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.