NEWS AND ISSUES

JULY 2003

MAJOR HAZARD REDUCTION BURNS TO START IN SYDNEY         31st July 2003

The weather window finally appears to be opening for rural firefighters to commence major hazard reduction burns around Sydney this weekend with more than 20 significant controlled burns set occur. “If the next 48 hours continues to provide dry conditions with light winds we expect that we will be able to commence our first major round of hazard reduction burns in the bushland areas around Sydney this weekend,” said NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Phil Koperberg.
More than 20 significant hazard reductions burns are expect to occur in the Warringah, Hornsby, Ku-Ring-Gai, Baulkham Hills, Gosford, Hawkesbury and Sutherland areas.

“These hazard reduction burns are key in our strategy for how to minimise the threat to property during major bushfire events. Hazard reduction burns cut down bushfire fuels levels and while they will never stop a bushfire, they provide an area that will burn less intensely should it be affected by bushfire, thereby providing a buffer zone for our firefighters.”

“We have been delayed from commencing these hazard reductions by the recent intermittent rainfall. The rain has been just enough to keep the ground too moist for effective hazard reduction. It is vital to get the right balance between too wet and too dry to ensure that the hazard reduction burn is the right intensity to remove the bushfire fuels but not harm the environment. That opportunity looks like it will present itself this weekend.”

“Rural Fire Service volunteer firefighters are gearing up for a busy weekend and they will be joined by their colleagues from National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Fire Brigades in this cooperative push to get these burns in while the opportunity presents itself,” said Commissioner Koperberg.

“We remind residents of Sydney that these hazard reductions are likely to produce very significant amounts of smoke in the Sydney basin. Persons who suffer breathing difficulties should remain indoors or take their normal precautions.”

Residents around the hazard reduction burn areas are reminded to take the following precautions: · Keep doors and windows closed to prevent smoke entering homes · Keep outdoor furniture under cover to prevent ember burns · Retract pool covers to prevent ember damage · Remove washing from clothes lines · Ensure pets have a protected area · Sightseers must keep away from hazard reduction burns for their own safety. · In smoky areas vehicles must slow down, keep windows up and turn headlights on.

If residents have any concerns about the effects of a hazard reduction burn that is occurring in their area they should contact their local NSW Rural Fire Service Fire Control Centre. The hazard reduction burns planned this weekend include:

District Date Town/Suburb Location Size/ha Hornsby/Ku-ring-gai 2/8 Westleigh Gundy 14 2/8 Hornsby Heights Somerville Rd 73 2/8 Wahroonga Grosvenor Pl 8.5 3/8 Dangar Island Riverview Ave 2 Warringah/Pittwater 2-3/8 Beacon Hill Red Hill 3 2-3/8 Ingleside Emmaurs Rd 2 2/8 Ingleside Waratah Rd 1.9 2/8 Ingleside Laurel Rd West 2 3/8 Forestville Cook St .4 3/8 Davidson Chesterman Cr .5 2/8 Duffys Forest Weemala Rd .6 Hawkesbury 2/8 East Kurrajong East Kurrajong Rd 22.2 2/8 Wilberforce Geakes Rd 3.7 2/8 Kurrajong Mountain View Cl Gosford 1/8 Koolawong Glenrock Pde 50 2/8 Somersby Debenham Rd 20 2/8 McMasters Beach Beachview Esp 13 Penrith 2/8 Mulgoa/Agnes Banks Several piles
 

RFS Open Days                                                                                        26th July 2003

You are invited to check out a Rural Fire Brigade station during open days at Darkes Forest, Plumpton, Shanes Park and Charmhaven.

Members of the public can learn how to protect their homes, see real fire tankers, watch firefighters display their skills and even join a brigade.

NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers are opening their station doors and offering lots of fun activities.

Shanes Park, Rural Fire Brigade Saturday 26 July
Peter Van Hassle Reserve, Lot 177 Palmyra Ave, Willmot 2770.</b>
 
The day will include fire and rescue displays, fire awareness, memorabilia, sausage sizzle, jumping castle, players from Panthers Rugby League team, showbags, competitions, prizes, Smokey the Bear. Special guests include NSW Rural Fire Brigades, NSW Fire Brigades, SES, Hot Rod and Motorcycle Clubs and appearances by FM 104.9 Triple M Rock Patrol.

Arizona Rural Fire Brigade, Saturday August 9
Wyong Fire Control, Lot 16 Arizona Road, Charmhaven. </b>

You can help your community by becoming a NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer. Find out all the details at Arizona Rural Fire Brigade's open day. Check out the firefighting display,  tanker and equipment. Talk to firefighters about the community work they do.
 
Plumpton Rural Fire Brigade,  Sunday 17 August 10am to 4pm
Lot 12 Florence St, Oakhurst, 2761.</b>

Come along and see the appliances and tools used in firefighting. Historic fire engine, static displays of house, vehicle and bush fires, learn about fire safety in the home and bush. Exhibits by NSW Fire Brigade, NSW Police, State Emergency Services, Volunteer Rescue Association, St Johns First Aid and Rural Fire Service Association. Lucky door prizes!

Darkes Forest Rural Fire Brigade, Saturday 30 August 10am to 2pm.</b>

Darkes Forest Rd, Darkes Forest (take the Helensburgh turn off and follow the signs!)
See a working fire station, trucks and home protection equipment. Watch equipment demonstrations including pumps, hoses, nozzles, gutter plugs, roof sprinklers, home protection and water tanks. Brigade members are available for advice on preparing your property.
 

Region 'disaster waiting to happen'/news.com.au                                              July 24, 2003

VICTORIAN bush user groups had warned that the state's Alpine region was a catastrophe waiting to happen three years before last summer's devastating fires, a federal parliamentary inquiry heard today.

Win Morgan, the secretary of the Indigo branch of the Bush Users Group, said the group warned the Victorian Government for several years that excessive amounts of plant litter on forest floors and blocked fire tracks would lead to tragedy.

She said the group had asked the State Government to conduct fuel reduction burns and better maintain the fire tracks.

"We warned them for a few years before this was a potential catastrophe, particularly around Eldorado, but they wouldn't even listen to us," an emotional Ms Morgan told the inquiry.

"We asked (then environment minister) Sherryl Garbutt but she was otherwise occupied.

"We were saying the Alpine region would explode but nobody listened, they just passed us off as a group of people who wanted to have a gripe."

The bush users group also called for a moratorium on the creation of national parks.

Bob Richardson, a member of the Victorian Bush Users Group, said if the state's parks were used for a number of purposes, including timber harvesting and grazing, there would not be the thick bushland which led to January's fires.

"We need to learn from the Aborigines," he said.

"There is so much evidence that the Aborigines burnt the country persistently which led to a more open forest structure which produces less intense fire and greater diversity."

Today's public hearing in Wodonga is the seventh conducted by the parliamentary inquiry, so far with hearings already held in NSW and the ACT.

Webmaster Comments: Alpine and Rainforest regions are normally not classified as burn areas within a fire regime. This is due to the high moisture levels and environmental sensitivity.

 

DOZENS OF FIREFIGHTERS BATTLE LARGE SYDNEY FACTORY FIRE OVERNIGHT/nswfb media release                                                                    24 July 2003

Firefighters worked through the night to contain a factory fire at Arncliffe in Sydney’s South.

The NSW Fire Brigades received a 000 call at 1.17am this morning to attend a factory fire. Crews and specialist fire engines were called from around Sydney to assist including Rockdale, Hurstville, Marrickville, Mortdale, Miranda, Kogarah, Campsie, Botany, Mascot, Newtown, City of Sydney, Matraville, Woollahra, Rydalmere, Ashfield, Lakemba, Leichhardt, Randwick, Alexandria and the Hazardous Materials Unit.

Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze and eight senior officers also attended, including the new Commissioner Greg Mullins. Nearby local residents were evacuated. Despite the challenging conditions the firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the building of origin. Crews are monitoring for potential structural collapse. The fire has been contained to the original building. It is anticipated that the incident will continue throughout most the day. Investigations into the cause and origin of the fire will commence later today.

Incident Commander Chief Superintendent Roger Bucholtz said, “Given the difficulties in getting the seat of the fire, tremendous efforts were achieved by our firefighters to contain the fire to the building of origin.”

 

Families flee wildfires/news.com.au                                                                                    July 22, 2003

A WILDFIRE destroyed a Californian house and four outbuildings and forced about 250 people to flee as it roared across rolling, oak-studded hills.

The blaze was 30 per cent contained yesterday after charring 600ha near the community of Santa Margarita, California Department of Forestry dispatcher Corrin Clark said.

About 200 other homes and 50 outbuildings were threatened as high temperatures and wind helped spot fires erupt, she said. The blaze was located in brushy cattle country about 322km north of Los Angeles.

The fire, reported on Sunday afternoon, was caused by a spark from an off-road vehicle, and the driver was cited for having a modified exhaust system, Nena Portillo of the California Department of Forestry said.

Farther south, a fire that charred nearly 7200ha of brush in eastern San Diego County was 49 per cent contained on Sunday, fire officials said. The fire was started by lightning on July 16. Full containment is expected tomorrow.

Elsewhere, a wildfire burned about 400ha of timber and grasslands in eastern Washington state, destroying 14 vehicles and some outbuildings. The fire was about 8km south-west of Cheney, Washington.

The cause of the blaze, which began on Sunday afternoon, was not known. It was one of several wildfires in central and eastern Washington. No injuries were reported at any of the fires.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, park officials reopened Mesa Verde National Park yesterday for the first time since six days, even though firefighters were still battling a 1040ha wildfire that was 10 per cent contained.

In eastern Arizona, rain had calmed the 9020ha wildfire on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, where hundreds of residents were evacuated for part of last week. No homes were damaged and none was threatened yesterday, officials said. That fire was 65 per cent contained.

Fires also were active Monday in Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, the National Interagency Fire Centre said.
 

Firefiles/ex aus.services.emergency newsgroup                                                                       21st July 2003

Hi guys,

Found out some more about this show.

It's called Fire Flies and is currently filming in Warringah-Pittwater
and Baulkham Hills (Duffy's Forest and Kellyville brigades). The
action centres on "Lost River" brigade, featuring firefighter Libby
Tanner from "All Saints."

Warringah have an old 60's Mercedes cat 1 in the compound at Fire
Control marked "Lost River," it's well maintained and goes pretty
well. The fictional brigade will receive a new tanker in the show,
played by Duffy's 1.

The cast were put through a BF course, and RFS Head Office people are
on set to ensure that all activities are carried out according to RFS
SOPs. A local drama that is accurate? That'll be nice. Real RFS people
have been used as extras at burn scenes etc. Filming goes till
October, so we should see it in early 2004.

Might be good exposure for the service, although if there is an
episode where they go on Starg, I can't see filming 12 hrs of sitting
around making for good tv :)

Dan.

Record Budget for NSW Emergency Services                                            21st July 2003

Minister for Emergency Services, Mr Tony Kelly, has welcomed a record funding boost for the State’s emergency services in the NSW Budget handed down today.

The NSW Fire Brigades, Rural Fire Service and the State Emergency Service have all received budget increases of more than 80 per cent since 1994/95.

“The Carr Government is continuing to provide our emergency service workers with better equipment, accommodation and training,” Mr Kelly said.

NSW Fire Brigades:

In 2003/04, the Fire Brigades budget will total $439.7 million, including:

- Ongoing program to upgrade the fire engine fleet ($18 million);
- Maintenance and renovation of fire stations ($3.6 million);
- Enhance counter terrorism preparedness and equipment ($2.435 million);
- Hazmat and rescue equipment ($1.71 million); - Funding to employ additional firefighters ($4.6 million); and
- Upgrading information technology and communications ($7 million).

NSW Fire Brigades respond to an average of one emergency every four minutes around the State.

This budget represents an increase of $198.2 million or 82 per cent since 1994/95 and a 7.9 per cent increase on the 2002/03 budget.

Rural Fire Service:

There are 66,000 RFS volunteers in 2,259 bushfire brigades across 142 local government areas.

This budget provides $125.04 million to the Rural Fire Fighting Fund – an increase of more than 146 per cent since 1994/95, and an increase of 3.6 per cent on the 2002/03 budget.

This will pay for:

- Equipment grants to local bushfire brigades ($30.2 million);
- The continued upgrade of tanker fleet ($26.9 million);
- The set-up of a state-wide Fire Mitigation Unit to issue hazard reduction approval certificates ($3.9 million); and
- The relocation of RFS Headquarters to Homebush Bay ($6.7 million).

State Emergency Service:

In 2003/04, the SES will spend of $32.7 million on expenses and asset acquisitions – an increase of 127 per cent since 1994/95 and 9.7 per cent on the 2002/03 budget.

This will provide funding for the work of the 9,000 volunteers who respond to more than 30,000 incidents a year.

This funding will include:

- Radio system upgrade ($2.2 million);
- Funding of $978,000 to meet the day to day operating costs of the 231 SES volunteer units and increase of $200,000 on last year’s budget;
- $800,000 to assist councils to purchase 50 new operational response vehicles;
- $828,000 to provide and maintain paging and answering service facilities for all SES units and divisions; and
- An additional $236,000 for part-time divisional controllers.

Mr Kelly said that the Carr Government was pouring record funding in to the emergency services to make up for the years of neglect they suffered under the Coalition.

“The Carr Government knows that our emergency service workers go beyond the call of duty to protect our homes and families, “ Mr Kelly said.

“This record funding reflects our respect for the work done by our emergency services.

“We want to make sure that they are well trained and well equipped to cope with any emergency.”
 

Fire guts horse stadium/news.com.au                                                                              July 19 2003

A FORMER horse stadium in Sydney's outer south-west was this morning in danger of collapsing after fire gutted the building overnight.

Rural Fire Service and metropolitan crews were called to the El Caballo Blanco site in Catherine Field shortly before midnight (AEST) to find the concrete and steel structure ablaze.

The enclosed stadium was previously used for horse performances but is now used to store carpets.

The fire was fuelled by rolled carpets and timber seating stored inside the building.

Firefighters used water from a nearby football club to help stop the blaze.
After containing it in the early hours, fire crews withdrew to outside the building fearing it might collapse.

A fire brigade spokesman said the building was structurally unsound.
 

 

Local knowledge ignored in fire/news.com.au                                                  July 17 2003

LOCAL experience and knowledge was often ignored by those controlling firefighting efforts during the summer's bushfire crisis, the head of an inquiry into the blazes said today.

Gary Nairn, the chairman of a federal parliamentary inquiry into the bushfires, said that was the common theme from those affected by the fires.

The inquiry has sat through five days of public hearings, taking evidence from local landowners, community groups, state MPs, defence, the CSIRO, timber industry groups and others.

"There's clearly some common themes," Mr Nairn said.

"Top of the list is that local experience and local knowledge is clearly not being used appropriately by the powers-that-be in managing those issues.

"That goes right back even before bushfires start with respect to land management and fuel reduction levels.

"We've received significant evidence that's shown that well before the fires started, people were indicating and showing that fuel levels were extraordinarily high and something needed to be done about it."

He said in relation to the ACT fires, which eventuated in a firestorm reaching suburban areas on January 18 and killing four people, local residents and firefighters were convinced the blazes could have been contained in the first couple of days of a lightning strike sparking them.

"The conditions were very benign, all the evidence has shown that but for whatever reasons they were virtually left to burn for a couple of days and when they (firefighters) got properly to it they were very difficult to control," Mr Nairn said.

"All the people with years and years of experience weren't allowed to either go to the fires or were told to withdraw.

"If they had their way they could have put them out."

Mr Nairn said his inquiry had the power to subpoena state fire brigades and National Parks and Wildlife Services to give evidence but indicated it was unlikely to do so.

"At the moment I think the evidence is fairly comprehensive and we're getting it from the people at the grass roots," he said.

"It's a shame the Rural Fire Service and national parks haven't been allowed to participate by state governments.

"I'm sure they could provide us with a lot of additional information but that doesn't mean to say that we're not getting information we need to make recommendations."

The next round of public hearings will be in Wodonga in Victoria next Thursday and Friday followed by Omeo on July 28 and Buchan on July 29.

The committee then moves to Ballarat on July 30, Hobart on August 1, Manjimup in Western Australia on August 5 and Perth on August 6.

Webmaster comments: Incident Management Teams have a large amount of  personnel from a variety of the sources (e.g. NPWS, NSWFB, RFS, State Forests). Planning, Logistic and Operational officers are appointed and the majority are from the local area affected. The commissioner appoints an Incident Controller and often it can be from another area within the state. Operational and Planning functions are usually left to local officers.

Fires in remote or inaccessible terrain are usually monitored for a period of time to establish its risk. Resources are committed to fires that are more likely to have impact on substantial assets (residential, commercial and industrial infrastructure) rather than those that don't.    
 

Flaming Bad Luck/Leader                                                                          15th July 2003

A road worker had a lucky escape after a line-marking vehicle burst into flames on Sunday Night. The vehicle was marking lines on a section of Heathcote Road, Lucas Heights, when the paint heating component malfunctioned shortly before 11pm. The driver activated the emergency system before he fled the vehicle. Dozens of firefighters from Menai fire brigade and Menai and Heathcote rural fire service battled for 90 minutes to bring the blaze under control and cool the flammable liquid on board

 

Hazard Reduction opportunities washed away/RFS Media release                  14th July 2003

Recent coastal rainfall has all but wiped out nearly three months of hazard reduction burning opportunities the NSW Rural Fire Service said today.

“While the rainfall has certainly been welcome in helping reduce the impact of the drought along the coast of New South Wales, the wet weather has meant that the opportunity to carry out hazard reduction burning has been virtually non-existent,” said RFS Commissioner Phil Koperberg.

“Even a small amount of rain means that hazard reduction burns have to be abandoned. The moisture stops prescribed burns going in effectively, and means that bushfire fuels are not adequately burnt off.

“More than 65 burns are approved and ready to begin in the Newcastle/Sydney/Wollongong area. “Planning is in place to ensure, once weather conditions allow, an aggressive hazard reduction program will take place along the East Coast.

“It is essential to get the right balance between too wet and too dry for hazard reduction burns to be carried out. Too wet and the bush will not burn sufficiently, too dry and it will burn too intensely – both causing damage to the bush and most likely increasing the overall fire potential of the area.

``This means that there is a very narrow window for hazard reduction and the recent wet weather is narrowing that window even further,” said Commissioner Koperberg.

The NSW Rural Fire Service assists land managers and landowners with carrying out hazard reduction or prescribed burning across the State. Hazard reduction and fire prevention is, however, the responsibility of landowners and managers.

The RFS works to a long-term hazard reduction plan in all Rural Fire Districts, with a prioritised list of burns being implemented as weather conditions allow.

“The only silver lining has been that the wet weather on the coast has given our volunteer firefighters a much needed break following two of the most protracted bushfire seasons on record.

“West of the range, the sad irony is that the drought is still in full swing and its impact has meant that bushfire fuels are already low as a result,” said Commissioner Koperberg.

PLEASE NOTE: HAZARD REDUCTION BURNING (also called “prescribed burning”) IS NOT “BACKBURNING” – “backburning” is a firefighting technique; “hazard reduction” is fire mitigation.