WA bushfires: Alarm over lack of disaster plans amid summer fire threat

WA bushfires: Alarm over lack of disaster plans amid summer fire threat

05 November 2016

published by www.perthnow.com.au

Australia—   FEWER than one in two West Australians are taking basic measures to prepare their home for bushfire, ­including clearing gutters, trimming trees and maintaining a firebreak.

And fewer than one in 10 homeowners have a bushfire survival plan or know how they will protect their children, pets or livestock if disaster strikes.

The woeful state of bushfire preparedness in WA is laid bare in new research carried out by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services ahead of what is forecast to be a potentially catastrophic summer of fire.

DFES carried out two separate surveys of more than 1500 people in both country and metropolitan WA, and the results have alarmed department bosses who say even people in suburban Perth need a fire plan.

The survey also showed:

FOUR in five metropolitan respondents and almost three in five regional respondents haven’t taken any action to prepare for bushfires.

FEWER than one in five have prepared a bushfire survival kit.

FEWER than one in five Perth residents and fewer than two in five country residents have spoken to family or housemates about their bushfire survival plan.

Despite the lack of preparedness, three in five people living in the regions and two in five in the metropolitan area said they had a personal experience with bushfire, while 15 per cent of West Australians have had to evacuate their homes because of a bushfire.

Another 37 per cent said they knew someone close to them who has had to evacuate because of a bushfire and more than a third said they knew someone close to them whose property was damaged by a bushfire.

“We experienced catastrophic fire conditions during the last bushfire season at Esperance and Yarloop, and it’s only a matter of time before we witness such weather conditions again. Yet an alarming number of people living in bushfire risk areas are not prepared,” DFES deputy commissioner Lloyd Bailey said.

“Having a bushfire survival plan and being ready to act is vitally important, especially if you live, work or are travelling through a high risk bushfire area.

“We do all we can to combat bushfires, but people also need to recognise their own risk and act accordingly.”

It comes as more than 85 per cent of WA has been declared bushfire prone heading into summer.

In Perth, people who live within 100m of bush reserves including Kings Park, Bold Park, Whiteman Park and other nature reserves also need to be prepared, according to DFES.

The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook, developed by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, predicts that high fuel loads will bring above average bushfire risk to the South-West, Gascoyne, Pilbara and Eucla regions this summer.

Australia’s Climate Council Professor Tim Flannery said climate change was increasing the intensity and frequency of heatwaves in WA, driving up the likelihood of very high fire danger weather.

“The number of hot days above 35C across the country per year has doubled in the last 50 years, and the annual number of heatwaves has doubled in Perth,” he said.

“These heatwaves have become longer, hotter and more intense. The long-term trend to hotter weather in WA has worsened fire weather and contributed to an increase in the frequency and severity of bushfires.”

The WA Local Government Association said residents risked fines if they failed to meet local shire guidelines for clearing ­vegetation and creating fire breaks.

Government has urged Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers who are deployed to guard Viphya Plantation against destruction to be vigilant by dealing with the perpetrators accordingly.Msaka (left) walking in the plantantion

Msaka (left) walking in the plantantion

Minister of Mines, Energy and Natural Resources, Bright Msaka, made the statement Tuesday after touring the plantation, especially areas under the jurisdiction of Total Land Care and Raiply Malawi Limited.

Incidences of fire destroying numerous hectares of trees every year have been a never-ending song for the Viphya Plantation for over a decade now. The plantation is shared by two districts of Mzimba andNkhata Bay.

However, the issue has raged on in spite of efforts by government and its stakeholders to plant trees and guard them against destruction. Reports have indicated that more often, the fires that destroy the plantation are deliberately set rather than accidental.

The minister said government is aware that some disgruntled workers and individuals whose licences were cancelled are the ones setting fires in the plantation.

“People need to know that this is a national asset, so if the department of forestry has denied somebody a licence for the reasons best known by the department, they are supposed to understand instead of setting fires,” he said.

To mitigate the challenge, Msaka said government deployed MDF soldiers in protected forests across the country as a way of scaring people from destroying the plantations.

In spite of the effort, some people are still setting parts of the Viphya Forest on fire, regardless of the size of trees.

“We have directed the Malawi Defence Force solders to deal with anyone setting bush fires and operating in the forest without licences and that the law will take its course [against them],” he warned.

However, Msaka commended Raiply Malawi Limited and Total Land Care for utilizing the forest sustainably and adding value to the trees from the forest.

“In the past, we have been cutting trees or sawing and selling them abroad at a very cheap price. We behaved like a prodigal son who squandered all what his father gave him.

“We need to be very careful and be proud of what we inherited so that we can benefit from it and pass on those benefits to the next generation,” advised the minister.

Earlier, Chief Executive Officer of Raiply Malawi Limited, Thomas Oomen, cited bush fires and encroachment as major challenges facing his company.

“This year alone, we have lost about 526 hectares [of trees] to bush fires, unfortunately, most of  these trees are below 15 years old but they are supposed to be harvested at the age of 25. This is dooming our future,” said Oomen.

Chikangawa Forest consists of seven plantations comprising 53,000 hectares.

– See more at: http://www.nyasatimes.com/minister-msaka-warns-perpetrators-fire-viphya-forest/#sthash.5gaV0MIe.dpuf

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