#bushfires

Await the arse covering

An interesting report written last year has surfaced which points to woeful mismanagement of the fuel loads in Victoria.

While we continue to applaud the brave efforts of the front line fireys battling these blazes, it is becoming hard to ignore the seeming negligence within the senior administration of the fire services.

We’ve already pointed to the rising fire service budgets and declining numbers of fire fighting equipment deployed. We have highlighted the poor equipment choices made. We have reported on volunteer crews being turned away despite assurances from leaders that “all” help was welcomed. Is it any wonder volunteer numbers have dwindled? We have debunked the myth of the 29 retired fire chiefs bleating about climate change when it has hardly been mentioned at all in the annual reports of the authorities they ran.

The Weekly Times has reported,

Last year ‘The Weekly Times’ attempted to obtain copies of the Fuel-Load Maps for Victoria, showing the Fine-Fuel build up throughout that state from the Victorian Government.

The fine fuels are critical, as according to the ‘Overall Fuel Hazard Assessment Guide’, written by Francis Hines, Kevin Tolhurst and other bushfire experts in 2010 following the Black Saturday fires;

“They (fine fuels) contribute the most to the fire’s rate of spread and flame height. Typically, they are dead plant material, such as leaves, grass, bark and twigs thinner than 6mm thick, and live plant material thinner than 3mm thick, that burn in the continuous flaming zone at the fire’s edge.’’

However, the Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spent months trying to block The Weekly Times’ access to these fuel load maps, repeatedly refusing to release data.

In August last year DELWP staff stated: “The fuel load data is only published to Business Level Data (an internal system)”.

After repeated delays, emails and calls, the DELWP came back almost 12 months later stating;

“This information is not something that DELWP typically provides and the department has some concerns with this information being made publicly accessible”.

Ultimately The Weekly Times lodged a Freedom of Information request for five years of data for the whole state, but cut back the request to one map after DELWP demanded $1294.80 to process the request.

So the rest of the fine-fuel maps remain hidden from the public. I wonder what the maps for the Alpine and Greater Gippsland show.

Back in October, the Vic Opposition emergency services spokesman Brad Battin said the Andrews Government’s “attempt to hide information that has a direct impact on community safety” should concern all who live in high fire-danger areas.

“The only reason the Victorian Labor Government would hide this important data is they have failed to meet their targets to protect Victoria this fire season,” Mr Battin said.

“With levels of fuel at extreme, a predicted dry and hot summer and a reduction in volunteer firefighters we can only say not only has (Premier) Daniel Andrews made you less safe, he now will do anything to hide the truth from you.”

The attempt to hide the maps is a scandal, firstly because the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s recommended that the department “specify the characteristics of fire management zones — including burn size, percentage area burnt within the prescribed burn, and residual fuel loading”.

But as it stands DELWP’s Forest Fire Management Victoria division publishes data only on residual risk, which is derived from a computer model, which gives no detail on fuel loads, which were used in the past.

Secondly, the Royal Commission also recommended the “state fund and commit to implementing a long-term program of prescribed burning based on an annual rolling target of 5 per cent minimum of public land”, equal to 385,000ha annually.

But the Victorian Government abandoned hectare-based targets in 2015, opting for a ‘computer modelled measure of residual risk’ – a model has been roundly condemned by Australia’s leading bushfire scientists.

The Weekly Times has previously reported the former head of CSIRO’s bushfire research unit Phil Cheney has branded residual risk a “load of bulls—”, arguing “fuel load is the only thing that matters”.

Using the Royal Commission’s target of a minimum of 390,000Ha of annual hazard reduction burns across Victoria, the actual planned burnt areas were;

2018-19 : 130,000 Deficit- 260,000

2017-18: 74,728 Deficit- 315,272

2016-17 : 125,052 Deficit- 264,948

2015-16 : 197,940 Deficit- 192,060

That’s a cumulative deficit over the last 4 years under the Victorian Labor government of over one million hectares of land.

Having allowed this massive build up of highly combustible leaves, bark and twigs to new extreme levels – no wonder the green zealots are busy trying to create a distraction claiming ‘’climate change did it’’

As a rule of thumb, the louder someone screams ‘’climate change did it’’ and more they use the strawman argument about ‘’climate change deniers’’ as a distraction- you can bet the more guilty they are for allowing the ‘unprecedented’ build-up of fine fuels in our national parks.”

FNF Media strongly believes that information garnered by taxpayer funding have zero rights to withhold information much less charge for it.

This news piece rates up there with BoM refusing to disclose the methodology which it uses to record data. If it is the gold standard surely there should be nothing to hide and more importantly, something to boast about and sell to the world.

Perhaps ASX listed companies should protest and demand that ASIC allow them to audit their own books. After all “trust us” seems to work for government agencies.

No sacred cows please.

NSW Rural Fire Service statistics – where your tax dollars go

NSWRFS Budget.png

The media has been quick to pick on the calls for our government to spend more on our fire services. We thought it a good idea to look at the facts gleaned from the annual reports of the NSW RFS, available here. We will go through state by state in the coming days and look at the totals to work out where our money has gone. What you are about to read may surprise you.

The first chart denotes the NSW RFS budget. The 2018-19 budget was $554mn, up from $311mn 5 years prior, or a 78% increase. One would expect that money would be spent on shiny new toys to help fight fires.

NSWRFS FT.png

As we can see, the number of fire trucks in service has trended down. From a peak of 4,385 in 2014/15 to 3,883 in 2018/19 or down 11%. There could be an argument made for replacements to more efficient equipment but in order to put out blazes, sheer numbers should help

NSWRFS WP.png

Water Pumper numbers have fallen from 71 to 63, or -11%. Water carriers have fallen from a peak of 64 to 53, or -17%.

NSWRFS WC.png

When looking at the number of grass or bushfires that were dealt with the trend looks as follows.

NSWRFS Bushfires

When assessing controlled burns, the total area in hectares by year that was conducted is as follows.

NSWRFS CB.png

However, when dividing by the number of controlled burns conducted by year, we see that the average slid from 259ha per burn to 74ha. This is not proof of efficacy.

NSWRFS CB PC.png

How has the trend of the brave and selfless volunteers at the NSW RFS progressed?

RFS Voluntee.png

Employed staff at the NSW RFS has increased from 846 in 2012/13 to 936 in 2018/19.

NSW RFS FT Emp.png

With that, average salaries have crept up from $114,285 in 2012/13 to $131,908 in the latest filing. In no way is FNF Media casting aspersions on the value of those full-time employees.

NSWRFS FTE Salary Avg.png

Although the growth in the Chief Commissioner’s total remuneration has grown from $292,450 in 2012/13 to $439,015 in 2018/19 or a 50% increase over that period.

NSW RFS CC Salary.png

Running the RFS is no simple task. Hiring good people to run the operation shouldn’t be done on the cheap.

The reason FNF Media has suggested that the fire services need a thorough audit is to work out whether tax dollars are being spent wisely. Since 2012/13, $2.75bn has been spent on the NSW RFS. Are we right to question why a rising budget has led to a drift in equipment and a fall-off in volunteers? Can we link the reduced average burns in some way to the very high level of fuel loads that many volunteers have pointed to within all of the current political grandstanding of chucking more money at the problem instead of evaluating the efficacy of that spend?

Because to look at the data on a stand-alone basis, it would seem that the ball has been dropped somewhere. It doesn’t seem plausible that firefighters can be short of vital equipment when there was a $140mn extra spent last year. Only $15m went on extra salaries. Stands to reason that there might be a problem within the decision making processes in the senior management echelons of the fire service that warrants closer inspection.

That is a job for you Gladys Berejklian

Time we investigated and audited the fire services’ senior personnel

Trust The Guardian to publish a piece from Michael Mann, of hockey stick fame, to dish a sermon on the connection of bushfires with climate change as he prepares his studies in Australia. Perhaps he can cut his trip short by first paying a visit to the Australian Institute of Criminology which will tell him that 85% of bushfires are caused by humans – accidentally, suspiciously or deliberately lit. Watch the media wax lyrical about his pontification.

David Marr has also written a puff piece in The Guardian which has nothing to do with bushfires and everything to heap on a conservative prime minister, Scott Morrison to push the climate narrative. There is a reason he is a regular on the ABC Insiders program.

Marr wrote,

We know the sight by heart: corrugated iron on a low pile of ash with a chimney left standing. Another house gone. And the pattern of bushfires is part of our lives too.”

Anyone with a beating heart feels a sense of sorrow at the destruction of 1,000 homes and the tragic loss of nearly two dozen lives, but some perspective is needed.

The 2009 Black Friday bushfires in Victoria saw 173 deaths and over 2,000 homes destroyed.

The Great East-Japan Disaster of 2011 caused the destruction of 374,000 homes and the deaths of over 16,000 people.

Still none of these statistics will help those who have lost loved ones. We need to focus on what caused the problems in the first place. In Iapan’s case Mother Nature was to blame. In much of these recent bushfires, arsonists are to blame. Don’t let that get in the way of the climate change narrative.

Negligence is a big factor. Does this look like a well maintained fire trail to you? The only way you can tell is by the sign marking it.

But don’t let poor forest management get in the way of a climate change agenda, as Marr does here,

One of the duties of a leader is to find the words in times like these. So many have died. So much has been destroyed. But how can Scott Morrison speak to the experience of the country if he can’t admit we are living through unique times? He says instead: “We have faced these disasters before.”

Yes perhaps they are unique times where Marr can honestly believe that reducing our already minuscule emissions is somehow more important to mitigating bushfires than actually removing the aging fuel loads from the floor. Easier to blame ScoMo.

While we can’t sing the praises of the brave men and women fighting the blazes high enough, we must reflect on the upper management within the fire services for some spectacular own goals.

Take the Gullen Range Wind Farm built around Bannister. Despite local RFS officials raising concerns that the erection of these wind turbines would take Crookwell airstrip out of action for fire fighting duties (because the water bomber aircraft would not be able to get sufficient height to clear them), the head honchos overruled them.

We’ve mentioned in earlier posts that the Boeing 737 water bomber is a white elephant because it can only operate out of 4 airstrips, limiting its usefulness outside of political happy snaps to say we have one. Were it perfect for the job, one imagines the extent of the fires would have been less.

So in order to defeat the side effects of supposed climate change, advice from climate alarmists led to the construction of barriers to prevent mitigating them.

The saddest part from the bushfire disaster is that fingers will be pointed incessantly at climate change being the largest factor when human negligence of another kind is actually the problem, including those people entrusted to prevent them in the first place. Not the actual fire fighters but the senior management.

Blaming everything on climate change is the biggest cop out.

FNF Media recommends the key fire service senior management be audited for their actions, practices and communications in the years leading up to this. So much was preventable. There should be no sacred cows. In the aftermath of the disaster, we can take our time to work out the best way to prevent such fires occurring down the line instead of expediting tax payer dollars to buy equipment that might be unfit for purpose.

Bushfires more closely linked to white patriarchy than climate crisis

Again and again we have said we feel sorry for the manipulation of poor Greta Thunberg by activist adults. Yes she has a huge platform, but the more things that come out of her mouth the less credible she sounds as we pointed out yesterday with what caused Germans to cut air travel in November.

Her latest stab linking climate to the bushfires in Australia was to post on Twitter, “we still fail to make the connection between the climate crisis and extreme weather events.

Perhaps because there isn’t.

Had her overseers referred her to the very reports they themselves have published (March 2018 report on weather extremes with respect to anthropogenic induced global warming) she would have learnt,

“…There is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale phenomena such as tornadoes and hail because of data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systemsin some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia. There is limited to medium evidence available to assess climate-driven observed changes in the magnitude and frequency of floodslow confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences..low confidence in projections of changes in extreme winds.. low confidence in projections of changes in monsoonslow confidence in wave height projections…overall low confidence because of inconsistent projections of drought changes…low confidencein projected future changes in dust storms…low confidence in projections of an anthropogenic effect on phenomena such as shallow landslides.”

Low confidence” is mentioned 230 times in the above report. “High confidence” gets talked about 169 times. “Cold” is mentioned 82x. “Hot” 44x. “Cold extreme” 11x and “Hot extreme” 8x. Is this a coincidence?

But of course a spoon fed teenager knows better than the Australian Institute of Criminology which states 85% of bushfires are accidentally, deliberately or suspiciously lit. US Forestry Service data backs up the AIC with its research revealing 90% of fires starting the same way. So unless climate change impacts the moods of arsonists, this is not a strong case.

The ultimate irony is that she actually helped make climate alarmism cool again (no pun intended) because another 9,000 extra time wasters flew into the COP25 summit in Madrid over the 22,000 that attended COP24 in Katowice.

Now that Greta has parroted,

After all, the climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice, and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fueled it. We need to dismantle them all. Our political leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities.

perhaps she can get more mileage by tweeting the AIC’s report which finds the most common profile of arsonists is,

“white male, mid-20s, patchy employment record, often above average intelligence, but poor academic achievement and poor social development skills…56% of convicted structural arsonists and 37% of bushfire arsonists in NSW had a prior conviction for a previous offence. 

PM’s holidays to be put to a plebiscite from now on?

How pathetic for the PM to have to issue a written apology for taking a family holiday. Would Australians have felt better knowing ScoMo was handing out water bottles with an entire press gallery getting in the way of the RFS? Sean Penn showed how well rescue efforts can go in New Orleans when there was no space in his boat to save anyone because of his press corp.

Do Australians honestly believe that the PM wasn’t getting updates from his cabinet and people relevant to the crisis?

Say, where were these same media pundits lavishing praise on Tony Abbott when he was fighting fires while PM and still doing today?That’s right. They hate him so much that even as a volunteer he receives zero credit, even today when there are no supposed political points to be won!

So which is it? Please define the standard. Should we enshrine it in law and make sure that PMs puts his family holidays, including destination, to a plebiscite before contacting Flight Centre?

Suppose ScoMo had stayed behind. What could have been achieved? What if he approved a $100m budget to spend on new equipment? As states control most of the fire services across the country, there would be a requirement for due diligence on where it would be best deployed. The average age of equipment. What sort of equipment is most required. History shows that has been a shocker.

Even if the $100m was spent tomorrow, it is likely the equipment would arrive after the fires were out.

As it stands fire fighting senior management have made some disastrous decisions on equipment selection. A 737 water bomber that can only operate out of 4 airports, rendering it little more useful than a photo opportunity for politicians to show commitment. Or a military spec helicopter that spends 5hrs in the workshop for every 1hr in the air. Who makes these decisions?

Reality is that those in charge of the purse strings haven’t been that effective.

Voters should reflect on the words of Thomas Sowell,

Those who cry out that the government should ‘do something’ never even ask for data on what has actually happened when the government did something, compared to what actually happened when the government did nothing.”

So before we start casting aspersions on ScoMo people need to get a grip on reality.

Like the fools protesting in front of Kirribilli House. It was nothing to do with bushfires and everything to do with linking it to climate change.

Perhaps we should focus on the tragic loss of two firefighters instead of sniggering at a PM for political point scoring on climate change even though over 85% of bushfires are started accidentally, suspiciously or deliberately.

If only ScoMo had the gumption to tell people to buggeroff when it comes to his family holidays. Sure it comes with the job, but get a grip.

Scorched house climate policy?

As 30cm of snow fell on Falls Creek yesterday (i.e. summer), Mother Nature proved yet again she is full of surprises. To think that giving loads of money to the UN can somehow change her stubborn ways is rather obtuse.

Less of a surprise was a protestor, Melinda Plesman, who brought parts of her burnt down house to attack the PM Scott Morrison for allowing the climate crisis to happen. Forget that the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) reports consistently that c.85% of fires are either deliberately, accidentally or suspiciously lit. Forget that multiple children have been found responsible for lighting these recent mega-fires. Just blame climate change, even though the Western Australian fire service notes on its own website that there is no evidence of such. CM wrote about that here.

Maybe Plesman could reflect on the internal politics within the upper echelons of the fire services? Not so much the rank and file (supposedly wife-beating) front line firefighters but the bureaucrats who make daft decisions such as buying a Boeing 737 fire-bomber which can only be used at 4 airports rendering it highly inflexible (as much as it’s a great political sales point) or a military helicopter which spends 5hrs in the maintenance shed for every hour it is in the field working. Or replacing 1-yo trucks with brand new ones because records are poorly kept? Or inadequate removal of fuel from the bush floor?

While it is completely understandable Plesman and 100s of others like her, are devastated that their houses have burnt to the ground, had Scott Morrison erected 1000s of wind turbines and solar parks since he took over the top job, it would not have made the slightest dent in the 1.3% of global emissions that makes up Australia’s share of the global total, nor have prevented these fires.

PM Morrison should arrange his RAAF jet to take Plesman to Beijing to tell President Xi that he is to blame for causing c.30% of global human-made GHG emissions and rising. She can then openly criticise Chinese policy that won’t approve new renewables projects unless they are cheaper than burning coal. What a surprise such investments are c.40% down on the previous year in China. What a shock that China has 100s of new coal-fired power plants on the drawing board?

It is easy to forget that Australia ranks #3 in the world for renewables spending per capita. We spent $9.5bn on clean energy last year, almost twice as much as France with its Paris Climate Accord loving Macron at the helm.

Unfortunately, it is too easy to capitulate to the cabal of climate change activism. Submit to the script of 11,000 signatories, despite the fact it included the likes of Mickey Mouse, Albus Dumbledore and Araminta Aardvark. Ignore that a recent major scientific paper, which claimed to have found rapid warming in the oceans as a result of manmade global warming, was withdrawn after an amateur climate scientist found major errors in its statistical methodology. Or the accident-prone Bureau of Meteorology and its 85% senior management structure which is in dire need of a thorough investigation.

Alarmists love to hate the coal industry. Plesman expressed her disdain too. It is a line often pushed by the climate change movement that Australia is responsible for the emissions caused by those who burn our black rocks overseas. By that measure, perhaps we should blame the Japanese, Koreans and Europeans for all of the emissions caused by the production and use of the 1,150,000+ cars we buy but are required to import each year? Or the Americans and Europeans for the commercial aircraft that belch all that nasty CO2? Or manufacturers of mobile devices and computer periphery? Maybe all the solar panels and wind towers, often built with raw materials from the fossil fuel industry?

CM honestly feels sorry for Plesman and others that have suffered such losses from these devastating bushfires but it doesn’t absolve them of getting to grips with the facts. She can be absolutely sure that even if Australia went 100% renewable and stopped exporting coal, that severe bushfires will continue to plague our future. As the WA Gov’t’s Bushfire Front states, “The only factor we can control is the large contiguous accumulations of fuel. Therefore, broadscale fuel reduction burning is the only defence we have against large wildfires. This will not prevent fires occurring, but it will ensure fires are less intense, are easier and safer to control and will do less damage...Experienced firefighters do not fear a 40-degree day per se. This is because even on a hot day, a fire in one or two-year old fuel can be controlled; on the same day a fire in 20-year old fuels with high winds would usually be unstoppable.