RFS boss says people complaining about lack of hazard-reduction burns have short memories | ABC Ne

can we just get some clarity from your
perspective how much is the lack if there is indeed a lack of hazard
reduction burns to blame for what we’ve seen Madeline this is such a complex
discussion but I think it’s a discussion we need to continue to have and and has
a reduction burning is one technique but there’s also a lot of mechanical hazard
reduction part of me there’s a lot of mechanical has a reduction that occurs
as well which is really important but has reduction burning is really
challenging and the single biggest impediment to completing house reduction
burning is the weather and and with longer window with longer fire seasons
earlier starts and later finishes the fire seasons like we’ve been
experiencing over over recent times you get a shrinking window of opportunity
for more favorable has reduction burning periods and in that in that shrinking
window you get the extremes of of it can be too wet and too cold to effectively
get has reduction burns done through to a being too hot and too dry and
therefore too dangerous and let’s not forget only a matter of months ago in
New South Wales we were and the agencies involved Land Management agencies
particularly national parks and forestry we were public enemy number one because
a byproduct of hazard reduction burning is smoke yes and yes there’s a very
significant health issue with smoke but but you can’t have prescribed burning
you can’t have as reduction burning without a byproduct being smoke and and
whilst we try and forecast and predict and hope that it doesn’t impact
populated areas you can’t have it both ways okay and the other thing I would
say sorry sorry it’s sorry go on Shane keep going
so the other the other thing I would say is hazard reduction is absolutely an
important factor when it comes to fire management and and and and managing fire
in the landscape but it is not the panacea and as a matter of fact this
season under these extremely drought driven conditions the the depletion of
moisture in the landscape the vegetation is so dry has a reduction burns that are
only two years old we’re seeing these fires on these bad days just skip
straight through it we’re only seeing effective amelioration on fire spread
through hazard reduction is that have been done say in the last
12 months so so it’s it’s has a reduction has a place and is a valuable
tool for day-to-day fires for four normal seasons but when you’ve got a
really tough season when you’ve got awful fire weather conditions so when
you’re running fires under severe extreme or or worse conditions has a
reduction has very little effect at all on fire spread it’s only when the
conditions back off a little bit generally speaking overnight or when the
or when that or when the severe extreme or catastrophic conditions get right
back to say very high that you’ve actually got some prospect of of slowing
the fire spread so it’s important but not the panacea and something that we
should have a very open and frank discussion about and I think it’s really
important to just hear what you’re having to say here Shane because there
is so much emotive discussion as the head of the CFA in Victoria here was
saying yesterday he was calling summer this discussion so emotive so just to
clarify a few things the main reason if there has been a lack
of hazard reduction or for not doing has a reduction it’s the weather it’s not
the Greenies that some politicians have said correct no look it’s not don’t get
me wrong that we are we are not environmental bastards we actually work
through a sensible environmental regime our our priorities our life property and
in that environment ranks third so so we have a streamlined processes and I can
say in any given year of all the burns that we’ve got ready to go 70 or 80
percent are cleared environmentally ready to go we’re just waiting for the
window of opportunity and it’s fair to say resourcing is a challenge so so
don’t forget as as settled Australians as Europeans we’re now living and
working and occupying areas that used to freely burn we can’t lie to burn and
just let it run lighting our has a reduction burn is complicated its
resource hungry it’s risky and the minute we see a burn lit I end up
getting inundated with claims for for people wanting us to to pay for their
shade cloth on their greenhouse that the Sun tough on their back pagolis now got
embers that have landed on it so so there’s so many ramifications that come
from prescribed burning but it’s a valuable tool it’s not a panacea it’s it
is an emotive discussion it’s a complex environment
and and yes absolutely we should have a very healthy frank but factual debate
about the pros and cons of of what has reduction does and doesn’t do and just a
final question on this because correct me if I’m wrong your annual report the
RFS annual report from last year it says that you actually met the targets for
hazard reduction burns is that correct yeah it depends on what the targets are
so yes we did meet targets but but I can say in the last decade we have focused
very heavily we’ve had good support from government in New South Wales we got
record funding into increased resources and increased money to make sure we
could deliver more meaningfully on house reductions and that’s that’s across our
agencies we’ve got that the principal firefighting agencies RFS Fire and
Rescue national parks forestry that they all do they all do prescribed burning
and other has reduction work we can’t under we cannot forget the
important role of mechanical work when it comes to hazard reduction but but we
are we’ve gone from completing lucky to be 40 40 or 50 percent of our annual
burn programs to now up to 80 or 90 percent of our burn programs we’re not
always getting there and and it’s a tenure blind approach I don’t care whose
land it is if there’s a risk in an area and it needs treating with has reduction
work we can serve notices on private and public land holders to get that work
done but we all work together to ensure that we get the risk right the the
matrix right of of a mosaic effect of prescribed burning aging fuel classes
all those sorts of things it is complex it is necessary but we but we need to
ensure that we listen to the emotion that we derive what we need to do around
fact and and and sound methodology thank you for clarifying all of that I just
have one more question for you look we saw you yesterday at the funeral of
Andrew O’Dwyer he was speaking through tears the firefighter who was killed it
with tragic scenes particularly of his little daughter’s Charlotte wearing his
helmet I just want to ask how you’re going and also how all of your teams are
coping in this we’re all heartbroken I don’t know how anyone can’t be can’t be
removed or affected by such tragedy that’s that that’s that’s hit us here in
New South Wales is here and of course to lose lives and and and including
three firefighters three firefighters with with beautiful young families such
strong young resilient women with with with two of them having that your
beautiful little children a little boy in a little girl and one that’s due to
have their first baby in May of this year it’s it’s truly heartbreaking we
are mourning with their families because we are genuinely an RFS family and and
when and when grief strikes one of our lone we all feel that we all hurt and at
the end of the day whilst I see the men and women of the RFS and all their
colleagues doing stupid superhuman things every day this fire season at the
end of the day they’re human and their hearts break when we see such tragedy
and our focus is to be with them be with their family and to ensure for those for
those little children for baby Charlotte for baby Harvey and and this new one
that’s on the way in May we owe it to them to ensure that they know that their
dads their dads were selfless their dads were doing something for their nothing
for nothing more in their community than gratitude and appreciation making a
difference they absolutely died heroes in the most horrific of circumstances
and we are what to ensure that they always know that and they never forget
it and all of Australia thanks them we thank you as well commissioners shown
Fitzsimmons from Aris or RFS headquarters thank you and and best of
luck for the days ahead we know there are a couple of tough ones on the way
thank you thanks Madeline you

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