than allocating blame for the possible destruction of irreplaceable pencil pines and cushion plants in highland areas — and rainforests on the West Coast — it was time for Tasmanians to work out a new way to protect wilderness.

“We need to invest in the training of more volunteers to fight fires in wilderness areas … and in water bombing aircraft,’’ he said.

Prof Bowman said the Tasmania Fire Service would ­always have to put a large proportion of its resources into protecting people and property, ahead of wilderness areas.

Among the largest concentrations of firefighting ­resour-ces in the past week has been on a 790ha fire in the Nuna­mara area, which has threat­ened property but is far from the World Heritage Area.

For now specialist remote area crews from interstate have been sent into wilderness areas in the Central Highlands, Cradle Mountain and West Coast regions, where they are taking advantage of cooler weather in an effort to control fires.

World Heritage expert Geoff Law said coming days were shaping up to be a “make or break week’’.

“Fire is poised to wipe out the epicentre of Tasmania’s ­alpine country,’’ Mr Law said.

He called on the Federal Government to allocate emergency funds “to acquire every RAC capacity in the country’’.As a blaze continues to burn out of control in northwest Tasmania, extending an emergency warning for residents, a senior firefighter says authorities face weeks more work.

The small shack community of Temma remained on high alert for a second day on Thursday with the Tasmania Fire Service warning of an ‘uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast-moving’ fire, which has already burned through almost 13,000 hectares.

While outhouses, fencing and verandas have been destroyed, there are no reports of dwelling damage, injury or loss of livestock.

Four people have been treated for smoke inhalation.

The areas of Nelson Bay and Arthur River remain on alert and the Nelson Bay Bridge has been destroyed.

Deputy chief Jeremy Smith says forecast rain over coming days will bring little, if any, relief.

‘We’re only anticipating potentially up to 20mm over the three or four days over the weekend so that is not enough rain to extinguish these fires,’ he told ABC Radio.

‘We’ve got many weeks of going through the fire lines and ensuring they’re completely out.’

The fire was one of more than 70 started across the state over a fortnight ago during a series of dry-lightning strikes.

Many of the blazes are burning in remote, difficult-to-access areas, including sections of protected old-growth forest.

Access to Cradle Mountain in the state’s central north has been closed, along with the popular Overland Track, from which trekkers were being air-winched to safety late on Wednesday.

On Thursday fire crews are due to start arriving from New Zealand to join local and interstate personnel.

‘The crews will have to go and do the hard slog and track every edge of those fires,’ Mr Smith said.

Forty helicopters, including some on loan from interstate, are being used to water bomb the fire in difficult-to-reach areas, while radar technology is proving helpful as smoke reduces visibility.

– See more at: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2016/01/28/bushfires-ravage-tasmania.html#sthash.xL1EW6NF.dpuf

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