Australia — Western Australian foresters have welcomed the appointment of Euan Ferguson to conduct an independent inquiry into the devastating bushfire that affected Yarloop, Waroona and adjoining communities in January 2016.
Mr Fergusons background as a professional forester and fire fighter will stand him in good stead to investigate the fire and the way it was managed, said John Clarke, bushfire spokesman for the Western Australian Division of the Institute of Foresters. Mr Ferguson has extensive experience in managing bushfires, has held senior positions with rural fire authorities in South Australia and Victoria and is widely respected as a leader and strategic thinker.
The Institute of Foresters believes that the inquiry should pay particular attention to land management that may have contributed to the scale, intensity and difficulty in controlling the fire during its initial run on 6 January. The fire burned through State forest, heavily disturbed as a result of bauxite mining operations. Fragmentation of native forest within the Willowdale minesite has made it impossible to undertake effective broadscale fuel reduction burning in this area for several decades said Mr Clarke.
Changes in land use on the coastal plain are also likely to have contributed to the large size of the fire. Agricultural land uses have changed in the past decade following the termination of open channel irrigation and many properties now include dryland farming which will carry fire during the dry summer months said Mr Clarke. The network of channels and drains act as wicks that allow a bushfire to spread very rapidly through the landscape. There is clearly a need for better management of fuels in remnant vegetation on the coastal plain, particularly close to settlements and main roads.
The Institute of Foresters has previously expressed concern at the growing number of large and damaging summer bushfires in south-west Western Australia. Bushfires are having severe impacts on forested water catchments, commercial tree plantations, productive regrowth forests and a wide range of forest amenity values important to the community. Native animals and birds are also adversely affected by large summer bushfires. This trend must be reversed, with greater emphasis placed on bushfire prevention and mitigation activities on all land tenures said Mr Clarke.
The Institute will present a written submission to the inquiry.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.
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