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No excuse for fire

Dark days: the Hallston fire turned the normally sunny blue sky to a murky grey, with local residents on high alert for a number of days.

INDEPENDENT fire expert David Packham said there was no excuse for a controlled burn getting away, as had happened with last week’s Hallston fire.

The planned burn was to be done by April 30, subject to suitable weather conditions.

But Mr Packham said that “nobody has to get a burn done by a certain date”.

“In Western Australia, in 40-odd years of prescribed burning, I only know of one fire that escaped and caused damage. That was because people were being pushed and accepted being pushed. Absolutely no prescribed burn should escape.

“If the weather conditions can lead you to the possibility of an escape, the message is: ‘Don’t burn, wait until the conditions are right.”

Mr Packham said one of the “big difficulties” that causes them trouble is the extent of the “pre-fire preparations they’re required to do”.

“They’ve got to do certain things by a certain date and communicate to certain people a certain time ahead. That ties their hands enormously,” he said.

He said that the most successful controlled burns happened in Florida, USA and Western Australia, where the decision to burn was made early on the same day – subject to weather reports and fuel on the ground.

“DSE really can’t shift their plan from three or four days out. But I would say that limit for reliable information from the Bureau of Meteorology is at that limit. Your forecasts are more reliable the closer you get to the event,” he said.

“If you’re using the forecast from the day before, it’s going to be deadly accurate.”

A lack of prescribed burns in previous years was also causing problems, Mr Packham said.

“Everywhere around your prescribed burns is likely to be heavy fuels,” he said.

A Victorian Government spokesperson said DSE controlled burning targets, recommended by the Bushfires Royal Commission, offer “the best level of protection to people and property from bushfires”.

“DSE works closely with the Bureau of Meteorology and will only start a burn if conditions are suitable. With careful planning, preparation and management led by experienced staff, few burns cause problems, but planned burning always has some risks,” she said.

“Since June 2012 DSE have carried out around 215 planned burns with very few problems.”

Hallston farmer John Kenny thanked the volunteer members of the Leongatha CFA for spending Wednesday night protecting his home.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=6830

Posted by on Apr 3 2013. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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