Victorian Bushfires: The Result of Human Folly

THE catastrophic bushfires in Victoria this year, and the other great fires of recent years in Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and South Australia are dramatic expressions not just of killing forces unleashed, but of human folly…     I am well aware of the drought, of the terrible conditions on the days of the fires, and of the view from some quarters that all of this is a result of global warming. I accept that drought and bad fire weather increase the risk of serious bushfires. What I do not accept is that “unstoppable” bushfires are the inevitable consequence.  And while I will always welcome improved firefighting technology, I know from experience and from an understanding of the simple physics of bushfire behaviour, that technology can never be a substitute for good land management.  

I am quoting from a paper given by Roger Underwood to the Stretton Group in Melbourne recently.

Australian Bushfire Management: a case study in wisdom versus folly
by Roger Underwood

One man’s wisdom is another’s folly, Ralph Waldo Emerson
MANY years ago, still a young man, I watched for the first time the grainy, flickering black and white film of the British infantry making their attack on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. The stark and terrible footage shows the disciplined soldiers climbing from their trenches and, in line abreast, walking slowly across no-man’s land towards the enemy lines. They scarcely travel a few paces before the German machine gunners open up. They are mown down in their thousands. They are chaff before a wind of fire.

I can still remember being struck nerveless by these images, and later my anger when I realised what that calamitous carnage represented.  It spoke of the deep incompetence of the Generals who devised a strategy of doom and then insisted upon its implementation. It spoke of front-line men led by people without front-line experience. It spoke of battle planners unable to think through the consequences of their plans, and who devalued human lives. It spoke of a devastating failure of the human imagination.

Worst of all, the strategies of the World War 1 Generals demonstrated that they had not studied, or that they had forgotten, the lessons of history. In the final year of the American Civil war, 50 years earlier, the Union army had been equipped for the first time with Springfield repeating rifles, replacing the single shot muskets they had previously used and still were being used by the Confederate army.  The impact on Confederate soldiers attacking defenders armed with repeating rifles was identical to that later inflicted by machine guns on the Western Front. But it was a lesson unlearnt, of collective wisdom unregarded.

None of you will have any difficulty in seeing where this analogy is taking me.

The catastrophic bushfires in Victoria this year, and the other great fires of recent years in Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and South Australia are dramatic expressions not just of killing forces unleashed, but of human folly. No less than the foolish strategies of the World War 1 Generals, these bushfires and their outcomes speak of incompetent leadership and of failed imaginations. Most unforgivable of all, they demonstrate the inability of people in powerful and influential positions to profit from the lessons of history and to heed the wisdom of experience.

But just a minute, I can hear some of you thinking. Is this fellow going too far here? What about the malignant influence of global warming on bushfire conditions, making things impossible for firefighters? What about the unprecedented weather conditions on the day, making the fires of February 2009 “unstoppable”. What about the years of drought making the bush super-ready to burn?  Does he not realise that conditions beyond human understanding have now arisen in Victoria, making killer bushfires inevitable? And what about the promises of technology, the super-aerial tankers and so forth, that will give the initiative to our firefighters for once and for all?

I have thought long and hard about all these issues. I am well aware of the drought, of the terrible conditions on the days of the fires, and of the view from some quarters that all of this is a result of global warming. I accept that drought and bad fire weather increase the risk of serious bushfires. What I do not accept is that “unstoppable” bushfires are the inevitable consequence.  And while I will always welcome improved firefighting technology, I know from experience and from an understanding of the simple physics of bushfire behaviour, that technology can never be a substitute for good land management. The serious bushfire is like a disease that is incubated over many years; good land management is the preventative medicine that ensures the disease does not become a killer epidemic.

To me, the epidemic of recent killer bushfires in Victoria are not an indicator of what is inevitable in the future. To me, they are an indicator of the inevitable consequences of what has happened in the past. To me, these fires toll like bells: they toll for failed leadership, failed governance and failed land management.

The issues of leadership and of good governance are central to my position. What these terrible fires point to is that the leaders of our society, Victoria’s politicians and senior bureaucrats, have palpably failed to do the most fundamental thing expected of them: to safeguard Victorian lives and the Victorian environment in the face of an obvious threat. They have failed to discharge their duty of care. Just as we now look back with incredulity at the amateurish strategies of the Generals in The Great War of 1914-1918, so will future Australians look back on the work of those responsible for land and bushfire management in this country (our bushfire Generals) in the years leading up to The Great Fires of 2003-2009. 

The toll of the 2009 Victorian fires is shocking. Over 200 lives  – lost. Thousands of homes  – destroyed. Millions of dollars worth of social and economic infrastructure  – reduced to ashes. The work of generations, the farmlands, stock, fences, woolsheds, yards and pastures  – dead and gone. Native animals and birds  – killed in their millions. Beautiful forests – cooked, in some cases stone dead. Catchments – eroding. The costs – multi-millions of dollars. Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – the equivalent of a year’s supply for the whole of Australia. Psychological damage to children and families – uncountable.

Our bushfire Generals……. those Premiers, Ministers and senior bureaucrats in whom the people of Victoria put their trust….. can have no excuses.

They cannot say they didn’t know we have serious bushfires in Australia. This is no soft, green island where no bushfire ever burns. Australians have not arrived only recently in this hot, dry sclerophyllous land. Even if we overlook for a moment the fire management experience of Aboriginal people, accumulated over 40,000 years or so, non-Aboriginal Australians have been here for over 200 years, with 200 fire seasons, thousands of hot, dry and windy days, dozens of prolonged  droughts, tens of thousands of thunderstorms, millions of lightning strikes, and hundreds of  thousands of bushfires. This is no new or unique phenomenon. [Note 1]

They cannot say the impacts of intense bushfires on human communities were unimaginable.  We have known for 200 years that European settlement represented the insertion of a fire-vulnerable society into a fire-prone environment.  We have seen the consequences of mixing hot fires and settlements on many….. too many….. occasions, to doubt the result. [2]

They cannot say that Australians are powerless in the face of the bushfire threat, that bushfires are “unstoppable”. From the earliest days of settlement, through to the evolution of the fire management systems developed by experienced land and forest managers in the 1950s and 1960s, we have known what is needed to minimise bushfire intensity and bushfire damage [3], even under extreme conditions. From at least the 1960s we have known how to build and maintain houses in fire-prone environments so as to optimise their survival.

They cannot say that the relationships between fire and the Australian bush are still unknown.  There have been 200 years of observation and records and over 50 years of scientific research on this very subject. This experience and this research has confirmed that fire is not an alien visitor, but a natural part of Australian bushland ecosystems. The right sort of fire is an agent for rejuvenation, regeneration, recycling and bushland health, a stimulus for biodiversity.  Fire is to the Australian bush as are the waves and tides to Australian seaweeds and marine life.  It is the absence of fire, especially of mild fire, that is the real threat to the Australian bush, because the inevitable result is a landscape-level holocaust, from which it might take a century or more for recovery.

And they cannot say that they were not warned. Warnings have emerged from the aftermath of every damaging bushfire for the last 70 years or more…… from inquiries, commissions and reports, from independent auditors and from land managers, bushfire scientists, foresters, farmers and firefighters. In recent years the warnings have come thick and fast. Magnificent books have been written on the subject [4]; there have been dozens of scientific papers and popular articles written by our very own world-respected bushfire experts like Phil Cheney. There have been detailed submissions by professional groups such as Forest Fire Victoria, the Bushfire Front and the Institute of Foresters of Australia. As recently as 2008 the Victorian Parliament undertook its own review and produced one of the best reports I have ever seen. Its key recommendations were simply…… “noted” in passing.

Can anyone say that no clear lessons have emerged from the bushfire calamities of the past? Can anyone say they are unaware of the previous fires that have burned Australian farms, settlements and suburbs, incinerated our national parks, nature reserves, rangelands and forests, or scorched out northern savannahs? Did no-one notice all those bushfires over the years that cut power supplies, burned out bridges and roads, destroyed schools, churches and hospitals, interrupted or fouled water supplies, destroyed observatories and threatened species, plantations, orchards and vineyards?

No, there is no shortage of lessons. They have even flowed in, for those who should have listened and learned, from Greece, from Portugal, and from the western United States and Canada during the last few years.

Over and over again, the same words have rung out, the same message has been sent:

1. In our climatic zone with hot dry summers and periodic drought, and with our flammable vegetation and frequent lightning strikes, bushfires are inevitable.
2. If fuels are allowed to accumulate, bushfires in eucalypt forests rapidly attain an intensity that exceeds the human capacity to extinguish them, notwithstanding the most modern and massive suppression forces.
3. Communities and economic assets in the path of high intensity fires will suffer horrible damage.
4. But! Potential damage can be minimised by application of a fire management system that incorporates responsible planning, and high standards of preparedness and damage mitigation, especially fuel reduction.
5. And! We have a choice: fires are inevitable, but we can chose to have mild controlled fires, or ungovernable infernos.

No, our politicians and bushfire generals cannot say they have not been warned. They cannot say there were no lessons to learn. They cannot say the message had not been sent.

They can only say that it was not received, or that it was received but ignored. Neither excuse is acceptable.

So what are the explanations? Why were sound messages not received, or received but not acted upon? Why,  after 200 years of experience and 50 years of world-leading research, after working examples of how to set up an effective system of bushfire management have been established…… how was it possible that our political and bureaucratic leaders opted to adopt a bushfire system that does not work, that fails to protect Victorians from death, disaster and environmental calamity?

There are two answers.

1. The first is political. Put simply, in the last 25 years and when it comes to bushfire management, Australia governments have failed to govern. The focus of politicians has been on getting elected or staying in power, not in providing intelligent, tough and effective governance. This has led to political parties courting the preference votes of pressure groups and of city-based electors who are in the thrall of pressure group philosophies.

Despite the protestations of environmentalists over the last few weeks, there is no question that the influence of green activists at Federal, State and Local government levels has resulted in a steep decline in the standard of bushfire management in this country. Their influence is exemplified by two things: (i) opposition to prescribed burning for fuel reduction, resulting in unprecedented fuel build-ups in parks, forests and reserves close to population centres; and (ii) rural residential developments, in which developers and residents have been prevented or discouraged by environmentalist-dominated local councils from taking reasonable measures to ensure houses are bushfire-safe; and where people are living in houses in the bush where there is no effective enforcement by councils of building codes or hazard reduction. [5]

The situation where a Government fails to govern is, of course, made worse when communities and individuals fail to self-govern. People building houses and choosing to live in the bush also have a personal responsibility – to look after themselves and their neighbours. This responsibility, it seems to me, has also been discouraged by modern governments.

2. The second explanation is technical. In recent years many Australian bushfire authorities have been seduced by the siren call of technology. This has lured them into a fatal trap. Their assumption is that any fire can be contained so long as they get it early and then have enough hardware to throw at it.  This approach arose in the United States in the years after World War 2, and is thus known to Australian land managers as “the American Approach”.

The American Approach is fundamentally flawed. Fifty years of its application in the United States and ten years in Australia has demonstrated that no force of firefighters in the world, indeed the fire-fighting resources of the world could they be marshalled into one place, can stop a crown fire in heavy forest which is generating a jet-stream of spotfires downwind, each spot fire also landing in heavy fuels, and starting new crown fires. The best and the bravest men and women, armed with the most munificent, the most magnificent and the most expensive equipment, is totally overwhelmed [6]. 

This is a reality that still appears not to have penetrated the Australian bushfire Generals and our political leaders. Not only have we seen the American Approach increasingly supported in this country, and then watched as it invariably fails when pitted against multiple hot fires in heavy fuels…… despite this!….. it seems to have taken on a life of its own. Every year more money is poured into the purchase of super-expensive equipment, but the outcomes on the ground just get worse. As recently as last week, Australian emergency services experts were launching new and strident calls for more and more expensive technology, completely ignoring the need for preventative measures.

Adoption of the American Approach has been accompanied by an equally disastrous institutional re-arrangement: the progressive transfer of bushfire responsibilities on crown lands from land management agencies to the emergency services.  In this scenario, beloved of politicians and bushfire Generals, the focus of funding is shifted from preparedness and damage mitigation to emergency response. What this means in practice is less emphasis on fuel reduction and more on building up fleets of water-bombers, tankers, and other high tech firefighting gizmos, an enormous paramilitary force (overseen by technocrats in Head Office) whose function is to put out fires after they start… but which is doomed to failure whenever they are faced with multiple fires burning in heavy fuels under hot windy conditions.

These new and deleterious institutional arrangements persist because they are supported by powerful vested interests. The emergency services have a vested interest in maintaining a huge fire suppression machine and in making every fire – even an inconsequential fire – an emergency.  I have watched over recent years as they have created a state of dependence on their firefighting forces, which, when things go bad, they cannot deliver upon. And they have encouraged the belief in the public mind that all fire is bad and has to be suppressed or avoided. 

Politicians also have a vested interest in the American Approach. It is easier and simpler to finance suppression systems than damage mitigation, and they can bask in the glow of measures which are highly visible to the public and the media, and give the impression that they are doing something useful, irrespective of the fact that it will not succeed under bad fire conditions. I ask you….how often have you seen a politician lighting the first match of a prescribed burn, compared with the occasions when you see them breaking the champaigne over a newly purchased helicopter water bomber?

In saying this, I need to make an important point: I am not critical of the firefighters on the ground, professional and volunteer. I know these people, and I know them to be brave, resourceful and tough. I admire them unreservedly. But they are increasingly being asked by their own leadership to do the impossible.

But what of the assertions from groups such as the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society that because of global warming, big unstoppable bushfires are here to stay, and we might just as well get used to them. I totally reject this line of argument. It is an insult to human intelligence and to the human spirit. If the computer projections are correct and it does become hotter and dryer, this means we have to make even greater efforts at fire prevention, further improve our state of preparedness and take even more serious measures to minimise potential bushfire damage. The idea that there is nothing we can do in the face of global warming but retreat into the CFA shed and wait for the next fire to come at us over the horizon is defeatist and in the end, inhumane. And suggestions that everything will be OK if only Australians reduce their carbon dioxide emissions is surely an example of kindergarten-level thinking.

The need for mitigation of bushfire damage through fuel reduction by prescribed burning is absolutely central to effective bushfire management in dryland Australia [7]. I support the concept unequivocally, although I set some clear parameters: burning must be based on sound research into fuel characteristics, fire behaviour and fire effects; burns must be conducted professionally by trained personnel using the best-available burning guides; and every burn must be part of an overarching strategic approach, the carefully designed and constantly updated jigsaw known as the Strategic Burning Plan.

This is how it is done in Western Australia and could be done in Victoria.  But even in WA the system slipped in recent years, as foresters battled to keep a fuels management program going in the face of cunning opposition from environmentalists and compliant politicians. WA has also seen an almost complete abandonment of effective bushfire management on private land over the last decade, with Local Government opting out and no-one else filling the vacuum.  This is a situation people like me are trying to address as we speak. Would it not be better, we say to the WA government, to sort things out in advance, rather than after a disaster?

Nevertheless, 50 years of hard experience in Western Australia and world-class research [8] has demonstrated beyond argument that  while fuel reduction by prescribed burning does not prevent bushfires, it ensures fires do less damage, and it makes them easier and safer to extinguish. In gambler’s terms, it shortens the odds in favour of the firefighter. In human terms, it means people living in bushland areas where fuels have been reduced, are less likely to be burnt to death than are people living amongst heavy fuels.

Victoria, New South Wales and to a lesser extent South Australia are years behind Western Australia when it comes to the critical business of fuels and fire management. There is a no need for new research to demonstrate the value of prescribed burning, as some academics are suggesting [9]. The need is to apply existing knowledge in a vastly expanded prescribed burning program on the lands that burn. The need is to upgrade the fire skills of field staff in parks and forests so that they can handle burns confidently and efficiently. The need is to develop comprehensive planning and control systems to ensure burning is professionally carried out, and the results are properly monitored and recorded. Above and beyond all this is the need for governments to recognise these needs, to act on them and to support their staff in the field.

And here’s the rub. Based on history, you could be excused for asking will anything change, or will we see just another revolution of the bushfire cycle? [10]

My fear is that governments, however much they make the right noises, will in the end want to stay in office, and unless things change, this will mean pandering to those who (despite their current protestations) have consistently opposed responsible bushfire management.

My fear is that the forces who benefit from the status quo will already be marshalling their resources in its defence. These will include the bushfire Generals who will not want to lose their power and influence, or to see funding going to land management (which they do not control) instead of new helicopters, water bombers and tankers (which they do).

I fear that  all-knowing academics from the Fenner School of Environmental Studies at ANU, and members of the Canberra and Melbourne intelligentsia will emerge from their leafy campuses to tell us that actually there is no problem at all…. surely, everyone knows that killer bushfires are simply Mother Nature at work, or the planet’s revenge for our despicable environmentally-unfriendly behaviour. This line will be pushed over and again, helping to massage the consciences of politicians reluctant to make substantial changes to policies and practices which they think will be electorally unpopular  [11].

Yes, I am fearful. But I am also hopeful (in a pessimistic way!) My intense hope is that this time things might change. Notwithstanding the whining of the effete intelligentsia, and opposition to change from within the green bureaucracy, the powerful environmental groups and the emergency service chiefs, I think that this time it is going to be hard for the Victorian government to find excuses for doing nothing. In turn, I think that it is also going to be hard for State governments in NSW, SA, Tas and WA to ignore the carnage in Victoria and the fact that fingers are being pointed very directly at the politicians and their bushfire Generals.

I also think that the Federal Government might finally decide that it is high time they reviewed their approach, which is basically one of rewarding State governments for failed land management. And I think that a great many Local Governments are going to realise that the planning buck stops with them….. if they knowingly put people into danger through their town planning and environmental policies, and the people are then killed, they cannot escape accountability.

Finally, I think that this time, it will finally dawn on governments and their advisers that in  the Australian bush if you do not manage fire, you cannot manage for anything else.

Think about that for a moment. In  the Australian bush if you do not manage fire, you cannot manage for anything else.

It is all very well to say that the management objective for our parks, forests and reserves is “protection of biodiversity”, as most national parks agencies say these days. The trouble is, this objective cannot be achieved without first having put in place an effective bushfire management system. Where is the biodiversity today in those thousands of hectares of bushland without a green leaf to be seen, those “bare ruined choirs where no bird sings”?

It is the same in areas where the stated management priority is to protect water catchments. But to say this, and then adopt a strategy that allows fuels to build up until the day comes when the catchments are reduced to dead trees and ash – is blatantly self-defeating. And it is the same for every other land management objective, whether this be protection of aesthetics and lovely forest landscapes, protection of recreational areas, protection of commercial values and residential areas or the conservation of soil, remnant bushland on farms or threatened species.

Therefore, the first rule of land management in Australia is this: get your bushfire management right, or be prepared to lose the lot.

I started this paper with a reference to World War 1, and the futility of the strategies adopted by the Generals throughout the first three and half years of the war. It is significant that the breakthrough in 1918, the new strategy, was designed by an Australian, indeed a Victorian, General Sir John Monash. The Monash strategy was based on firstly establishing clear priorities and unambiguous objectives – he knew exactly what he wanted from amongst the options of what could be achieved. It was based on excellent planning, anticipation of difficulties and attention to detail [12]. It was based on the advice of experts, men who had been at Gallipoli and in the trenches in France and Belgium, and who spoke from experience on the ground, not from ideology. Above all, Monash was not prepared to sacrifice human lives needlessly. With all of this behind them, the troops on the ground did the rest. Monash’s new approach provided the blueprint for the end to the slaughter on the Western Front.

What Australian bushfire management is crying out for is a new General Monash, a leader who understands that the current approach has failed and is doomed to continuing failure, that the influential advisers have no front-line experience. An effective new leader will know that if we clarify and properly rank our objectives, listen to the voices of experience and the lessons of history, and act accordingly, the odds favouring success will be massively shortened.

But the great General Monash himself would not succeed without the support of Prime Ministers, Premiers and Ministers, prepared to stand firm behind him when the Wilderness Society, the Canberra intelligentsia and the ABC current affairs people gang up on him. A good response to this lot might be  “Sorry, mates, we are doing what is best for Australia and Australians, based on good science, experience and the word from the people who have most to lose”. Politically incorrect, of course, but it is the approach adopted when it comes to defence of the country against external enemies and national security, and which most Australians accept in that context.

Nor will a new general succeed without legislative and policy backing to enable land management agencies to win back the ground they have lost to the emergency services. Our parks and forests agencies must be empowered and resourced to manage fuels, indeed they must be required to do so, if necessary by legislation. Australia must abandon the American Approach, replacing it with an Australian Approach, a system in which equal weight is given to prevention and suppression, rather than trying, helplessly, to pile all our eggs in the suppression basket.

For any of this to happen our political leaders need to hear from the people whose lives and assets have been sacrificed or recklessly put at risk by the failed policies of the past.  It is essential that the people who have suffered demand systemic change, not just window dressing, more helicopters and overseas firefighters. Unless they speak up, there is no chance they will be heard. Politicians will take the easy way out. [13]

I think we can say that the environmentalist approach to bushfire management, including reliance on aerial firefighting, has been given a very fair go. It has had a good test.  Regrettably, and predictably, the results reveal that it has been a failure [14]. The excuses put forward, especially that fires are unstoppable because of global warming, are simply that: excuses. They do not allow for the capacity of intelligent humans to foresee a threat and to forestall it.

To conclude. The choices before us are straight-forward: do Australians, and especially Victorians, want our bushfire and land management planning done by professionals with front-line experience, or by campus intellectuals and ideologists? Is it smarter to manage bushfire fuels by burning them at times of our own choosing when conditions are mild, or to stand back, do nothing and risk being engulfed by fire at the worst possible time? If fires are inevitable, which is preferable: a controlled or a feral fire? And do we see humans as part of the ecosystem and plan accordingly, or do we see them as interlopers, as illegal immigrants in the Australian bush?

Do we opt for Wisdom or for Folly?


Roger Underwood is a forester with fifty years experience in bushfire management and bushfire science. He has worked as a firefighter, a district and regional manager, a research manager and senior government administrator. He is Chairman of The Bushfire Front, an independent professional group promoting best practice in bushfire management.

1. The question of Aboriginal burning is still debated. According to the accounts of early explorers and settlers and to present-day Aborigines, pre-European burning was widespread and frequent. This information is rejected by environmentalists as “hear-say”. Western Australian ecologist David Ward has found a unique way to unlock the history of pre-European burning, through his study of fire scars on grass trees. Ward’s work in the jarrah forests of Western Australia, indicate that fire occurred there at intervals of 2-4 years, and combined with his understanding of fuel dynamics and fire behaviour, he concludes that these fires would have been of mild intensity and patchy. Academics from Melbourne University, without ever having worked in the jarrah forest, have dismissed Ward’s findings, preferring the print-outs from a theoretical computer model.

2. Not everyone agrees about the environmental impact of large intense wildfires. Dr Ross Bradstock who lectures to undergraduates at the Australian National University, has written in an article in the Melbourne Age newspaper that that there was no scientific evidence for the claims that millions of birds and mammals died, or that forest diversity was reduced in the Victorian Alpine fires in 2003.

3. Laura Meredith, writing of her home in Tasmania in 1840, records a time when her husband was away and bushfires were threatening her home. She discovered with relief that her husband had taken the wise precaution of burning the ferns over the whole of a wide span of the forest which surrounds us and thus the home was rendered safe.

4. The best book written on fire in Australia is Stephen Pyne’s Burning Bush (first published in 1991 and updated following the 2003/4 fires) but there are also numerous books on fire science and history, including the excellent Fire and Hearth by the anthropologist Sylvia Hallam. Hallam quotes Lort Stokes, a fellow traveller with Charles Darwin on the Beagle who watched as Aboriginal people near Albany carried out their routine burning of the bush, replacing (in Stokes’ words) fires of “ungovernable fury” with those of “complete docility”.

5. In the very week leading up to  Victoria’s Black Saturday, Western Australian bushfire managers found themselves dealing with a Greens Member of Parliament who was threatening to organise a protesters’ camp in the bush to prevent a prescribed burn. The burn was planned to protect two local townships plus some very lovely forest from wildfire.

6. As Shakespeare pointed out: A little fire is quickly trodden out, but being suffered, rivers will not quench.  Many of those who oppose prescribed burning believe that if we simply had enough firefighters, permanently waiting in the bush for fires to start, and able to tread on them at the instant of ignition, no large fires would ever occur. Firefighters regard this as impractical. In eucalypt forests carrying heavy dry fuels, a fire can become too fierce to allow direct attack by firefighters within minutes of ignition, indicating that the “treading out” approach would require several million firefighters on standby throughout Australian forests for several months of every year.

7. “Dryland Australia” is the bulk of the continent, outside the tropical rainforests of the north, some of the wet temperate rainforests of southern Tasmania, and coastal mangroves. It is the Australia that burns.

8. The Project Vesta research, a 10-year study completed in Australia in 2007, involved a collaboration of CSIRO, government agencies and the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre. It represents the most comprehensive and technically defensible bushfire research program ever carried out anywhere in the world. The results unequivocally support the value of prescribed burning as a means of reducing bushfire intensity, and puts forward new approaches to fuel measurement and characterisation.

9. “More research is needed” is the standard response of academics and scientists to any issue. This is because they depend on research grants to pay their salaries and expenses. In Australia the fundamental questions about fire behaviour and fuels management have already been answered, going back to the work by Alan MacArthur, Phil Cheney, George Peet and Rick Sneeuwjagt in the 1960s and 1970s, and on building design by the CSIRO going back to the Tasmanian fires of 1967 and the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983. The pressing requirements today are for refining fire behaviour tables and developing prescribed burning guides for various forest types, in other words for applied or operational research which builds on current knowledge.  This sort of work can only be carried out by bushfire experienced researchers in the field, not by theoretical analysts and computer experts in academia.

10. The Bushfire Cycle runs thus: first there is a disastrous bushfire. This is followed by inquiries, commissions and reviews and the system is greatly upgraded. Over subsequent years, the new system is so effective that there are no serious bushfires. Apathy and complacency set in, weirdo pressure groups arise, governments lose interest and funds and staff are reduced. The system degrades. Then there is another bushfire disaster and the wheel revolves once more.

11. According to the doyen of Canberra intellectuals Professor Clive Hamilton, speaking on ABC’s Radio National recently; “the most interesting thing about the recent Victorian bushfires has been the attacks on greenies.” Apparently he did not find the loss of over 200 lives as interesting as the ruffling of the feathers of a few environmental activists.

12. Les Carlyon in his magnificent book The Great War, notes that Monash’s final planning conference before the attack on Hamel in 1918  had an agenda of 133 items. Elsewhere it is recorded that the then-Colonel Monash, commanding Australian troops at Gallipoli in 1915, set up his command HQ thirty metres from the Turkish front trenches.

13.  The fundamental issue, and the basis of the whole difficulty facing professional bushfire managers, is very well summed up by Jim Hacker, fictional Minister for Administrative Services in the television series ‘Yes Minister’: “There are times in a politician’s life when he is obliged to take the wrong decision. Wrong economically, wrong industrially, wrong by any standards – except one. It is a curious fact that something which is wrong from every other point of view can be right politically. And something which is right politically does not simply mean that it is the way to get the votes – which it is – but also if a policy gets the votes then it can be argued that that policy is what the people want. And, in a democracy, how can a thing be wrong if it is what the people will vote for?” The ultimate test for the Victorian government in the wake of the recent fires is whether or not it caves in to green demands on bushfire issues in order to win preference votes and stay in power at the next election.  The ‘Yes Minister’ scenario, and past performances, suggests that they will fail this test, and will cave in, unless there is a dramatic outburst of political courage and responsible government.

14. It was notable that some of the worst of the recent fire damage in Victoria occurred in the dark, at night or under gale force winds when aerial waterbombers were grounded. This is consistent with my own experience. In 1978 I was the Officer in Charge in the karri forest in Western Australia during the Cyclone Alby bushfire crisis. The first thing we had to do as the cyclonic winds approached, was to ground all our aircraft and tie them down.

118 Responses to Victorian Bushfires: The Result of Human Folly

  1. Ron Pike March 23, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    Your wisdom and widely understood logic (by those with experience in this field), is to be applauded.
    Your arguments are not only correct but need to be shouted at every Politican and Bureaucrat who has been party to the sleazy deals of bad policy for preferences that are always done behind closed doors.
    It is Government by a sleazy, misguided minority.
    Well done, more later.

  2. Pandanus March 23, 2009 at 10:11 am #


    A well thought out, considered adnd measured paper. As a forester with fire experience from NSW and WA I can only agree with the points you raised. I would add that a critical issue that has occurred since the mid nineties is the reduction in the workforce of all forest management agencies throughout Australia; due to numerous reasons but often tied in with a transfer of lands from production management to conservation management. This reduction in the “in-forest” workforce has in my experience resulted in a loss of local knowledge of weather and bushfire behaviour which is vital in the managemnt of all fire.

  3. Green Davey March 23, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    Spot on, Roger. Those of us who have, like you, actually attended, observed, and fought many bushfires will agree with your views. Those with mere academic knowledge may be outraged, as they seem to be outraged at my finding old fire marks at 2-4 year intervals on grasstree stems back to 1750. My God, ground truth contradicting theory based on computer models with dodgy assumptions! Whatever next?
    You did not mention Professor Richard Minnich’s excellent work in California, showing the results of the ‘American approach’, compared with the ‘Mexican’. Try a Google on ‘minnich+chou+mosaic’. I remain ‘green’ in my outlook, and spent Sunday morning with a volunteer group of like minded ‘greenies’ injecting local jarrah trees against dieback. However, my definition of the word ‘green’ excludes mindless ‘fire bad’ dogma. The greenest bush I have seen is 2-4 years after a fire. After that it starts to turn yellow due to nutrient lockup in the dead litter. Nyoongars know that. Why don’t some Australian university professors?

  4. Ian Mott March 23, 2009 at 11:50 am #

    There is not the slightest room for doubt that the green movement has been in complete control of all aspects of forest management policy for the past two decades. No-one else can possibly be to blame for the consequences of that subordination of statutory obligations to green ideology.

    If there had been an ounce of contrition on their part for the terrible price that has been paid, by both the human and wildlife populations, then there might have been room for forgiveness. But they are in complete denial of their part in any of this. They have not shown the slightest capacity for introspection or reflection on what they have done and not done.

    And if there really is an ultimate calling into account, a karma if you will, then those local councillors who implemented the fire exacerbating policies but did not lose their own homes, will have them torched by lightning stike before the current ash has settled.

    At the moment the score card reads;

    Innocent Locals, 210 dead and 1000 homes destroyed,
    Environmental Robber Barrons, nil dead and nil homes destroyed,
    Departmental Thugs, nil dead and nil homes destroyed,
    Indifferent Urban Voters, nil dead and nil homes destroyed.

    It is the anatomy of MGI, that is, Murderous Green Ideology.

    I think it is time that all the Rural Fire Service volunteers adopted a policy of refusing to attend fires on public tenure until common sense management prevails. They should limit their risk exposure to the protection of their own communities and let the ideologues fight the fires of their own creation.

    The RFS rank and file volunteer members need to collectively and independently devise a set of management prescriptions that must be complied with before they will certify any piece of public tenured land as deserving the risk of good men and womens lives. And they should then clearly identify any uncertified lands, with signage, to enable the public to appreciate the public sector’s level of compliance with community expectations.

    It must be done entirely independently of any official process with signs along the lines of “RFS No Go Zone” for the non-complying land and “RFS Complying Zone” for land that has maintained an appropriate level of informed fire management measures.

    The RFS volunteers need to understand what an imensely powerful amount of political capital they have acquired, and continue to accumulate each year. They, alone, supply the critical mass that underwrites the wider public’s perception of their own safety. In the past they have set no pre-conditions as to how that politcal capital might be used. And that failure to do so has been to the substantial detriment of their own communities and their own environment.

    Make absolutely no mistake here fellas, if you set clear, no nonsense, pre-conditions on your risking of life and property, and ruthlessly enforce compliance, then Brumby, and the whole circus will fall into line. All it will take is one news item showing RFS volunteers refusing to attend a non-complying green disaster area, and Brumby will be the proverbial political “dead man walking”.

    Carpe diem.

  5. Larry March 23, 2009 at 3:38 pm #

    On the whole, I think that Roger has written an outstanding article. However I feel that he’s making a caricature of the American Approach. True, at one time, we did have a policy of total suppression of all wildfires. And that included lightning-strikes on ridge tops, early in the season, when the ground was moderately moist. The thinking has changed somewhat.

    Several years ago, a forest fire in Yellowstone, one of the crown jewels of our National Park system, was allowed to continue until it got to be quite large. For the managers, it was a politically dicey, courage-of-one’s-convictions moment. But it turned out to be the right decision in the long run. There have also been prescribed burns in Yosemite, another famous NP.

    A long time ago, I worked several seasons with the U.S. Forest Service. And for most of those seasons, firefighting was a part of the job. Fortunately for me, most of the actual ground-pounding experience was in the coniferous forests of Northern California, where crown fires are not common. Southern California–like Australia–is a whole different ball of wax.

    My opinion? Intentionally ignorant legislators, who set misguided wildfire management policies, should be required to put their own arses on the front lines, when all hell breaks loose, as a result of those policies.

  6. SJT March 23, 2009 at 4:11 pm #

    The DSE had a burn off at Wilsons Prom not long ago, and were publicly humiliated for doing so because it got out of control. Most of Wilsons Prom just got burned to the ground. Burning off is not a solution, unless we just wipe the whole landscape off the map, that would certainly prevent most fires. Don’t think a 100 metre barrier will do any good, this fire was deadly at 200m. One resident had a fire go through, which he survived without any major complications, then with 24 hours another front came through from a different direction, over the same land that had just been burned off by nature, and nearly wiped him out. You are dealing with the extraordinary here. Don’t kid yourselves.

  7. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 23, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    You guys just aren’t happy unless you’re hating someone are you?

    I don’t hate rednecks, I pity you. The world has moved on and you’re not coping. That’s not to say that all things past were bad, on the contrary, I too miss some of the old values.

    Anyway, I think Roger has plenty of valid points but they are too often lost in the explosion of spittle directed at “greenies” or the “Murderous Green Ideology” as Ian Mott would have it.

    First, let’s have a look at the three fires that claimed the most lives. Kilmore – power lines down, Murrundindi – arsonist, Churchill – arsonist. All a direct result of humans. We could argue the cost of undergrounding the powerlines but what about people who start fires knowing the conditions are possibly the worst in white history here?

    This argument about fuel reductions is a furphy. No environment group’s policy advocates a blanket ban on fuel reduction although they often have qualifications designed to prevent bad practices having bad consequences. No problem there.

    I’ll tell you straight, fuel reduction wasn’t worth sh… on Black Saturday. Once those fires were going they weren’t stopping until environmental conditions eased. That’s it.

    The Kilmore fire claimed lives in farming areas before it even hit forest. It started in a paddock and then hit plantations (bluegum and pine I believe). As far as forests go, you don’t get a more intensively managed environment than plantations.

    Once the fire hit those plantations it was all over red rover. It was uncontainable before it even hit the managed forests at Mt Disappointment and the escarpment to Kinglake etc.. It had the “critical mass” to jump the Hume Hwy and obliterate everything in its path until the wind changed and abated and the temp. cooled and the humidity rose.

    You could liken regrowth forests to plantations too. They have a similar physical structure and fuel load which makes them volatile. The young trees also need to be excluded from fire regimes because they are more vulnerable to fire and have a high mortality rate if burned.

    The Murrindindi fire that hit Marysville started in the Toolangi forest block. That is possibly the most intensively managed forest in Victoria. When the fire started it burned through an area that was fuel reduced in 2008 and also burned through another area that was fuel reduced in 2008 just before it took out Marysville.

    The Churchill fire was started in a plantation and then burned into the Strzelecki forests which also might lay claim to being the most intensively managed forests in Australia as they are mostly plantation, replanted forest and pockets of remnant and regrowth forest.

    I’ll say it slowly for you, it wasn’t the state of forests that killed, it was the environmental conditions. It strikes me that, for all your qualifications, you lot have very little appreciation for the physical reality of fire in Victoria.

    People died, people will die. You may as well try to stop earthquakes or tsunamis.

    Beyond forest management, planning regulations and emergency response, I think you’ll find the real killer (despite the arsonists) was complacency and ignorance.

    It’s no surprise in my mind that these events are generational.

    I heard lots of accents amongst people who were interviewed after the event. Lots of people come to Australia and like the bush. They see a bit of a fire on the news but they don’t know about Black Friday, Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday type events. It’s outside and beyond anything they know.

    Even so-called tree changers could fall into this category. City people don’t know what the reality is like. If they have no generational or oral history they become complacent.

    This explains why people hung around and expected notice or information on the day. At the first sign or whiff of smoke in those conditions, I’d have legged it. No doubt whatsoever in my mind.

    Don’t tell people that they’ll survive if they let DSE burn a bit of scrub around their block. That’s just plain BS. It created a false sense of security. It’s a crappy simplistic response to a problem that needs addressing on numerous levels.

    Fire ban days need classes like cyclones, e.g. Categories 1-5, with Category 1 being stay if you are prepared to the nth degree and Category 5 (Black Saturday) being leave early AM or even the night before.

    Stop pushing this pathetic throwback barrow and focus on the things that will save lives.

  8. Pandanus March 23, 2009 at 4:46 pm #


    The Wilsons prom fire escaped because the land managers did not have the experience to call off the burn when conditions were not going to be as predicted. Experienced land managers know how t make those decisions and stand by them It is why when the window of opportunity presents itself to implement a burn the opportunity is taken. When the weather is not going to work for you the prudent land manager calls it off, local knowledge of wind and weather is extremely imortant in all fire management. It’s what we used to do so that we wouldn’t lose a fire and have to deal with a problem of our own making. This was covered extensively onthis Blog at that time.

    Your observation in regards to the fire severity clearly support the thrust of Rogers paper. Where fuel is not managed fires of the intensity and behaviour that you have described do result. I think that you have missed the point of Rogers paper. PLease read it again.

  9. Herman Dobrowolski March 23, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    In the late 1980s and 1990s I frequently flew from Australia’s east cost to Asian or European cities for my employer. This meant flying over bush country country in Queensland, NT and WA. What always struck me was the amount of burning off visible during the day and particularly at night during the dry season. Nearly all of this was due to the entrenched experience of fire by the aboriginals in their homelands. I also travelled these lands on the ground and saw the re-growth and vitality of the vegetation.

    Then, one day, I was seated next to an American-accented woman on a flight taking us over NSW, NT and WA and I pointed out to her the fires below. She was horrified that natural vegetation could be so needlessly destroyed. Nothing I said could convince her this was a good cause.

    It shows that stupid green thinking has been entrenched for a long time.

  10. cinders March 23, 2009 at 6:35 pm #

    Excellent speech Roger, will government never learn from real experts.
    In its 2003 report “A Nation Charred: Report on the inquiry into Bushfires” the House of Representatives Select Committee into the 2003 bushfires made the following broad observations:
    • The fire suppression effort was hampered by lack of prior fuel reduction burning, closure and lack of maintenance of tracks, historical loss of resources from land management agencies (particularly the forest industry), and a reliance on suppression rather than prevention.
    • More fuel management is possible – a coordinated and planned scientifically based regional approach across all tenures could be achieved.

    The urgency and credibility of this report was diluted by a dissenting report of Greens MP M. Organ that did not accept this finding. The Greens also objected to the Chairman’s observation:
    “…fuel loads are of great concern. There’s a view that overwhelmingly, the fires were so bad because of very heavy fuel loads which were present because prescribed burning hasn’t gone on in the past 10 or 20 years the way it used to.

    Yet as part of electioneering in last week’s Queensland election the Greens state “”For the record: the Greens are not opposed to fuel reduction burns”

    No wonder there are bumper stickers that warn “Greens tell lies”

  11. dave tucker March 23, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    In my experience of prescribed burns, a rough rule of thumb goes like this: one crew, one tanker, one hectare= one hour.
    In other words, to do a fair dinkum controlled burn, as opposed to dropping a match and letting it rip, it will take the average crew one hour. That’s if the weather’s right. If you do the maths, you’ll quickly see that there aren’t enough crews, enough tankers, enough suitable days, enough hours in the day or enough years in a lifetime to successfully tackle the fuel loads, even in strategic areas.

    Suppose we put the crews on steroids and uppers and they could safely burn five hectares in an hour. Would that make a difference?
    Not much: the numbers are just too big. The need for hazard reduction is a given. How to do it? That is the question.

  12. Quoll March 23, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    Long and tedious really, for something parading as an argument.
    Ralph Waldo is right, this is folly at best, delusional psychic-vomit at worst.

    Never let the facts get in the way of a good story though eh Roger.
    I’d say if you actually want to convince anyone of anything about the world, it pays to open your ears and eyes (see and hear what is really happening) at least as often as your mouth.

  13. Jeremy C March 23, 2009 at 7:38 pm #

    You are just using the deaths of over 200 people to try and further your crazy ideology.

    Sleazy, very sleazy and despicable. Denialists in every sphere of thought and deed. You are beyond shame.

  14. SJT March 23, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    “Then, one day, I was seated next to an American-accented woman on a flight taking us over NSW, NT and WA and I pointed out to her the fires below. She was horrified that natural vegetation could be so needlessly destroyed. Nothing I said could convince her this was a good cause.”

    It also shows that burning is being done, despite all the nonsense claims that it isn’t.

  15. janama March 23, 2009 at 8:05 pm #

    Sleazy, very sleazy and despicable. You are beyond shame.

    before throwing a hissy fit why not point out who it’s directed to?

  16. Pandanus March 23, 2009 at 9:17 pm #


    The burning off of the savannah country in northern and central Ausralia is a mixture of cattle farmer lit fires, lightning strikes and fires lit by Aboriginal people. These are not prescribed burns in the sense that we understand them in the forested areas in the south of the country. The material burnt is the growth that has occurred over the past twelve months. This is a very different scenario to the forest fires in the south east and west of the country. The Tropical Savannah CRC has carried out much research in to the impact of the timing of these fires and in conjunction with the Arnhem Land indigenous community is attempting to reintroduce a more traditional fire regime that has a focus on cool early dry season fires rather than late dry season hot fires. They have published a number of papers on this topic and I recommend them to anyone who is interested.

  17. Phantom March 24, 2009 at 12:49 am #

    Carry on if you must but it’s highly unlikley our authorities and inquiries will consult internet comic strips like this.

    Respect any surviving witnesses who may be lurking if you can

  18. Mike D. March 24, 2009 at 3:25 am #

    For additional information on fuels management in AU please see Bush Fire Front:

    The Bush Fire Front is a Western Australian voluntary organisation dedicated to protecting householders, farmers and forests from the ravages of bushfires. Our focus is the southwest corner of WA, where hundreds of thousands of people, valuable property, public assets and priceless forests are threatened by wildfire.

    We are practical bushfire specialists, with hundreds of years’ accumulated experience in preventing bushfire damage to people, property and forests. We are a group of West Australians deeply concerned to prevent bushfire damage to people, lives and forests. Each of us has worked in bushfire prevention, bushfire science, fire planning, administration or operations for over 35 years.

  19. sod March 24, 2009 at 5:58 am #

    the article doesn t contain a single fact. no data, no evidence, no scientific results or evidence for the claimed causal links. nothing.

    it is just a political rant, based on a completely false analogy.

  20. janama March 24, 2009 at 7:56 am #


    It was pointed out to me in the Kimberly that a small tribe of aboriginals on foot with a fire stick was a different story then a modern 4WD troopee with a team of aboriginals/farmers with diesel guns.

    We are about to experience yet another northern winter where the fires will rage across the northern savannah ring-barking all the new trees that will be lucky to reach 4m high before they eventually give up and fall over.

    Photos of the area from the past show 20 – 30m high trees flourishing.

  21. Ian Mott March 24, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    He we go again. Festival of hate (or is it Luke?) leaps into his spleen vent doing his utmost to portray every other opinion but the party line as fringe right wing and then offers up a few isolated factoids in an afterthought grasp at credibility.

    His tiny brain uses “forest management intensity” as some sort of synonym for effective hazard reduction when it could mean the direct opposite. If proper cold burns are not carried out in a plantation or regrowth stand that has had a “thin to waste” treatment then the fuel load will be astronomical. And if there is no market for woodchips from small, bent culled stems then the entire thinned volume will remain on the plantation or regrowth forest floor.

    Furthermore, the combustibility of both regrowth and plantation are highly dependent on the age of the trees and the extent to which they fully occupy the site. If both forest types will be due for thinning in a year or two, or worse, overdue, then they will be much more combustible than an old growth forest.

    So readers should be aware that the “official” green movement defense of their criminal negligence will hinge on the entirely false implication that plantations and native regrowth are synonymous with post hazard reduction forest. They will then claim, as Festival/Luke has done, that the recent fires were not impeded by either plantations or regrowth so hazard reduction doesn’t work.

    This is the same bull$hit argument presented by Toyne and Farley crony, Andrew Campbell, which was posted on this blog by Luke. See

    To which I said;

    “Mr Campbell may have retained some vestige of credibility, right up to the point where he said;

    “Under these conditions, fuel reduction, access tracks etc are utterly irrelevant. These fires burnt through areas that had been burnt by wildfire in 2004, and coupes that had been clear-felled within recent years, with no obvious drop in speed or fire intensity.”

    It is a quote that indicates that his own “ecological literacy”, as he puts it, leaves much to be desired. Campbell appears incapable of distinguishing between thick regrowth five years after a stand replacing hot fire like 2004 and understorey restoration a similar interval after a controlled cool burn that barely singed the canopy.

    If he had retained even a rudimentary grasp of forest ecology and fire behaviour he would understand that the explosion of regrowth after a hot fire, with its low, dense canopy of fiercely competing stems, is one of the most combustible elements of a forest mosaic. To use the fire behaviour in stand replacing regrowth as evidence of some sort of failure of cool burn hazard reduction regimes would, in the absence of mitigating evidence, lead many competent forest managers to conclude that he is neither a forester’s, nor a fire fighter’s armpit.”

    I will copy the remainder of that critique of Campbell because it has obviously become the green movement’s scripted disinformation mantra in defense of their criminal negligence.

    “More damning is Campbells (and SJT & Festival/Lukes) ignorance of the circumstances in which people have died while conducting hazard reduction burns. These deaths had nothing to do with the fact that a hazard reduction burn took place and EVERYTHING to do with the competence, training and supervision of the people and the organisation that attempted them.

    The one that most comes to mind was the Kuringai Chase National Park fiasco where none of the participants had any experience in fire fighting and had maps that indicated that an escape route was open, when it was not. The clowns did not start with some small late evening burns on the ridgetops which could then have the main fires burned into them. No.

    They started right down in the moist gulley and waited until conditions were dry enough down there for the fire to get going first thing in the morning. By which time the vegetation further up hill was well and truly tinder dry. They then tried to outrun their own fire back up the hill to where their vehicles had been left. They did not have the nous, when faced with such a silly circumstance to begin with, to light another fire before them and follow behind it, in safety, in the resulting ash field. No, I understand that they made it to the top and drove off down the blocked escape route where conditions were even worse. And they died a bimbo’s death.

    All it ever proved was the fact that both National Parks management, and National Parks staff, are generally far too stupid to be trusted with such an important land management function. Meanwhile, Campbell has chosen to get no closer to the actual situation than to observe that cold fires can get away and wrongly imply that the threat to life and property in winter would be similar to that of a wildfire in midsummer.

    The reality, amongst competent, private sector forest managers, is completely different.

    Glenn Shailer is an octagenarian who regularly cold burns part of his 220 hectare forest just 15 minutes from the Brisbane GPO, as he has done for more than 60 years. With the help of just one other, he starts at the time most suited to the conditions on his ridgetops, which are all disected by roads. He starts with small burns towards the roads and walks the fires along the ridges, and well into the night if conditions allow. As the season dries out he starts further down the slopes, again consistent with the conditions, to produce an ever widening mosaic of freshly burned areas and lush green pick. And by the time he is ready to do the main body of the burn, all the wildlife have migrated to the green pick where food is abundant and they are well protected from the main fire. To my knowledge he has never had a serious escape, despite the fact that he is sandwiched between the severely degraded Venman Reserve and the almost equally degraded Daisy Hill State Forest/Park.

    It may come as a surprise to Campbell and his little coven of voodoo forest custodians but good fire managers do not knock off at 5.00pm. And if the right conditions for a burn are on a Saturday, or clash with yet another “sustainability workshop”, then the burn takes precedence.”

    One can only conclude that DSE, NRM and Parks people can no longer be entrusted with responsibility for hazard reduction in any public tenure forest because of the extremely high likelihood that they will deliberately botch the job so they can present it as evidence in support of their ideological position. Given their past record it is almost absolutely certain that they will “manufacture” failed hazard burns to support their position.

    There is no “low” to which this sort of scum will not sink.

  22. SJT March 24, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    “It may come as a surprise to Campbell and his little coven of voodoo forest custodians but good fire managers do not knock off at 5.00pm. And if the right conditions for a burn are on a Saturday, or clash with yet another “sustainability workshop”, then the burn takes precedence.” ”

    You just summed up why you are dead wrong. A Department can’t just decide “it’s a good day for a burn, let’s put everything else down a burn a few hectares here and there.” All organisations of any size, public or private, have to plan, organise and budget. How would you manage that? Have a thousand crews who sit around all year just waiting for a good day to go out and burn? Do you want your taxes to pay for that? Do you even pay any taxes?

    And stubble was enough to feed that fire, and if you read my post, that fire tore through an area twice in one day. It had done it’s own burn off earlier, and still managed to come back through exactly the same area twice as hard when the wind changed. The radiant heat was potent at distances that most people would not think they would have to clear. Well planned and tended properties still went up, and nothing could have stopped that fire.

  23. Ian Mott March 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    Classic crap from SJT. A whole department may not be able to drop everything and do a burn if the conditions are right but a smaller number of individuals certainly can. State foresters have done it for years and farmers do it with no trouble at all. Are you seriously telling us that park rangers are continually engaged in such pressing duties that they could never delay a single task for a day or two to fit in a more important role? Give us a break.

    And this whole notion of the perfect conditions is a bit of a furphy. If it is mid winter and conditions over most of an estate are too wet for a fire to burn then the ridge tops and spurs will often burn OK at 2.00pm. If things have got a little dryer and a 2.00pm burn would be a bit risky then you just delay the burn until just before sunset, or even after dark.

    The same applies to subsequent burns of sections of the main area. These may be ready a month later and, again, can be lit at varying windows depending on the conditions. These subsequent burns will expand and extend the burnt buffers along lower ridges and spurs so that when the main burns are done, perhaps another month later, the fires can cover large areas but be contained by very substantial buffers of lush green pick.

    And as for your little example above of a fire going through the same place twice in one day, you again display your complete ignorance. The initial fire was obviously lit in the middle of the day, on either a bad day, or on a day when they should have waited until dusk so dew fall could significantly reduce the fire intensity.

    From my own experience, as little as a one hour delay at dusk is all it takes to turn an otherwise highly inflamable patch of blady grass into a barely burnable no-show. So one can define the size of the area to be burned by the amount of time allowed before dew fall shuts it all down.

    Your stupid DSE mates who lit a fire at Wilsons Prom that was, “deadly at 200m”, as you put it, clearly haven’t the faintest idea how to read a landscape. That fire was obviously lit far too late in the year.

    You did say, “not long ago”, so are you actually refering to a hot summer fire? And using it as bogus evidence of the dangers of cold fires?

    For the record, SJT, exactly what was the date of this fire?

    But thank you for clearly demonstrating the nub of the problem, SJT. You and your green, DSE and Parkie mates know absolute jack $hit about how to do the job properly. And rather than listen and learn from people like Roger who know exactly what they are doing, you sit around like a bunch of wallies thinking up excuses why the job cannot be done at all.

  24. J.Hansford March 24, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

    Hey “Brainless festival of hate”…. how about using a real name or initials.

    It’s truly bizarre trying to type a response…. ” Dear ‘Brainless’ festival of hate….”

    C’mon man, lift yer game. Grow up.

    Also…. Don’t confuse criticism for hate. Just because you hate being criticised for your misanthropic green ideology, don’t think the feeling is mutual.

    As to your post, most of what you state is wrong or misguided. Yes, we all know that on windy days in midsummer, fires will be uncontrollable…. Duh. Thats the point.

    That is why land must be cleared and redesigned around houses and townships, in some instances perhaps for miles, not just tens or hundreds of meters. That is why native gardens are as bizarre as planting drums of petrol near your front door. Or overgrown national forests are as crazy as having a rocket fuel factory near a town.

    We need more dams for water and irrigation, more productive land and less untouched forests, get the livestock back in them to graze the understory down….. The Australian bush needs to be changed to suit humans … not left to encourage wombats.

    ….. and no mate. I don’t hate you. I simply have no interest in the Australia you seem to want to design. I will overcome you and move on without much thought about it.

    Your green ideology has already cost the lives of over 200 Victorians…. Now we will use this sad fact against that misanthropic ideology of yours. We will get justice for those people and we will build an Australia that is safe to live in.

    So curb your hate and open your heart and mind to change.

  25. Ian Mott March 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    Dave Tucker’s little “rule of thumb” (one crew, one tanker, one hectare = 1 hour) is more departmental bollocks designed to hoodwink the urban ignorati.

    On some days that might be the case but, generally, a 20m wide burn towards a road on a ridge will be more than 500 metres long. With two of those in an “L” shape and the right breeze heading towards the existing buned buffer and the follow up burn can do more than 25 hectares in one go. Add one more long finger to each corner and, again with the right breezes on the right days, four lots of 50 hectare or more burns can be done on four outings. With that portion in place even larger burns can be directed towards it later.

    And if that burned area is next to a portion burned the year before then the size of the burn can be larger still and done in fewer steps.

    You guys just don’t f$%^& get it, do you?

  26. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 24, 2009 at 4:17 pm #

    Well I was right about that hating bit wasn’t I? It took a little while but, sure enough, you came dashing out of the scrub like your dacks were on fire. Talk about misanthropy, you blokes have it in spades!

    I’d like to debate you Ian but there’s no point as you couldn’t/wouldn’t challenge specific points of my comment and instead constructed a straw-man argument and viciously scratched at it and gouged its eyes out.

    One point mentioned by Dave Tucker that I’d like to expand on is the resources needed and cost associated with managing fuel around Melbourne’s bush/urban interface.

    Imagine an arc around Melbourne. It’s starts about 30km due north of the GPO and sweeps round for around 100km to the south east. It’s also about 50km wide or thick. It’s a mixture of the world’s most dangerously flammable forest type and towns, villages, suburbs and outlying homes and farms propped in and around bush in a hideous mosaic. We’re talking tens of thousands of homes sitting in a tinder box. How much is it going to cost to manage FRBs in these areas? The only truly safe time of year is autumn. Most of these areas have already switched from Black Saturday volatility to virtually unburnable. That switch can occur in 24 hours. The same areas will need to be burned every second year to have any marginal effect in mitigation due to rapid fuel build up in these forest types. Oh yeah, one more thing, you might be making the forest more dangerous by encouraging fire responsive species and eliminating the ecological and hydrological buffers created by riparian strips and rainforests. Don’t let reality get in the way of a good spray hey fellas?

    There must be thousands of ways that would be more effective in saving lives for a fraction of the cost and effort.

    “You guys just don’t f$%^& get it, do you?”???? And if it means being like you Ian, I hope I never do!

  27. gavin March 24, 2009 at 4:32 pm #

    How did I guess the big soapbox was made entirely of “plantation” wood?

    We get a lot comment here in the form of self promotion. When it comes to books and small consultancies scattered around the country, this place has no equal.

    Empire building has been rife for decades on both sides of the land management business and we can be sure that battle will continue for decades more as the population is urbanised.

    Perhaps I should remind readers at this point; one outcome from the McLeod Bushfire Inquiry post 2003 was the virtual removal of all public & private forestry operations on the outskirts of Canberra. This followed from a recommendation to create a Bushfire Abatement Zone to be situated largely to the west of the city, our most fire prone area historically.

    Who manages the remaining scrub in practice remains a moot point however.

    Urbanites need to consider another issue too; much of our toilet paper came from pine plantations in the Victorian regions just burned. Hazard reduction in these crops like those in the ACT was probably off the agenda at a critical time.

  28. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 24, 2009 at 4:43 pm #

    JHansford, Nurse Ratchett is looking for you. It’s time for your medication.

    And what is it with you guys and FRB in plantations? It’s not done down here.

    I wonder why…..

  29. SJT March 24, 2009 at 4:51 pm #

    “No, I understand that they made it to the top and drove off down the blocked escape route where conditions were even worse. And they died a bimbo’s death.”

    Charming. Did you clap and cheer when you read that, or just have a quiet chuckle.

  30. janama March 24, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    Yeah –

    untouched for over 100 yeras.

  31. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm #

    “Comment from: janama March 24th, 2009 at 5:21 pm ”

    Point being?

  32. gavin March 24, 2009 at 6:03 pm #

    Pic14 in the link above is interesting because it shows the furnace like conditions where gaseous fireballs can be seen high in the sky.

    Such conditions also existed to the west of parliament house around 3pm on the afternoon 18th Jan 2003. I saw from a distance, a secondary fire front of similar magnitude judging by the flame heights in the darkness, cross Mt Stromlo at about 8.30 pm.

  33. janama March 24, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

    point? – nothing, just a comment on the untouched – close though.

  34. Pandanus March 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm #

    Gavin, pic 14 looks like almost any photo of crowning fire in dense forest, be it plantation or native forest. I’ve seen similar photo’s of the pine plantation going up during the Ash Wednesday fires and witnessed the same during the Canberra fires.

    Rogers article was quite clear on point that these sort of fires are not able to be suppressed until they run their course. The fundamentals of fire science have not changed over the years, fuel, oxygen and ignition are the three elements required. The only element that land managers can influence is the fuel. Every post fire Royal commision and inquiry since 1939 have recommended that an increased level of fuel reduction be implemented as a measure to reduce the risk of major fires. Sadly our political leaders and their bureaucrats have abandoned the only preventative land management practice available to them.

  35. Mark Poynter March 24, 2009 at 8:42 pm #

    Wow, quite a debate so far! I will say from the outset that as a forester colleague (alas a Victorian one) of Roger Underwood, I agree wholeheartedly with his paper which I saw him deliver to an audience of over 120 in Melbourne last week. Accordingly, I concur far more with Ian Mott’s sentiments than those of “SJT” or “Festival of Hate”.

    Nevertheless, the “Festival” raises an interesting point about the difficulty and expense of fuel reduction burning in close proximity to the suburban fringes of our major cities. It is indeed very costly to plan given the requirements of neighbour notification, and to implement due to the heightened risk of property damage. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done or isn’t being done (some is), but if state governments are serious about improving fire management outcomes, they are going to have to devote far more funding and resources to the problem. Hopefully this will be one outcome from the Royal Commission.

    The question of the influence of ‘green’ ideology which is being debated here and elsewhere since the fires has I think largely been too simplistic. In reality, I think its effect on fire management has been more insidious than directly intended. To a large extent, it has been a spin-off of the primary ‘green’ aim which has long been the complete exclusion of timber production by national park expansion.

    Unfortunately, experience shows that the re-badging of former State forests as national parks confers a dramatic change to the land management culture. Foresters always saw fire management as core business and took a landscape-scale vision to their task. By contrast, the major focus of the replacement park managers is on developing and managing visitor infrastructure and controlling visitor usage. This is usually restricted to only a fraction of the landscape and can involve closing off much of the access that was developed by the former forest managers.

    It seems also, that most park managers are not enthusiastic about the use of fire as a management tool apart from just perhaps very small burns to protect visitor infrastructure or stimulate ecological processes in specific small areas. This may be useful but will do almost nothing to reduce the build-up of fuels across the broad expanse of the landscape.

    I believe that this is where the insidious effect decades of ‘green’ ideology starts to surface. The success of the environmental movement in creating an awareness of nature and engendering an emotional attachment to forests has played a significant role in attracting people to roles such as park management. Unfortunately, coming to the role with such a background typically manifests itself in a ‘kid-gloves’ approach to management that is at odds with the reality that Australia’s forests have a disturbance-reliant ecology shaped by thousands of years of Aboriginal and natural burning.

    Not that all park managers are opposed to burning, I know several who have strong forestry backgrounds who would see the need for a more active approach. However, I think they are a minority amongst the field staff, and a very small minority amongst the total bureaucracy which is dominated by city-based planners and executives mostly imbued with the typical inner urban ‘green’ views about the environment – which is largely exemplified by undisturbed preservation rather than active management.

    A good example of the damage of such an approach was the decision by Parks Victoria not to regenerate around 10,000 ha of Alpine Ash forest that was killed by the 2003 and 2006/07 bushfires. These areas for various reasons were unable to regenerate naturally, so were just left to revert to wattle and scrub which is a pretty poor conservation outcome, but nevertheless fitted the ideology of ‘nature-will-look-after-itself’. In stark contrast to this, Alpine Ash stands in State forests that were unable to regenerate were artificially seeded by the DSE to ensure that they regenerated.

    I believe the insidious effect of ‘green’ ideology is also evident in why people strive to live in vulnerable areas amongst the trees and why many will complain about smoke, and in some cases threaten legal action and directly oppose burning in close proximity to their properties. This is partly why fuel reduction has become more difficult and expensive and so less is being done. Hopefully, the effect of these fires will be that many of these people will either develop a more sensible attitude or move back to the suburbs – but I won’t hold my breath.

    Basically society’s attitudes to forests have probably irrevocably changed as a result of environmental activism and this is problematic given that they require periodic disturbance for optimal management.

    Society has also changed in its attitudes to work and nowhere is this more evident than in SJT’s comments about the workings of government departments on weekends. In the 1980s I spent 5 years in East Gippsland living in the small towns of Orbost and Cann River. Fire was indeed the highest priority and weekends and weekdays alike were spent each autumn taking advantage of every suitable burning day – and there are plenty of them in that part of the world.

    It would once have been ludicrous to think that that wouldn’t always be the case, but now I’m not so sure. For a start, how many young professional land managers really want to live in these remote places now – 300 – 400 km from the city – let alone give up their weekends lighting and fighting fires. We have a more relaxed and perhaps better appreciation of the need for a work/life balance, but may not help maximise the use of suitable burning days.

  36. janama March 24, 2009 at 9:53 pm #

    so what you are inferring is that the aboriginals only burnt in autumn? – I doubt it.

  37. gavin March 24, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    Good post but Mark, like Roger is still only pushing the forestry industry line. It’s not good enough to rant on about recent greenie policies in government or department admin.

    IMO all future bushfire prevention strategies and activities must involve the maximum local input where possible. Each community should do their own homework while maintaining their watch over common property values and insurance costs. Any fuel reduction program starts immediately from the front or back door.

    Risk taking is a two way street. Who do we blame? Not ourselves it seems nor can it be climate change. However our lifestyle should be questioned in every post mortem.

    On the vexed question of arson, individual scoundrels are usually only fruitful where somebody neglects their properties. But this IMO has recently become another climate issue, so lets be wiser with each new bushfire season.

    On the question of bushfire prevention costs, I reckon we should each be authorised to practice a little arson out and about for a day or two between every bad season so let’s not be so exclusive with who knows what about fire in the open.

  38. Ian Mott March 25, 2009 at 1:41 am #

    Come now, festival, your whole post was based on the false implication that plantation and regrowth, being subject to what you called “intensive management” was synonymous with hazard reduced forest. Your remaining references to specific stands that were still burned despite having had hazard reduction last year are meaningless. If those stands are completely surrounded by neglected forest with high fuel loads then the hazard reduced stands can only work as a speed bump.

    Good post Mark.

    I think it is time that a duty of care is actually imposed on the people who build houses next to someone else’s forest. The greens have been eager to impose duty of care on forest owners because they are only a minority while the urban majority have no DOC because of their voting clout.

    The essence of this duty of care on the urban encroachers should be that the law shall put in place an obligation to maintain their own property in a way that will allow them to, at least, defend the property against a medium intensity fire from any direction. This legislation could then prescribe a set of fire conditions, to be notified on a daily basis by the Fire Authority, in which a cool burn would be reasonably expected to not pose a threat to a property that complies with that duty of care.

    In this way forest owners, including public ones, could carry out hazard reduction burns, in the available seasonal windows, free of the spectre described by Justice Cardozo as “liability in an indeterminant amount for an indeterminant time to an indeterminant class”.

    At the moment any form of damage by fire, at any time of the year, to even the most neglected fire prone property, is regarded by the courts to have been “caused” by the person who lit the fire. But if every one of his neighbours is subject to a duty of care to maintain his property in a manner that will enable them to defend that property in, say, a September fire, then any damage caused by someone else’s fire in May should be seen as being the result of the property owners own negligence, a failed duty of care.

    This is not all that different from what is already being proposed by way of improved building codes etc. These new codes recognise that there is a lot more that can be done by property owners to protect their own assets in bushfire prone areas. Some of these code improvements are designed to allow a building to withstand quite high intensity fires.

    And if they are applied uniformly then the maintenance of the existing legal tests in negligence, when applied to mild autumn/winter burns, which are undertaken for an obvious “public good”, are not just unreasonable but also environmentally counterproductive.

    Indeed, if it is recognised that a high fuel load, is, or can be reasonably foreseen to become, a “dangerous thing” within the meaning of the criminal code in extreme fire weather, then a person conducting an appropriate hazard reduction burn in mild fire weather is actually complying with their own long established duty of care under that criminal code. It is the most reasonable and practical step one could take to minimise an entirely foreseeable detriment.

    So the absence of a duty of care on encroaching property owners to maintain a defendable condition for their own assets can be seen as a negligent act that could make their forest owning neighbour reluctant to satisfy the criminal code because of the inherent liability involved in complying.

    The community should not be sending conflicting messages. This is especially the case if those conflicting messages are capable of contributing to death.

  39. SJT March 25, 2009 at 7:12 am #

    I repeat Ian, this fire was so fierce stubble that was left of land that had been cleared was enough to keep it going.

  40. janama March 25, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    Frank Muscolino from nearby Strath Creek said residents in fire-prone areas had to surrender their love of having their homes surrounded by native eucalypts.

    “It’s fine to have large gum trees, but not within 200m of your house,” Mr Muscolino said.

    Mr Muscolino said eucalyptus oil had been found to be almost as combustible as aviation fuel and the eucalyptus oil-charged air above the forests caught fire before the trees exploded on Black Saturday.

    He said he was able to save his home because he had planted more than 200 deciduous trees on the property.,25197,25238361-2702,00.html

  41. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 25, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Ian, the problem is that you have an obsession and fixate on it. All roads lead to the thing stuck in your craw. In your case it’s the MGI. My comment was wide ranging but you could only see one element.

    FRBs play only a small part mitigating the danger we face. If you think FRB is a panacea you will lull people into a false sense of security. I can only assume that a failure of comprehension is behind your flawed assumption.

    Marysville had a 8km2 FRB 1km NW of the town in 2008 and numerous other FRBs around the outskirts of the town over the last decade. The whole town was devastated with only a handful of buildings still standing. Many of these homes were over 500 meters from the nearest forest. It was a lush green little town with at least as many exotics as native trees. You mustn’t understand the forest types and topography. FRBs are meaningless when many of the slopes are up to 45 degrees.

    But you still you want to bang on about “speed bumps” and fuel reduction? You don’t get a FDI of 200 do you? It means a variety of apparently mundane environments like open farmland and towns become potentially lethal. All the old school wisdom comes from the ‘slash and hack’ handbook. If we can’t adapt to reality we might need to ban people from living in rural environments. Or, we need a catch-all legal waiver that clearly emphasises the personal responsibility involved in living in the one of the world’s most dangerous fire zones.

    FRBs are only a minor component of the mitigation mix and they need to be done properly or they’ll make the problem worse. Stop spinning your wheels, you’re already bogged to the axles.

  42. cinders March 25, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    Thanks for the link to the Nillumbik Ratepayers Association and the photos contained in David Packham’s 2003 report on the bushfire threat to this “Green wedge shire”.

    His conclusion were that the shire was living on borrowed time, that the prohibition on fine fuel reduction close to houses was a recipe for destruction and that the major bush fire threat comes from high fuel loads.

    He stated back then that the bushfire threat was extreme and ranked with the threat to Hobart before the 1967 fires.

    Sadly this report is still available on their web site as well as the Association’s media release of 11 February 2009 that commences “We are all greiving at this dreadfull loss of life…”

    The Shire itself states on its web site “We are leaders in environmental best practice and are on target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by December 2008” yet it has implemented policies on native vegetation imposed by the State Government, that the ratepayers had raised serious concerns prior to Black Saturday.

  43. Ian Mott March 25, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    So I ask again, what was the exact date of this fire, Festival?

    If you had read any of my other posts you would know that I do not regard cold burns as any sort of panacea. My article “The humble axe and chainsaw” on this blog highlighted a number of things that could and should be done but which are actively discouraged through institutional capture by murderous green ideology.

    None of them, by themselves, will guarantee that fatalities no longer occur but, together, they produce a structural shift in the risk matrix.

    One of the most contributive options would be to ditch this mindless fetish for broadscale continuous canopy cover. The murderous green ideological concept of fragmented habitat is nowhere near in accord with the wildlife’s understanding of fragmentation. Koalas, for example, have no trouble crossing a 1000 metre gap in the canopy, especially at mating time. Yet, murderous green ideology opposes mere two metre wide firebreaks out of a totally unfounded fear that it would fragment the forest habitat.

    The murderous green ideology apologists might find lots of anecdotal evidence where fire has jumped quite wide gaps in a canopy. But some 2003 data from NSW that fell off the back of a truck revealed that contiguous canopy with minimal fragmentation was the least able to cope with broadscale wildfire.

    The area of forest in NSW Parks and reserves is roughly the same as the area of private native forest while the area in state forest was roughly half. The parks had 700,000 hectares burnt out in hot fires while state forest only lost 70,000 hectares. So the difference in fire management regimes and the matrix of coupes in varying stages of growth produced a five fold reduction in wildfire losses.

    In that same season the private native forest estate lost only 7,000 hectares to wildfires. And given that much of the private forest estate was subject to harvesting codes that were not significantly different to state forest harvest codes, we can only conclude that the much maligned “fragmentation” of private native forest habitat is one of the key contributors to the 100 fold improvement in habitat survival compared to parks and the 20 fold improvement compared to state forest.

    People like Archer et al have made much of the supposed long term adverse consequences of habitat fragmentation but a close look at the threatened species lists for just about anywhere in Australia will rarely find a threatened species that is under threat from gaps up to 1000m wide. In fact, most of the list will be birds, who clearly do not regard 1000 metres as a barrier to transit. There may be a few skinks and frogs but the skinks regard low ground cover as connected canopy while the frogs do all their traversing of the landscape along riparian zones.

    It may offend a few sensitivities among the urban ignorati but the very best thing for enhancing both the habitat quality and the fire survivability of large national parks would be to put a long thin golf course right through the middle of it. This is one of the few land uses that will justify the cost of numerous water features, extensive irrigation infrastructure, a continually maintained, lush, closely mown ground cover and superior road access.

    It will also substantially increase the wildlife carrying capacity of the adjoining forest by providing a more consistent supply of leaf based nutrition, both from the course itself and from increased runoff onto adjoining forest. Murderous green ideology might be offended by it but the wildlife themselves all vote for it with their feet.

    The deliberate “overgrazing” of key fire corridors during the highest fire seasons is also an important contributor to the far superior survival rate of private forest habitat and their dependent species. These overgrazed areas may take longer to recover than less intensively grazed pasture but they can be left with more cover in the other seasons to compensate. Yet, murderous green ideology has done the very opposite and opted for total exclusion of grazing animals from public tenure forests, even from critical fire corridors and designated escape routes.

    And I note that the defenders of the totally discredited status quo all carefully limit their discussion to fire management in public forests. They do this because the evidence from private land is incontestible that both hazard reduction and complete hazard removal (tree removal, topping or lopping) will make all the difference to the suite of other vital asset protection measures.

  44. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 25, 2009 at 12:26 pm #

    “So I ask again, what was the exact date of this fire, Festival?”

    Huh? Actually, old timer, you’re asking me for the first time. I don’t know the exact date. They don’t print them on the maps, only the year. My guess was last autumn and probably with aerial incendiaries dropped along the ridgetops. Your working yourself into a corner anyway, 8km2 is a significant burn in anyone’s books. On Black Saturday it counted for nought, a bit of fuel on the ground was a negligible element.

    You splutter on about fragmentation but fragmentation is globally recognised as a threatening process. Are boffins a part of this MGI conspiracy of yours? I hope not because you like to cite them to support your case when it suits you even if that support is only vague and cursory in nature. The trick to conservation is pre-emption. We don’t want to repeat our outback grazing follies in our forests and then have to work out which species we can afford to save later.

    I’m astounded that you would try to generalise the areas burnt in NSW with land tenure. I find this to be particularly dishonest tactic on your part. It’s not worth dissecting other than to note your dishonesty or lack of intellectual rigour. The Churchill fire, in particular, occurred on intensively managed public and private land. The fires on Black Saturday did not discriminate between public and private or managed and “unmanaged”. It seems clear to me that you have very little understanding about fire behaviour down here when we get bad days.

    I think you’ve exposed what a fringe player and nut you are with your call for “overgrazing” and “golf course” fire breaks in national parks. Why degrade huge tracts of land for a strategy that is only effective in a very small percentage of cases? Generally, they only serve to dry forests and facilitate movement of weeds and ferals. These fires swept across, and burned houses in, vast areas of near bare earth.

    Also, I’ve got no time for those who drop their “assets” in forest environments and then seek to remove the risk to their “assets”. If you don’t want to live with, and manage, existing risk, buy already cleared land. There’s plenty of it.

    You’re exhibiting the predictably destructive and misguided primal responses of the redneck. Society has moved on, get out of the road if you can’t contribute constructively.

  45. gavin March 25, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    Sorry, the top image is a temp chart

  46. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    Here’s a couple:

    I’d say, judging by the cloud, this image was about midday Black Saturday. A bit earlier maybe? Just before things really took off.

    18th Jan 2003 late afternoon judging by shadows.

    There are higher res available but these tell the story without choking the bandwidth.

    When conditions are less severe, conventional strategies work. Are we supposed to change the very nature of the land to quell the paranoid fears of a lunatic fringe with an ideological agenda? My answer starts with ‘Get’ and ends with ‘….ed’.

  47. Mark Poynter March 25, 2009 at 5:33 pm #

    Festival of Hate

    You are passing yourself off as having considerable expertise regarding the Black Saturday fires – and thereby dismissing the comments of Ian Mott as being uninformed. Perhaps you could state exactly what your expertise is regarding these fires?

    It seems that your position on the merits of fuel reduction burning is that it has little value because people and houses still burned on Black Saturday. I don’t think any forester has ever said that frb will completely prevent death and destruction. It as after all fuel reduction, not fuel removal, so of course fires will still move through burnt areas – especially under the very extreme conditions of a day like that.

    In fact, the aim of fuel reduction burning is to conduct it under conditions whereby it leaves a mosaic of burnt and unburnt sections through the treated area. The fact that recently fuel reduced areas still burned is hardly surprising, but as the fire severity mapping will show, these areas have not been damaged to near the extent of high fuel load areas which supported crown fires.

    The fire probably moved very quickly through these fuel reduced area because there was less to burn – as I understand it also did in the relatively light fuels of dry forests near St. Andrews, but people also still got killed there. The individual preparations of the landowner and his property and its characteristics is a critical factor in how defensible it is under a range of fire intensities. However, fuel reduction can obviously lower the fire intensity and help make properties more defensible, but that’s no guarantee that they won’t burn.

    Re your question “Are we supposed to change the very nature of the land to quell the paranoid fears of a lunatic fringe with an ideological agenda?” – we already have changed the nature of a land which naturally burnt very regularly prior to European settlement. Fuel reduction burning is an attempt – not withstanding the constraints of population and settlement – to move back towards the natural scheme of things. But it is in fact the paranoid fears of urban- based followers of ‘green’ ideology that has had the most impact (partly indirectly) on reducing our ability to replicate (as far as is safely possible) the way the bush once was. This is exemplified by the dramatic reduction of Victorian fuel reduction from 300 – 400,000 ha in the mid-1980s to 80 -130,000 ha now.

  48. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 25, 2009 at 5:34 pm #

    This is a very interesting link provided by Gavin. The fire started in the upper left and progressed to the lower right. When the wind change hit at about 7pm, that NW-SE axis (a run that covered 50km in about 6 hours) became the head of the fire.

    You can see the fire started in farmland then hit plantations and jumped the Hume Hwy. It progressed through more farmland and then entered the multiple use forest on the western face of Mt Disappointment. These managed forests have burned hot as evidenced by the burning of all foliage. Cross referencing this image with that on Google Earth, you can see that managed forests (evidenced by coupes) burned hot. A little further to the SE is the closed water catchment which contained old growth Mountain Ash. Although the crown foliage is dead, you can see that the fire did not crown through this area. This is a revelation to me. Even though I knew old growth was more fire resistant, I’d assumed that such an intense fire would crown the whole way. Admittedly this forest is on the south face so would not have been predisposed to crowning but, given the conditions, I still find this remarkable.

    This photo also reveals that many deaths in this particular fire were in communities that were all but surrounded by farmland.

    Cross referencing this image with Google Earth’s image pretty much sinks the position of the Underwoods and Motts of the world.

  49. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 25, 2009 at 6:31 pm #

    What’s that Mark, you want my qualifications? Why, so you can “appeal to authority” and dismiss my observations as unqualified or unscientific? A “gifted” amateur? As opposed to the independent views of vested interest? The problem with the “science” of forestry is that it has whored itself to commercial imperatives. I suppose we all know who butters our bread. My observations are what they are, take them or leave them but don’t give me any crap about the “experts” having a monopoly on knowledge. How’s your super looking? Have the experts lost it all yet?

    Let’s just say I like to think that resources and effort are being used efficaciously. Especially if it’s taxpayer’s money. There’s nothing more annoying than taxpayer’s money being used to fund culture wars.

    I have no objection to fuel reduction being married to ecological fire regimes, I just don’t want to see the practice commandeered by culture warriors who use the process to, wittingly or unwittingly, undermine and compromise ecological process. Even worse is if the practice actually works against fire mitigation when it’s supposed to working for that purpose.

    There would be very few instances where fuel reduction alone makes any real difference. I believe that a fire is either defendable with conventional strategies or it is not. Fuel loading is a red herring.

    I can think of plenty of ways to save lives. Wasting truckloads of time, energy and money on FRBs that will do SFA on the next “Black, “Ash”, “Red” or whatever day isn’t one of them. I reckon rednecks know it too but they lack the common sense and restraint to resist this big, juicy 1080’ed cherry.

  50. Marcus March 25, 2009 at 6:43 pm #

    Right Wing Festival of Hate,
    “experts having a monopoly on knowledge”
    I agree with you there, to a point, some “experts” are, worth less than a gifted amateur.

    A “REAL” expert becomes an expert because of knowledge gained by both, theory and mostly by practical experience, and they definitely are worth listening to.

    As to the fuel load being a “red herring”, I’m afraid you have to think about that again.
    Try to burn a non existent piece of wood!

  51. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 25, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    “As to the fuel load being a “red herring”, I’m afraid you have to think about that again.
    Try to burn a non existent piece of wood!”

    It’s all relative. How much safer would you be if I remove one ton from seven tons of fuel? Would that have a significant effect? In a cool fire it might, in a hot fire I doubt it. In a cost benefit analysis, numerous other techniques will trump FRB for life and asset protection. It seems people are having trouble grasping this point.

    Also, assuming the forest isn’t completely incinerated, fuel build up starts immediately after the fire. The benefits of fuel reduction starts decreasing almost immediately and can be completely lost within 3-7 years.

    Once you start burning in such short rotations you risk changing the composition and structure of the forest. Other factors come into play too, you affect ground mammals and the soil flora and fauna and consequently nutrient cycling and the ability to hold moisture in the leaf litter and soil. The fire itself is also removing nutrients. As well as encouraging fire responsive species, frequent fires can also remove natural fire buffers. These buffers are the species and moisture gradients that exist in riparian strips and rainforests.

    With reference to aboriginal fire regimes and cool burns, it’s a pity we didn’t bother to ask them what they were doing. We can at least work out that their fire cycles varied greatly. On the coastal heaths, less than ten years was common whereas at higher elevations on the Great Divide fire intervals could be in the hundreds of years. I suspect their use of fire was much more sophisticated and strategic than they are given credit for. How did they have the confidence to head up into the Alps for the Bogong gatherings in summer? I reckon they knew exactly what they were doing without resorting to broadacre and indiscriminate burns.

    Rather than being Murderous Green Ideologues (that is where this all started after all), environmentalists are just a lot smarter than your average redneck conservative type. We at least look before we leap.

  52. janama March 25, 2009 at 8:35 pm #

    If we had “experts” the whole fiasco wouldn’t have occurred would it?

    RWFH said…

    “The problem with the “science” of forestry is that it has whored itself to commercial imperatives”


    So have the so called “environment science” groups of which you are obviously a participant.

  53. Ron Pike March 25, 2009 at 8:43 pm #

    To One and All,
    Having read all of the above and with no intention of responding in detail to any poster, I believe that with few exceptions you are all amateurs and totally out of depth on this subject.
    With the exception of the lead author, it is obvious that NO poster has any practical experience at containing a wild fire or staying alive in a fire threatening situation.
    Stop this drivel and have a look in the mirror and ask yourselves these questions:
    1: Why am I pontificating on this issue when I have No practical knowledge of the subject?
    2: Why were the fires that did so much damage on “Black Satirday “still burning 3 weeks later?
    3: Given the nightly news always had footage of thousands of firefighters and countless millions of dollars woth of equipment. Never did we see any real action to stop or extinguish a fire.
    4: Why did returning firefighters from NSW report that they had no idea why they wasted their time in going to Victoria to drink tea and enjoy sandwiches with lovely people who knew more about fire fighting than the “chiefs” in Victoria who gave orders that they were not there to put out fires, only to protect property.
    5: Why do we now have ALL, yes ALL of the timber resources of eastern Victoria destroyed. A situation that has not ever existed since white man arrived in Australia. This has happened in a few short years.
    6: How can you be pathetic enough to come to this discussion with NO realisation of the backward looking,, nature destroying practices that have been put in place in return for political votes?
    7: Mindless, fringe arguments about hazard reduction are an insult to those whose lives were lost, unless the fact, that any old firefighter knows, that all fires can be extinguished, using FIRE.
    A practise now not allowed, thanks to the purchase of preference votes.
    Reading the above I believe NO ONE here understands what a back burn is!
    8: It is beyond belief or reason that many of those voicing opinion here are the same people railing against man made global warming.
    Why have recent fires in Victoria been allowed to burn for weeks?
    Thereby putting more CO2 in the air than all other sources in Vic for years?
    9: Look in the mirrow and ask yourself this. What good are my comments likely to achieve?
    10: In answer to the obvious question. I want a return to democracy where the will of the majority carries the day until such time as the minority can change our mind.
    Presently in relation to most things environmental, we have the minority position being implemented, in return for “grubby labour party votes.”
    The superficiality and lack of demand for reform in most of the above is an insult to all who suffered so greatly.


  54. janama March 25, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    9: Look in the mirrow and ask yourself this. What good are my comments likely to achieve?

    I don’t know……….I live in a dangerous forest fire area, I’m interested in how I can protect myself from a similar situation occuring, I exercise my right to communicate via the internet.


  55. cinders March 25, 2009 at 9:41 pm #


    Your angst at what you perceive as “the superficiality and lack of demand for reform” is understandable.

    It is worth pointing again to the reports available at by David Packham and Rod Incoll that were written over six years ago for rat payers in this fire prone municipality that has suffered the tragedy of this recent fire.

    Rod Incoll’s statement in that the principal factor in determining fire intensity and therefore fire controllability has been shown to be fuel quantity” is worth noting again in the Light of Roger Underwood’s paper.

    So too are the dramatic impacts of the 1962 and 1983 fires in the region (fires prior to Global Warming).

    Many critics of fuel reduction burning use the “strawman” argument that fuel reduction burning does not prevent fires, but experts such as David Parkham and Roger Underwood do not argue this but that fuel reduction burning reduces the fire intensity levels so that there is some hope of control. Figure 5 of Rod Incoll’s report clearly shows this relationship.

    Hopefully these 2003 reports will be part of the evidence considered by the Royal commission

  56. gavin March 26, 2009 at 4:16 am #

    Pikey: Bad post!

    The fact is we are all amateurs when it comes to dealing with events of this magnitude.

    Cinders: “Rod Incoll’s statement in that the principal factor in determining fire intensity and therefore fire controllability has been shown to be fuel quantity”.

    Given the Upper Plenty Valley has some 60,000 residents, forestry terms like fuel loads don’t apply in the normal way. We could be discussing native woods and damaged forests in or near back gardens in the main. From your armchair point of view it could look a bit like the Cascades or the top end of Salvatore Rd in West Hobart. Need some recent photos?

    Recall; imo the swiftest wild fires are in scrub, grass or crops. Lets say though, a lot of commentators here could not get elected to a local council on the fringe with their ideas of repeated burns.

    Going back to another discussion on another thread; when a blacksmith needs more heat, he simply winds or pumps air through the coke faster. Some of our blog “experts” miss that point all the time. Marcus was on the ball – A “REAL” expert becomes an expert because of knowledge gained by both, theory and mostly by practical experience, and they definitely are worth listening to”

    Right Wing Festival of Hate: Your nic is most inappropriate and tedious. Try opening the closet door a crack. Some hints will do. For instance, I enjoy pouring over maps and images in retirement. Fortunately we were away in NZ when the red beast escaped but could easily see the smoke haze while flying over the Tasman and Bass Strait a week later. I suggest the country including parts of NZ and Tasmania have never been so dry. That satellite image shows it too. Note the reservoirs Yan Yean and Greenvale towards the horizon.

    more images,

  57. Pandanus March 26, 2009 at 8:12 am #


    Sorry mate but there are some of us on this blog who have practical fire experience. For myself It as learnt in two states working as a forester.


    Recall an earlier post of mine where I noted that fire requiers three basic elements, fuel, ignition source and oxygen. These are all available on blow up days, especially an increase in air flow ( and hence oxygen flow).A reduced fuel load can assit in extinguishing a fire on thse days prior to it becomming unmanagable. A fuel reduced area also allows back burning operations to take place in greater safety than for unburnt areas. The intensity of the fire that is lit for the back burn is less in fuel reduced areas than in areas without a reduced fuel load.

    The Wollombi National Park fires in November 1997 burnt through to Putty State Forest and were able to be controlled there due to a 7500 ha HRB that was put in earlier that year. The forest in the Wollombi National Park was subject to wildfire of far greater intensity than that in the State Forest. As a result the ecological outcome was better in the State Forest than in the unmanaged national park.

    I’m certain that everyone with fire experience who contributes to this blog could detail similar inciidents.

  58. Ian Mott March 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    Readers will note that “festival” is unable to tell us what day, month or even the season of the DSE fire that he was referring to. He thinks it was last year. So what is his source material and where did he get it? It is clear that he is quoting from scripted material from spiv central for hoodwinking uninformed blog readers.

    It is also apparent that he does not appreciate the distinction between a hot back-burn to contain an even worse fire and a cold burn to reduce the impact of a later wildfire. I understand that there was a fire in Wilsons Prom at least a week before black saturday and if a DSE back-burn was subject to a wind shift in those conditions then it may well have caused some problems. But to use that example in a pathetic attempt to discredit cold hazard reduction burns is inexcusable.

    His photo interpretations are pathetic. The dopey noodle continues to claim that high fire damage in a regrowth coupe is evidence in support of his attack on hazard reduction burning. As I have said on numerous occasions before, it depends on the age and spacing of the regrowth. If a regrowth coupe is in need of thinning, or is overdue for it as is the norm in state forests, then it will be even more combustible. He is unable to refute this statement but his murderous green ideology prevents him from retaining this inconvenient truth. So he just repeats the moronic mantra from his scripted material from head office.

    He has also failed to mention that there were a number of fires, not just one. And, surprise, surprise, the old growth that didn’t appear to burn much was on the wet south facing slope.

    He claims that towns were burnt out despite forest being 500 metres away but I do not recall seeing a single image of burnt out houses that did not also include dense regrowth stems in very close proximity to houses. Most of these houses were not built amongst the trees. Rather, the trees have clearly come after the houses were built and the owners have been prevented from removing them since Cain was premier.

    And readers will have noticed how he switches to smear by association when his claims are challenged and he is unable to substantiate his statements. So out comes the old “redneck” slur that he hopes will be sufficient inducement to the bimboscenti to close their tiny brains. For the record, festival, this particular “redneck” has lived and worked in 5 countries on 4 continents and speaks 3 languages. I have also fought 6 fires. How about you?

    Mark and Pandanus are spot on about how reduced fuel loads increase the survival rates of the stand after a subsequent hot fire. Yet for all festival’s posturing as the wise defender of habitat, he cannot avoid the damning evidence that shows that cold burns rarely spread to trees with nest hollows. And even when they do, there is time and resources to put them out before the habitat value is destroyed.

    When a very hot fire subsequently goes through such a fuel reduced forest a much higher proportion of nest hollow trees survive than is the case in high fuel load stands. Animals who have sheltered in those hollows have a chance of survival in the hazard reduced stands but have no chance at all in the high fuel forests.

    Your ecology is every bit as bad as your fire management. So be off now, and be done with you.

  59. Green Davey March 26, 2009 at 6:24 pm #

    I noted on TV reports that Bunyip State Park was a hotspot. I have sought out the Management Plan for Bunyip (
    It devotes one page to fire management, and sixteen pages to whitefella recreation, from camping to fishing to orienteering. The plan is approved by Rod Gowans, Acting Director of National (S)Parks, and Mark Stone, Chief Executive of (S)Parks Victoria. Marie Tehan, the MInister for Something, wrote a glowing foreword.
    How much recreation is now possible in Bunyip State Park? How many rare and endangered Helmeted Honeyeaters are left?
    As a local (WA) Nyoongar Elder has said with regard to bushfire knowledge, ‘Whitefella got maggots in his head’.

  60. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 26, 2009 at 10:26 pm #

    I’ve got a feeling that I probably should apologise for arguing with senile old fools but, on the other hand , there’s payback owing for the obscene political opportunism of rednecks during, and in the immediate aftermath of, the fires …

    Ian MGI, if you think I’m lying about the FRB at Marysville, take it up with DSE. I’ve got better things to do than challenge the veracity of the maps they publish. Better still, produce evidence that I lied.

    I haven’t mentioned Wilson’s Prom. Should I put your confusion down to your dementia?

    On the issue of the Kinglake satellite photo, you again seem lost and confused as to the point I was making. Within hours of the scale of Black Saturday’s tragedy being realised, “greenies” were being blamed for killing people. I sensed straight away that a despicable, lying political campaign by ignorant redneck pigs was under way (hence the handle which I make no apologies for). I suspect the vociferous nature of the attack was driven by guilt about the ongoing campaign to subvert actions designed to ensure ecological sustainability. Offence is the best form of defence after all.

    The first lie was that “greenies” had policies opposing FRBs and that fuel build up was the main cause of the high fatality rate. Well where is the evidence? After all this time, and hysteria by rednecks, no-one has produced any evidence that any “green” groups had anti-FRB policies or that fuel load alone was the cause. Why? Because it’s a disgraceful lie on both counts. “Greenies” didn’t, and don’t, oppose FRBs and fuel load was not the primary cause of deaths.

    There would be cases where FRBs were opposed in the past but it could be for any number of reasons. Individuals or local groups may have had good reason to object to specific instances. For example, people with health issues have a legitimate concern about smoke. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good lie to discredit “greenies”.

    Ian MGI writes “I do not recall seeing a single image of burnt out houses that did not also include dense regrowth stems in very close proximity to houses.”

    I can’t explain this phenomena Ian. Maybe you’re an idiot, senile or selectively blind? – Yarra Glen – Marysville,,6531215,00.jpg – Bald Spur Rd Kinglake – The middle of a vineyard

    Second lie was “greenies” have locked up the forests. This sort of thing never happened when the good old timber industry had a free hand.

    “Wilson Tuckey also identified high fuel loads as a key contributor to the destruction, saying “Governments who choose to lock up these forests and… treat them with benign contempt, well, others pay the penalty”.[213] Tuckey put the blame for fuel loads on the two major parties – Labor and the Coalition – asserting that they “go running around putting in more reserves to get Green preferences””

    “… forests now had nearly 10 times the number of trees to the hectare than they did previously.”

    Yeah, that’ll happen when you clearfell forest, regrowth tends to be dense. Mixed age forests have a much greater resistance to fire, unlike regrowth which is like a plantation.

    “He blamed the situation on the two main parties “who go running around putting in more reserves to get Green preferences”.”

    And the satellite photo proved the reserves survived the fire better, and burned cooler, than the managed forest.

    “Mr Tuckey said when a forests products industry existed they used access roads and bulldozers which helped to put out a fire the day it started.”

    But in the Kinglake case the fire was lost in farmland before it even hit the plantations or managed forests let alone the closed water catchment (which burned cooler).

    I read these comments by Tuckey and similar sentiments by Underwood, Mott and Poynter et al here and I realise these guys don’t have a clue.

    These sorts of dishonest smears have been the overt commentary and the subtext of the right wing assault on environmentalism but when they are challenged with on ground facts they crumple into sooking, whining heaps and resort to hiding behind pseudo qualifications, life experiences and appeals to Mickey Mouse authority. Strike a new pose Judas, the hyperbole is hollow.

    So there it is in the photo, irrefutable evidence exposing a false premise, i.e. the supposed suppressive effects that intensive logging practices have on fire. Then you give me some crap about poor silvicultural practices. If you turn 90% of the resource into woodchips you can only afford half-@rsed silviculture systems. If you’d been honest about the true ecological and economic costs of ecologically sustainable forestry you wouldn’t face this dilemma. I suppose bad silvicultural practices are the greenies fault too?

    The difference between us is that I respect the Earth and the complexity of its ecological systems. Unlike the filthy, lousy dogs who make money out of death and destruction, I am motivated by my appreciation of this planet and all its intricate systems including humans. I just don’t happen to believe our desires have precedence over the needs of other species. When not dissecting humanity’s womb for mock calamari and personal profit, the adjunct pastime of these clowns is to accuse people like me of misanthropy. The hypocrisy is monumental. Every time nature jacks up against their stupidity and avarice my convictions are reinforced.

    So, if we are to believe the rednecks, it was all about a lack of management in forests. The satellite photo categorically proves that a managed forest is just as, if not more dangerous than a “reserved” forest. The other photos prove that it is primarily extreme weather conditions, not fuel loads, that determine the extent of destruction.

  61. Green Davey March 27, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    Clearly my Nyoongar Elder was correct.

  62. Marcus March 27, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    And here I was assuming reason and common sense, how wrong can one be?

  63. Mark Poynter March 27, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    Right Wing Festival of Hate

    I could probably write a Thesis in response to your latest diatribe – but don’t have the time. Unfortunately it has always been the case with forests issues that whilst its easy and quick for dedicated (and often paid) activists to make wild accusations, answering them properly by referring to decades of scientific research involves a huge impost of time from people who have other jobs to do.

    According to you everyone who works in the forest is a “redneck”. The reality is that many of those who have spent their careers working on these issues have university qualifications and are far more academic than you seem to appreciate. It is also telling that whilst we are willing to use our real names and stand by our knowledge and experience, those such as yourself who would fling the shit prefer to hide your identity lest it be revealed that you live far from the forests and have no real experience.

    I will respond to just one thing – you say that ‘there is no evidence that green groups had anti-FRB policies”. There is an element of truth in this because the major ‘green’ groups have largely been silent about fires which, for supposed environmental saviours, is amazing given that it has always been the greatest threat to forests and that we have had such vivid recent examples of how damaging it can be in 2003 and 2006/07.

    It probably hinges on how ‘a policy’ is defined, but there certainly are many instances where ‘green’ groups have expressed negative views about prescribed burning which are indicative of opposition to it – or certainly its broadscale use.

    For example, in The Wilderness Society’s “Wilderness News” Winter 2008 edition, a 6-point Bushfire Action Plan was outlined. The preamble to this stated that “A massive increase in hazard reduction burning and fire breaks is destroying nature, pushing wildlife closer to extinction and in many cases increasing the fire risk to people and property by making areas more fire prone”. The Plan then went onto advocate ‘fuel reduction’ around towns and urban areas. This could mean burning or other means of fuel reduction – it doesn’t say.

    Of course there has been a substantial decline (not ‘a massive increase”) in burning over the past 25 years in Victoria – so that statement is empirically wrong, but it certainly suggests there is not a lot of love for the practice amongst probably Australia’s most prominent ‘green’ group.

    Burning has always presented a difficult problem for ‘green’ groups. Undoubtedly, there is little enthusiasm for its broadscale use, but how can they oppose it. Logging is far easier – just turn up and attach to some logging equipment or sit up a tree – and far better at generating publicity. If there was an easy way of opposing prescribed burning I imagine there would be ‘green’ policies against it. But there is certainly little support for it except perhaps for saying that we don’t oppose it if everything is known about its effects – which is of course nigh on impossible – a sort of ‘paralysis by analysis’ approach which would ensure very little of it is done.

  64. Ian Mott March 27, 2009 at 10:32 am #

    Exposed! Green puss bag, Festival, lied through his teeth.

    Your own photographs make it absolutely clear that the burnt out housing was almost always associated with regrowth trees in close proximity. Your photo of Marysville shows young trees everywhere with not an old growth tree in sight. Add last nights TV footage on ABC 7.30 report which had numerous pan sequences of Marysville and your claim that the nearest forest was 500 metres away is exposed as a blatant lie.

    Your still photos all refute your actual claims on this thread. The house, supposedly in the middle of a vinyard has a large cluster of regrowth behind it with who knows how much off-camera. Your stills are obviously what you think are the most supportive of your position but they dont even indicate the direction of the fire.

    And you can wank on all you want about your pathetic little version of “original sin” and claims that the original removal of old growth was a crime (blah blah) but the facts remain that a great deal of the regrowth you will see in any satellite scan of Victoria will include vast tracts of old growth forest that was completely incinerated in earlier wildfires. The fact that these areas are divided into visible coupes by more recently established roads etc is immaterial.

    And no amount of sleaze on your part will enable you to narrow this discussion down to anecdotal crap about whether a cold burn will completely exclude a subsequent hot wildfire.

    People died because Murderous Green Ideology prevented them from removing highly dangerous regrowth stems that were too close to their homes.

    People died because Murderous Green Ideology has prevented landowners from even mowing native grass if it had regrowth seedlings in it. But twisted green perverts like you have the gall to claim that the speed of fires in this sort of vegetation was evidence that hazard reduction in forests doesn’t work?

    People died because Murderous Green Ideology prevented council workers from even removing fallen branches from roadsides, let alone trimming back the vegetation to make the escape routes safer. Your green puss bag mates turned the only escape routes into furnaces and all you care about is the preservation of leaf litter.

    People died because Murderous Green Ideology actually set in place measures that compromised existing approved RFS fire management prescriptions, and when they were advised of this fact, by way of petition, the local council killers refused to do anything about it.

    And all you can do is ooze out tin pot tabloid sociolgical cliches that portray your criminal negligence and callous disregard for human life as some sort of evolutionary improvement while you paint the victims as social darwinist laggards for daring to complain.

    You appaling fascist scum.

  65. spangled drongo March 27, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    The FFDI [Forest Fire Danger Index] will show extreme [100+] with certain constant criteria factored in.
    But fuel load can be from 1 to 25 and the FFDI remains the same.
    If you factor in zero fuel load the FFDI drops to zero, so zero fuel is zero danger but from one blade of grass upwards the FFDI is all the same, extreme.
    To me that indicates anti FRB policies.

  66. Stewie March 27, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    Prior to the Ash Wednesday fires and the destruction of our home, we to had a green council, the Sherbrooke Council.

    They to refused to allow residence to remove native vegetation around houses. In fact they threatened any resident with steep fines and refused to enter into any discussion. When you contacted these people they seemed dogmatic, cold, indifferent. Why?

    I believe an inquiry that followed Ash Wednesday was stopped halfway through, with no clear reason given why. Why?

    Not long after the Sherbrooke Council was dissolved and absorbed by the Yarra Valley Council. Why?

    The politicians since that time were often quoted as saying that so much was learnt from the Ash Wednesday fires but what the hell that is has got me stumped. Ash Wednesday was chaos. It seems Black Saturday was chaos. The Yarra council and like continued the Sherbrooke councils mantra of native vegetation is sacred and more important than human life. These councils in fact encourage the planting of highly inflammable native species directly around homes. WTF.

    Ian Mott is right, clearly criminal charges need to be laid. No mercy and zero tolerance to this type of extreme environmental politics.

    On a different note, I believe now, in hindsight, that a duty of care must fall on private property owners, however, this cannot be achieved if people are obstructed by political idealogues with extreme, unaccoutable points of view.

    What is of equal concern is the destruction in our forests. These are forests that have often been described as fragile or unique by green groups and yet the silence from these same people following the wildfires of 2003, 2007 and 2009, which have gutted huge tracts of these very forests is sickening. Millions of animals have died and yet little media coverage.

    I care very much for the environment and have spent a considerable amount of time in it but I find these greens are a complete worry. Equally concerning is the media. They both, are as slippery as a Werribee eel. They are unaccountable entities who are heavily reliant on spin and avoid talking facts. They know they are dealing with a readership that is in the whole, ignorant, when it comes to most environmental issues. They know that the raw data doesn’t even have to add up. Spin it, scarem’ and apply the precautionary principle.

    And here comes the spin. I’m a redneck. Right?

  67. Green Davey March 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    Good to hear from you again Stewie. I am a bit worried though – as I have explained, I belong to a bushcare group, and we go out picking up rubbish in reserves, injecting trees etc. So I must be a ‘greeny’.
    At the same time, I have spent eight years at university learning about mathematics and ecology, and have been involved in bushfire research (ecology, behaviour, history) for forty years. I have also served in the local Bushfire Brigade, and Forests Department fire gangs before that.
    So I agree absolutely with what you, Roger, and others say about the need for fuel reduction by burning. In fact, it is good ecology. It germinates seeds, releases nutrients, provides feeding opportunities for animals, and keeps the bush green, rather than yellow or khaki or purple. It’s not a new idea – Baron Von Mueller remarked on how ‘verdant’ the West Australian bush was in the 1880s, when it was mostly burnt at 2-4 year intervals, by mild, creeping, patchy fires.
    Can we find another name for those who claim to be ‘green’, but are often really just political zealots, who want to impose their views on everybody. I have heard the term ‘water melons’ – green outside, and red inside. Their silly ideas on bushfire actually result in widespread black and brown, rather than green. Although they would avoid answering the question, they must secretly embrace the ‘terra nullius’ fiction.
    In their glossy, and no doubt expensive, report on the 2003 fires, did Esplin, Enright and Gill dismiss Aboriginal burning with something like ‘Little is known’? They should try talking to the Elders. They also said, like Judge Stretton in 1939, that experienced local knowledge should be used in fire management. Has it?

  68. Ian Mott March 27, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    Well said Stewie. The reason I am so concerned with this entirely preventable disaster is that I am from one of the original families in our shire and like most of the victims of Black Saturday, have had murderous green ideology thrust upon us through fraudulent misrepresentation of fact and callous disregard for the lives, rights and liberties of anyone impacted by that ideology.

    Every other rural resident in this country cannot help but reflect on the fact that these victim families are just like my family, their frustrations have been my frustrations, and all the dreadful rationalisation and obfuscation by the criminally negligent is just like the jinking and jiving of our local scumocracy.

    And worst of all, many of them are not even long term residents. In most of these shires there is about 45% of the vote who are long term residents who do not support the council’s murderous green ideology. There is another 35% who are also long term residents who do support the council’s murderous green ideology. Yes, there is nothing wrong with your maths, the supporters of the council are usually a minority of the long term residents but they gain control of the council through the support of a further 20% of continually rotating temporary residents who are almost invariably from the same demographic and socio-economic profile.

    In fact, in some electorates and shires, the turnover in voters from one electorate to the next is greater than 40%. To use Byron Bay High School as an extreme example, I was advised by the principle that less than 15% of children completing year 12 actually started there in year 7.

    This sort of turnover means that every mandate the council claims to possess has been given to them by someone who will not be around to see the consequences of their vote. Their grasp of local fire history is rudimentary at best and their heads are full of half baked urban myth and murderous green ideology.

    They invariably adopt an excessive environmental zeal which overrides any consideration of local employment etc, primarily due to the fact that they are investing an inheritance or have an income stream from an out of district source, in some cases royalties but in many other cases, the dole. But when the novelty has worn off, or when the funds have run out, they can be relied upon to quietly slip back to the big Babylon to get on with their life.

    And when the fire has wiped out a number of those left behind because of the bogus mandate they delivered, they will take to the letters columns and blog sites to wallow in their ersats familiarity with the victim community and carefully cover their sleazy tracks.

    It has the outer appearance of democracy in action but it is just a small step up from allowing international tourists to vote in federal elections. It is representation without responsibility, delivering a day-trippers mandate to a disenfranchised local majority.

    Oh, and just a few spelling corrections for the record. “Festival”, a.k.a. Luke, etc, is a pus bag, and appalling fascist scum.

  69. Stewie March 27, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    Hello Green Davies. I respect your opinion/ experience and have enjoyed and agreed with your posts/replies in the past. The term ‘green’ though has become a misnomer to me. A media supported symbol, that cloaks a bunch of ignorant and dangerous breed of politician/activist. It has been misused, abused, overused. The term ‘green’, needs to be buried. It stands for deceit, in my book. Sorry.

    This has become all to serious to be worried about a name. Read between the lines and don’t take it so personnal. You’ll be right.

    See ya.

    Ian Mott, thanks and spot on to your reply. Bingo.

  70. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 27, 2009 at 9:12 pm #

    I’m not Luke and have never spoken or written to him. I know how you lot operate so don’t blame him for my effort. I’ve chosen anonymity for good reason, I have family, assets and income to protect. Don’t bother asking what my name is, where I live, what I do for a living or what my qualifications are. You will not get an answer. I do not work for any environment group and never have. Deal with my arguments on their merits and respond with evidence based, or at least intelligently devised, rebuttals.

    I shouldn’t have to defend myself against strawman arguments from someone like Mark Poynter but he needs to be corrected. I have not referred to anyone who works in a forests as a redneck. The rednecks I refer to are those who, like your chummy little gang here, blame greenies for the fires and deaths without supporting their arguments with facts. I know, and have known, some fine people who work in forests as scientists, loggers and departmental staff.

    For tertiary educated professionals, you lot have shown a complete inability to remain focused on the issues and argue the points in question. Your arguments meander aimlessly without addressing my points and you consistently resort to ad hominem attacks, strawman arguments and various other fallacious arguments.

    If I was cynical, I might suggest that rather than being martyrs, you lot are actually pumping up your own tyres and advertising your services as specialists for hire who are willing to let the profit motive define the extent of your professionalism.

    You refer to the Wilderness Society but they are one group among dozens. When they talk of fuel reduction I assume they mean fires just like the rest of us.

    Where is the evidence that a decrease in the area subject to fuel reduction burns is a result of greenie pressure or campaigning? More likely is that budgetary issues are behind any decrease in the area burned. When you make the accusation, produce the evidence. If you run a low value timber industry, you get small budget management plans. I heard a few years back that the royalties from a 30 ton load of chip logs would buy Victorian taxpayers a loaf of bread.

    I don’t know what planet Ian MGI is on. First you say “I do not recall seeing a single image of burnt out houses that did not also include dense regrowth stems in very close proximity to houses”, then “the burnt out housing was almost always associated with regrowth trees in close proximity.”

    There’s nothing I can do if you refuse to believe photographic evidence. Of course the chance that a house will burn is higher if it has trees near it but what are you going to do, clear the whole state of trees? Perhaps it’s you who wants to dictate how people live? There were ample photos of burned houses that were relatively clear of all vegetation. Here’s another…,22010,5037340-5006020-69,00.html

    Did a high fuel load and regrowth stems cause that house to burn too?

    The main built up area of Marysville was about 1km across. Out of hundreds of buildings, barely a dozen survived. If the fire came from the NW or S (depending on eyewitness accounts) some of the houses would have been a kilometre from the forest where the fire approached from. Many houses would have been 500 meters from forest in the direction of the approaching fire. This town was not unlike thousands of square km of Australian suburbia. It was probably a bit greener with lots of old exotic trees. Don’t tell me I’m lying when you don’t have a clue.

    If the fire did approach from the south, then it burned through forested areas on the southern edge of town that were subject to fuel reduction burns in ’03, ’04, ’05 and ’08. As I wrote earlier, there was also a 8km2 FRB about 1km NW of town in 2008.

    One eyewitness said a fireball launched off a hill to the NW and landed on the town, another said “There had been a hot north wind all day, and at 5pm the power went out and then the wind stopped,” he said. “Everything went eerily quiet for about 10 minutes. Then the wind swung around and you could hear this extraordinary noise. It sounded like the rumbling stampede of cattle but in fact it was the fire coming up the valley.”

    You say that “People died because Murderous Green Ideology prevented them from removing highly dangerous regrowth stems that were too close to their homes. ”

    How many people? Who were they? Even if you (falsely) believe you are subjected to stupid by-laws there is nothing stopping you from taking a bit of personal responsibility for keeping yourself safe. If you don’t like the by-laws, lobby to change them or move somewhere safe like suburbia. It’s unfortunate that it took a disaster but many people will start thinking seriously about their fireplans. Ignorance, apathy and complacency will eventually emerge again.

    It’s a beat up anyway. The articles at The Nillumbik Ratepayers Association show that the planning regulations relating to vegetation are subordinate to fire management and safety plans.

    “evidence that hazard reduction in forests doesn’t work?” I said the safety benefits of FRB were being grossly overstated for political purposes and that to rely on FRBs for safety on extreme weather days could be fatal.

    As for the rest of the rantings from the clown posse, your comments are so obtuse I can’t work out whether you’re rabid mongrels or just dopey mutts with sideways gaits.

    You whinge about the Nanny State but then you want Big Daddy to look after you. If you want to live in the bush, learn to look after yourselves you big girls.

  71. Ian Mott March 28, 2009 at 1:49 am #

    You might have had a sceap of credibility, Festival, were it not for the fact that you linked us to image 69 which had trees in front and back of the burned out house.

    But the really illuminating part of your post is your quote of my two sentences which say exactly the same thing but which you, apparently, believe are contradictory. Go back and read them again you retention deficited moron. No wonder you find our comments obtuse, matey, you have demonstrated seriously deficient comprehension skills. The problem is entirely between your ears you sad plodder.

    And still you go on about 500 metre gaps from forest without any indication of what the ground cover was like and continue to flog the stupid line that fuel reduction in 2008 didn’t stop the fire completely. And you have the gall to accuse us of straw men.

    Once more for the record. We are saying that whole functions of government at both state and local level have been subjected to complete institutional capture by murderous green ideology. At no time did we say fuel reduction was the only solution. And after pages and pages of rear guard sophistry to defend the past poor record of fuel reduction, and to prevent any increase in future, you now start weaseling out of your position by suggesting you were misunderstood all along.

    You forget that readers have all your posts in the thread above to go back to and they can see that you were completely talking through your ass. You can’t even tell us which damned season this famed failed DSE burn took place, let alone the circumstances.

    You don’t know the difference between a cold burn and a defensive back burn. And you link us to photos that don’t even support your position, in the hope that some deluded urban bimbo will take your interpretation on trust.

    You are not just a fool, Festival, you are aiding and abetting murderous criminals and doing your utmost to pervert the course of justice.

    And you wouldn’t make an ecologists armpit.

  72. SJT March 28, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    “I could probably write a Thesis in response to your latest diatribe – but don’t have the time. Unfortunately it has always been the case with forests issues that whilst its easy and quick for dedicated (and often paid) activists to make wild accusations, answering them properly by referring to decades of scientific research involves a huge impost of time from people who have other jobs to do.”

    You would be wasting your time, Festival, because no one would respond to that amount of work. I have seen Luke post responses that would have taken hours to put together, with detailed references and facts, only to see not a single reply to them. The more work you put into it, the further they run. They will, however, spend hours tag teaming to stir you up, and chant in a self righteous chorus of hate when you point out to them what they are doing.

    Take this choice statement.

    “Oh, and just a few spelling corrections for the record. “Festival”, a.k.a. Luke, etc, is a pus bag, and appalling fascist scum.”

    Respond in kind, and you will be pilloried.

  73. SJT March 28, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    “You might have had a sceap of credibility, Festival, were it not for the fact that you linked us to image 69 which had trees in front and back of the burned out house.”

    Never heard of an ember storm, Mott? That’s what plenty of witnesses described on that day.

  74. stewie March 28, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    Hello Mr. RWFHate,

    You refer to houses burning down which were located in cleared areas. Were the people home and in what way were they prepared? What was the vegetation/fuel situation directly around their home? What was the closest forest, what type and it’s fuel load?

    Are you familiar with extreme ember attack? Have you witnessed it? Explain it and it’s source in quantum terms.

    Can you explain peoples psycology in such an event?

    Could you describe extreme levels of radiant heat and its effect on the volatile oils of native plant species? Does radiant heat ignite the volatile oils? Is radiant heat capable of pushing the volatile oil (gases) ahead of the main fire front until such a time that the volatile gases and a spark combine to ignite those gases?

    Can you describe how thick the smoke gets and how it varies from site to site?

    What do you think of the ‘stay at home and defend’ policy?

    Millions of animals died Mr. Hate. Can you point me to a report, any complete report, in Victoria, that describes an individual fauna species ecological position regarding fire? And I refer to this in terms of fire being an ecological threat to that species? What is prescribed regarding ecological burn for that species?

    Can you get some of your expert mates who to back you up that FRB’s are pointless/ next to useless to come on this blog? I know the answer to this one and ask you, why won’t they?

    Have you ever dealt much with the Flora and Fauna departments in any depth? I assume you have studied ecological and similar legislation? Describe it in terms of a political viewpoint (from a laymans point of view if u like).

  75. Ian Mott March 28, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    Good questions, Stewie. But of course, when cornered our mate, RWF Hate, will simply look at his watch and say, “gosh, is that the time? Got to go, check you later, ciao”.

    And now we have SJT who thinks he has discovered a silver bullet called “ember storm”. Like some sad cargo cultist, he thinks all he has to do is mention the word and he will win the exchange. The problem is that good fuel reduction burns on a landscape scale reduce ember supply and also reduce their potential at point of impact. And the sum of all the actions that have been banned or seriously impaired by murderous green ideology make houses adjoining forest far less defendable.

    Put all of them back in place and add proper defensive tools like a complete mushroom of sprinklers run by overspec stand alone pumps, with eave to ground curtains, bunkers of last resort, and half an hour of oxygen supply for each person, and most houses will survive a 7/2/09 scale fire event.

    All this talk about moving people out of these areas is just another manifestation of green politics of exclusion. Every solution they come up with, to every problem they see, even the ones they create themselves, involves the exclusion of humans from the landscape, the confiscation of their property, the deprivation of their rights and liberties and the extinguishment of their children’s future. They have now added willful destruction of property, grievous bodily harm and manslaughter to that policy mix.

    And it is not just the formal greens at fault. Their relationship with the ALP left faction is completely seamless. The ALP Right has struck a bargain with the Left where the Right gets free rein on major infrastructure and economic portfolios in exchange for turning a blind eye as the Left has free rein to persecute the bush.

    It is “AAA” rated malgovernance.

  76. wes george March 28, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    Thank you, Roger Underwood for your well constructed thesis, I hope you work hard to expose it to as wide an audience as possible.

    WOW! what an excellent debate. The sort of detailed, link-packed knowledge exchange that keeps Jennifer’s blog at the top of my bookmarks. I read and learned here today.

    Mr. Hate can build a strong case. He’s definitely not Luke as evidenced by his command of language. Ian also is a passionate and insightful diatribist. But both blokes lose major points for restoring to public school bully tactics. It reveals more about your own lack of self-esteem and lack of confidence that your argument’s evidence can stand alone than you probably realise.

    You lose credibility too, because we can see you are blinded by your own hackneyed partisanship to reason. Obviously, Ian cannot learn anything from Mr. Hate and Mr. Hate likewise has a closed mind. It’s also hypocritical, since both Ian and Mr. Hate seek to influence and inform others’ opinions even while their own views are so locked in place as too be immune to improvement by new information.

    That’s shameful, really. It’s even disrespectful to the recently dead due to the fires.

    We owe it to the human suffering these fires have produced to come together as a community and work this issue out rationally. Forceful debate and strong opinions robustly challenged is the stuff of socio-political evolution in an open democracy. Bullying is a form of intellectual weakness.

    Ron Pike asks rhetorically why the bloody hell do we post comments here?

    Sometimes I think people like Ian and Mr. Hate forget that the audience here is some many hundred times larger than number of commenters. Their opinions are equally as important as yours.

    Thank you, Stewie, Drongo, Poynter, Davey, Janama, Hansford Gavin, Pandanus, Cinders etc who know how to articulate a rhetorical point or contribute pertinent information without resorting to shit storm special effects. You’re a pleasure to read.

  77. Green Davey March 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    From a few posts back, don’t worry about me taking it personally. I am too old for that, although not quite yet senile. Keep posting – Wes George too. Let’s have a festival of sanity and rational debate.

  78. Stewie March 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    Green Davey:

    ‘In their glossy, and no doubt expensive, report on the 2003 fires, did Esplin, Enright and Gill dismiss Aboriginal burning with something like ‘Little is known’? They should try talking to the Elders. They also said, like Judge Stretton in 1939, that experienced local knowledge should be used in fire management. Has it?’

    (I started this reply and was into the second page when I decided to instead say just this …………….)

    No, is the answer to your question.

    They want complete control of the raw data, so, when convenient they can tweek it to satisfy their political agenda. The raw data is critical to the greens maintaining control via so called ‘ecological’ management. It leaves them the ability to quietly mould environmental perspective through their eyes, exclusively, without the public ever knowing. I would expect some ‘economists’ rely on the same MO.

    They have gone out of their way to avoid local knowledge.

    We have aboriginal elders out our way that maintain a link to the burning regimes of their forefathers. Ignored.

    I now of farmers who have astounding knowledge of environments well outside of there boundary fences. One with 40+ years of ecological burning under his belt and an outstanding intellectual database in his head. He has been very active in trying to impart his knowledge to the authorities for many years. Ignored and demonised.

    I know of prospectors with vast knowledge of areas, including those in the most geographically remote areas. There experience with regard to bush time would run rings around many of the new breed of ‘experts’. Ignored and demonised.

    There are many others.

    Let’s see what is submitted to the Royal Commission into Black Saturday and what they make of it. Can only hope, in light of whats happened, that humanity and honesty prevail to expose the ruse that’s been masquarading as environmental management. Criminal charges should soon follow but I won’t hold my breath. Parts of our society have become very sick, especially significant parts of politics, bureaucracies and the media. There not interested in the truth and have become masters of bullshit and at any cost.

    I would go as far as saying that the United Nations is inextricably linked to all this. Agenda 21 I believe it is called.

  79. Ian Mott March 28, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    I hope you feel better after your spray, Wes. But you didn’t actually point out any specific issues or points that you think I should have learned. So all you have contributed is a little posturing wank of your own with a bit of second rate tabloid socio-babble thrown in. Your presumption that all the other readers of this thread will see it the way you do is also a bit rich.

    And if you had ever asked, I would have told you the reason I dish it out in buckets is that the greens have got to where they are today because too many people responded to their unreasonable acts with polite language. There comes a point where the failure to accurately describe unreasonable acts and ignorant statements only serves to make those acts seem reasonable.

    The rural community is full of self proclaimed wise councillors who have been consulting and concilliating their reasonable way all the way down the drain to the point where people have actually died. They never accept that the weakness of their own responses might have played a major part in ensuring that stuffing around regional communities had such a low political cost.

    And it was in these sort of circumstances that a very great man, the late Steve Biko said, “show me what you can do with your other cheek and I’ll show you what I can do with half a brick”. Biko fought and died for a cause that Mandella was seen to win. And both of them knew they were were going no-where with 30 million “other cheeks”.

    A lot of good people died to win the rights and liberties that even more people died to protect. And when our own government takes them away without even the cost of a bloody nose, all you can do is complain about the language?

  80. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 29, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    MGI, it seems that whatever evidence you are presented with, you will find a way to integrate it into your warped world view or ignore it. It’s OK though, I understand the medicine I administer takes time to work its way through your system. Soon enough you’ll find your heart just isn’t in it when you try to regurgitate and propagate your propaganda and misinformation. I can see it’s already working. That’s the way we move forward and evolve into a smarter, more sophisticated community. We purge the anachronistic and embrace progess. Don’t thank me, I like to help people.

    Stewie, what’s your point? You’re a reincarnated Spanish Inquisitor? Or just a babbling fool? Spit it out man!

    Wes, I’ve noted your comments.

    Green Davey, you’re raw data belongum our mob.

    I like to visit the Colosseum every now and then. There’s no point preaching to the converted. It keeps me on my toes and sharpens my defences by having my arguments and ideas parsed externally. It also spreads the “green disease” into the redneck heartland and subverts the redneck paradigm of insularity and ignorance.

    I did check out what those awful, nasty greenies are up to though. Gee they’re smart. They’re well informed and they discuss things in a civil fashion. Welcome to your future…

    Cheer up fellas, it’s only growing pains that you’re experiencing.

  81. SJT March 29, 2009 at 12:36 am #

    “They want complete control of the raw data, so, when convenient they can tweek it to satisfy their political agenda. The raw data is critical to the greens maintaining control via so called ‘ecological’ management. It leaves them the ability to quietly mould environmental perspective through their eyes, exclusively, without the public ever knowing. I would expect some ‘economists’ rely on the same MO.”

    And so it ends, Stewie sticks his fingers in his ears and says “I’m not listening….”. He has constructed an impenetrable fortress, and is beyond the reach of science and reason. It’s all just a conspiracy, so nothing else matters, nothing at all.

  82. Stewie March 29, 2009 at 12:41 am #

    I feel a rant coming on, I have had a few JD’s so …….

    Wes, with all due respect, Ian Mott is right.

    I can easily handle his language and know exactly where he is coming from. I can read between the lines and understand his approach, clearly and applaud his tenacity and honesty. We need more of him at the moment. If things were done more openly and honestly in the world of environmental politics, I am confident without having met Ian his responses would be different, moderated, while having the same intellectual thouroughness.

    Wes. Somethings going on here in Australian politics, that they are hiding from the Australian public. Something far greater than the media indulges us. It’s happening right under everybodys nose and the wildfire issue is just one of the casualities. Once you crack onto it, it is maddening.

    Wildfire, and in fact many other catastrophic issues (eg/ blood borne disease, aboriginal health/ living standards), I feel have been willingly whitewashed by a cosy relationship between players in ‘green’ politics and sections of the media. One could be forgiven for getting angry.

    Up until now, the media has avoided exposing the consequences of intense wildfire and it’s catastrophic outcomes, in any useful detail. This is especially true of the ecological consequences. One could be forgiven for getting angry.

    Millions of animals dying in one ‘ecological’ event. Name me one environmental disater on this planet equal to that, that can be so easily be backed with fact. Facts and outcomes that can so easily be purveyed to the public. Unlike AGWarming, which the media is fixated by. This is sick. One could be forgiven for getting angry.

    Groups and individuals for years have been blocked trying to get the wildfire threat message out there. Instead they have been ignored and called rednecks. Beyond pathetic wouldn’t you say. Maddening/ frustrating wouldn’t you say. One could be forgiven for getting angry.

    Yes, I can quite easily see how people like Ian Mott, Graham Bird, Louis Hissink, people with great knowledge and solid, practical backgrounds can get upset at times, when dealing with these ‘green’ groups. I myself have dealt extensively with these ‘green’ groups and their disciples. Many are ignorant groupies, others are cap in hand to the pay clerk, while others are filthy liars.

    As Graham Bird has said in the past, mass sackings are required.

    This issue of wildfire requires honest opinion above politeness. There is nothing polite about a little girl running down a road, clothes half burnt off, blistered skin, calling for Mummy, as a wildfire, fueled by ill conceived native vegatation laws, bears down on her. There is no where to run on this issue.

    Do you honestly want to help this child or will your emotions overcome you?

    Ians posts clearly have intellectual input. Focus on that.

    All we get from the government is “put your fire plan in action” and the greens ‘it’s natural’ or it’s ‘global warming’. This is the standard of redress from these ‘authorities’. Pricks. This is beyond bad behaviour and to right Ian is allowed to express himself as he does, when confronted with such ‘authorities’.

    If Ians language offends you I suggest, politely that you toughen up a bit. Please. I mean no animosity towards you Wes but words are words, you have the option of ignoring them.

  83. SJT March 29, 2009 at 12:58 am #

    If you think more burning off is the answer, you are fooling yourself. If you think we have to spend many thousands of dollars on every home, and denude areas of vegetation so people can survive, welcome to the brave new world of AGW. By saving ourselves from the pain of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, we haven’t actually saved ourselves from anything. Either way, the price will be high, but reducing our reliance on fossil fuels as the alternative, is, IMHO, the cheaper and easier solution in the long term.

  84. Stewie March 29, 2009 at 9:50 am #

    So Mr.RWFHate, you don’t want to answer any of my questions. You however state that

    “I like to visit the Colosseum every now and then. ………………… It keeps me on my toes and sharpens my defences by having my arguments and ideas parsed externally.”

    Answer the questions. Or are you just a devious little wordsmith. One of those who is slippery as a Werribee eel.

    I’m in a hurry here but very quickly…….

    For the record.

    Fuel reduction burning will not stop a fire but it will in many instances greatly reduce its intensity, prevent crowning over areas and greatly reduce the production, extent and distance travelled by embers.

    This would take a considerable amount of explanation and can’t be done here.

    Here’s a fraction of my experience…………

    I had, during Ash Wednesday, on numerous occassions, been in the middle of severe ember attack. These were in areas that I new quite well and the source of the ember attacks and their various degrees of intensity on each occasion became apparent. You learn very quick in such situations, when you have good local knowledge. That is, you know the structure of the bush that is burning at that time and the consequent level of embers produced. By the second day, when you fully realised decisions meant life or death, such things were paramount to minute by minute decisions.

    I saw many forest areas gutted ,which I new prior to them burning had maneuca and other scrub 3 metres tall in a contigious mass. The ember production was incredible from these locations and the destruction completely awesome.

    If it wasn’t the flames themselves, it was the ember attacks that threatened to turn you into a nervous wreck, frozen with fear (which I saw happen on numerous occassions). It was the ember attacks that often would cause people to flee. Overwhelming stuff.

    I witnessed ‘fireballs’ close up and personnel. At one point, in Cockatoo, we had gathered at a friends place, a local CFA captain, to help him out. By now I had already lost my house the day before and had ‘fought’ the fire the rest of the afternoon and through the night in various areas. He hadn’t and was of the impression he could fight this thing. I tried to convince him to leave but………

    He lived at the bottom of a heavily forested hill, the fire was fast approaching from the other side. His side of the hill was thick with undergrowth as was the other side. It hadn’t seen fire for many decades. You could here the fire coming. It had become a monster. I was starting to wish I wasn’t there.

    On seeing the fire come over the ridgeline, massive ‘fireballs’ developed, leap frogging over the canopy, over our heads, over his house and hit the house across the road. The house, a pine log kit home exploded into flames. It almost vaporised before our eyes.

    The point to me explaining this is the following that occurred.

    A couple of hours after this occurred, a number of people had gathered around the local general store, me included, as we stood and surveyed the surrounding damage. Only moments earlier, against incredible odds, the local kindergarten had been saved where within were sheltering many families. We were all somewhat shell shocked but none the less alert.

    Soon the conservation between us, complete strangers, turned to discussion of ‘fireballs’. Never heard the term before, none quite believing what we had just witnessed.

    Now just lurking outside of our circle of discussion was a man dressed in a clean uniform, badges on his shoulder, listening in on the converstaion. He was a Park ranger. When we began discussing the ‘fireballs’ he entered the discussion in an attempt to dismiss the fact that we had seen these ‘fireballs’. He suggested we were in shock and imaging things. He was quite nervous as I recall. We all looked at him in disbeleif and on realising that if he was to continue with his strange opinion, under the circustances he could quickly find himself in trouble. He then wandered off and did the satellite boogie around other people.

    You Mr. Hate and you SJT, remind me of him.

    Oh and some years later when discussing Ash Wednesday with someone who is considered a leading fire expert (and I cannot mention his name due to incriminating him but he is well known by most that write here) I mentioned the exploding house. His response was that is not possible and that I did not see things correctly. I was traumatised he suggested. My thought was WTF but I said nothing. He just sounded so confident and dismissive of my opinion that rather than get upset I let it slide, nodded my head in disbelief and smiled at him.

    Mr. Hate responds to my opinions,
    “Stewie, what’s your point? You’re a reincarnated Spanish Inquisitor? Or just a babbling fool? Spit it out man!”
    My response to you is that same nod of the head and smile you stupid prick.

    ‘And so it ends, Stewie sticks his fingers in his ears and says “I’m not listening….”. He has constructed an impenetrable fortress, and is beyond the reach of science and reason. It’s all just a conspiracy, so nothing else matters, nothing at all.’

    Ive got to go and play with the kids right know SJT but don’t worry I’ll get back to you on that. Piece of piss my friend.

  85. Green Davey March 29, 2009 at 11:16 am #

    I believe in fire-balls. I first saw them in January 1969, coming out of tall karri forest, near Walpole, in the south-west. Two balls of fire the size of two-storey houses rolled out of the forest, and across a bare paddock for several hundred metres. Luckily no people or houses were in the way. I think they must have been eucalypt vapor, burning like napalm.

    Nyoongar Elders do not support the notion of long fire exclusion. They want to ‘clean ‘im up’. From their grannies and aunties they know that dry eucalypt forest was burnt (patchily!) every 2-4 years. I know that from a mountain of historical evidence, and from old fire marks on grasstrees back to 1750, and from the Four Colour Map Theorem.

  86. spangled drongo March 29, 2009 at 11:18 am #


    Truly honest and exceedingly descriptive! Thank you .

    Hopefully that post will osmose through the hides and brains of the foolish.

    As someone who survives by FRBs and mowing several football fields for a barrier and still needs to back burn, I relate to what you say.

  87. spangled drongo March 29, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    Imagine if we were all still naked apes living off the land in the forests and savannahs.

    Would we ever have this FRB system sorted.

  88. Ian Mott March 29, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    You are spot on, Stewie. The spin merchants were out and about from the first day, lurking on the edges of discussion like political commissars to make sure the the discussion did not stray beyond the party line. And just like their totalitarian predecessors they don’t hesitate for a moment before suggesting that a first hand account is somehow tainted by shock, or worse, insanity.

    Both SJT and Mr Hate have gone out of their way to downplay the contribution of fuel reduction to fire intensity but then, breathtakingly, fail to grasp the link between reduced fuel load and reduced ember storm. Both clearly believed the two were mutually exclusive, with the latter diminishing the value of the former.

    So I’m terribly sorry, folks, but if my impatience with such people might clash with your emotional curtains then its just tough tits. This failure to have grasped this key attribute of fire dynamics betrays an inexcusable level of ignorance on the part of Hate and SJT. But this is just one of many such indicators which remove all doubt that they are nothing but sleazy apologists and accessories after the crime.

    These people inhabit a cognitive landscape where the syntax of their opinions and prejudices are allowed to carry equal weight to detailed, proven and specific facts about fire behaviour and management. They also work to a script, as Hate’s link to the realdirt site above confirms.

    It has all the key propaganda elements;
    1 first we have the downplaying of any notion that negligence might have played a part. I have mentioned elsewhere how the easiest way to identify people with blood on their hands is their use of the term “blame game”. As if the desire to bring a murderer to justice was a mere emotional indulgence rather than the very bedrock of justice itself.
    2 it implies a base motive on the part of critics of the murderous green ideology, ie that they just want to regain control of forests for financial gain. That is, they view any criticism in terms of the loss of their own political hedgemony.
    3 then we have the huge sidestep. The greens (and SJT/hate here) claim, contrary to numerous published statements and the weight of evidence of their own inaction, that they never opposed fuel reduction at all. But then they go to absurd lengths to downplay its effectiveness.
    4 They exaggerate the cost of fuel reduction, the physical limits to the area that can be done and the environmental impact of it.
    5 They also used known examples of highly incompetent fuel reduction by green dominated government agencies to exaggerate the risks involved in hazard reduction burns.
    6 They put in place an entirely unreasonable test of its efficacy. That is, not only did it not stop Black Saturday fires in their tracks, it didn’t save houses that were not defended and which did not have protection measures in place.
    7 They implied that their own position was supported by experts while the opposing position was only supported by ill-informed, inexperienced provincials, with an “axe to grind”.
    8 Indeed, it is clear that whoever is behind the pseudonym “Right wing festival of hate” has set out from the very start, by his choice of label, to place an ideological perceptual filter over the entire discussion so gullible readers will disregard what is said by his critics.

    And when readers go back over the realdirt link above they will notice that mr Hate has carefully followed the same script. He is either the anonymous Author of that post or a fully compliant follower who has sought to promote the party line.

    And it is worth noting that even his source material is from an anonymous author who lacks the guts and intellectual honesty to have his output attached to his real name. The blog is run by James Woodford but the article is attributed to a;
    “Professor Poongschtok is an alias for one of Real Dirt’s most informed readers. He knows what he is talking about so his piece may be long but every word is worth reading.”

    Curiously, it seems Mr Woodford had written a piece similar to this mythical professor in the Sydney Morning Herald a year before. And given the consistency of the material and Mr Woodford’s propensity to pass himself off as someone else, it is quite reasonable to conclude that the person who has written under the pseudonym “Right wing festival of hate” is none other than James Woodford, a journalist from Sydney who has recently (2003/4) moved to the bush (next to a coastal lake on the NSW South Coast) and now seeks to pass off his ignorant perceptions as those of an informed local. He just couldn’t resist the temptation to slip in a link to his book site, as an indirect plug, while he was here.

    It is obviously very easy to be casual about fuel reduction when one lives next to a coastal lake as Woodford does. Just another day tripper.

  89. Tom Melville March 29, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    Ian Mott, very observant of you, well done.

    Woodford/Festival, you are the worst kind of sleazy hypocrite who has confirmed everything that we suspected about the green movement. You live next to a coastal lake where humidity is always high, rainfall is reliable and frequent, and you fund your lifestyle from city sources, free of any dependence on the local economy. You have only left the city five minutes ago but are convinced you know it all, even for places and landscapes that you know nothing about.

    If you were not such an arrogant, know it all urban cliche it would be funny. But you are, and you are an absolute disgrace. Now kindly piss right off.

  90. spangled drongo March 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

    Good obs Ian. I have been waiting for an hour or so for some form of denial from the “Festival” but nothing so far so if what you say is true this bloke knows as much about fires as he does about sailing.

  91. SMS March 29, 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    As a new poster here, I must first say that I do enjoy the discussion and understand the merits of Ian Mott’s level of discourse. I’ve been reading this blog for over quite some time now and am pretty fed up with the tactics used by SJS, Luke and others. They remind me of small boys who, being told something they don’t want to hear, cover their ears with their hands and run around yelling “blah” “blah” “blah” as loud as he can, just to avoid hearing what the other person has to say.

    But the reason I am writing is to ask a question of SJS and Luke. It has to do with the reasoning for not allowing the forests to be cleaned out to decrease their fire load. If you are an advocate of natural burning, and that no or minimal intervention is prefered with forest fires and at the same time are an adherent to the belief that the earth has warmed and will continue to warm; don’t you find your beliefs at odds with a safer Australia?

  92. Ian Mott March 30, 2009 at 10:06 am #

    Well, here we are on Monday morning and our normally regular and persistent mate, Mr Hate/Woodford, has not made a post since midnight Saturday night.

    Tom is right, Woodford is a classic metrocentric cliche on his little rural dalliance and there is a substantial body of evidence to indicate that the truth and himself are not constant companions. Please provide evidence to the contrary if you can Mr Woodford.

    But this whole thread now personifies the very nature of the problem. The defenders of the status quo are either full urbanites who’s only link to the issue is purely in the abstract, they might actually own a small houseblock but rarely own more than two decent trees. Or they are ex-urbanites who live in rural communities while their head space remains 100% urban but with a bit of rustic landscaping around the edges, just for show. Or they are the very local and state government “Gombeen Men” who actually created the problem with their murderous green ideology and who now hope to avoid responsibility and pervert the course of justice.

    The rural community is under attack but it is not a conspiracy, it is the normal modus operandi of parasites and predators. And the governments that we placed our trust in to protect us from such attacks, as every other citizen has come to expect, have, instead, given them free rein. Make no mistake, it is a fundamental breach of trust with little chance of it being remedied.

    You raise a very good point SMS. If climate change is real, and the officially sanctioned predictions are anywhere near accurate, then the need for greatly improved fire management, with fuel reduction as its central element, is incontestible.

  93. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 30, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    First I was Luke, now I’m Woodford. Make up your minds, oh that’s right, you can’t because you don’t have minds, only a simple facility for repetition and regurgitation.

    Simple question (for simple minds): If Black Saturday was a product of decreasing fuel reduction burns and “green councils”, how do you explain Black Friday and Ash Wednesday?

    One of the problems contributing to Black Friday, according to Stretton, was the widespread and indiscriminate use of fire.

    “On causes of the fires
    No one cause may properly be said to have been the sole cause. The major, over-riding cause, which comprises all others, is the indifference which forest fires, as a menace to the interests of us all, have been regarded. They have been considered to be matters of individual interest, for treatment by individuals.”

    I take it that he means that well meaning, but essentially ignorant, people didn’t know what they were doing.

    “On settlers
    Settlers, miners and graziers are the most prolific fire-causing agents. The percentage of fires caused by them far exceeds that of any other class. Their firing is generally deliberate. All other firing is, generally, due to carelessness.”

    Ash Wednesday preceded this allegedly “massive” decrease in controlled burning. It also predates the supposed “green capture of political process”.

    You better jack up your argument and crawl under and have a look, I reckon your fact to contention adjuster is bung.

  94. Keith March 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    An excellent article that summarises what has happened over the years with governments & in most cases, the green movement, ignoring the recommendations of the numerous Royal Commissions (RC)

    Let us hope that the latest RC will arrive at suitable recommendations that will be implemented ASAP.

  95. Ron PIke March 30, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    Hi All,
    Pikey hasn’t been lying low, just laid low by some dreadful lurgy.
    I was surprised but happy when I logged on to find this issue still being discussed.
    First, if I upset any poster with practical knowledge in this field with my last post, then I apologise. Apart from that I stand by what I said.
    I agree with Mark Poynter that this topic is too big and complex to be explained in this format, however I would like to make some observations, particularly in relation to the useless name calling.
    Stewie, just loved your post.
    If we are to have any meaningful discussion of this subject, I think we need to have a quick look at our history.
    When white man began settlement of Australia, the environment was not some verdant balanced Garden of Eden. There is no doubt that for at least the last 1000 years the Aus. landscape has been subject to wildly flucuating climatic events. Our environment goes from years of abundance to years of famine. We really are”A land of drought and flooding rain.”
    When the settlers began developing this land in earnist about 1830, there followed 100 years when significant damage and degration was done to the landscape.
    There is no point in labouring this point. It can not be undone and modern Australians need to recognise that the people who did this were all using what was considered best practice at the time.
    These unsustainable practices were well recognised by Governments, farmers and foresters by the mid 1930s, but nothing happened until after the war. Then all states through their Agricultural Depts., Forrestory bodies and the NSW Soil Conservation Service, began working with all stake holders to redress this unsustainable situation. This work has continued to this day and continues to pick up pace with improving Aig. Science and better and better machinery and land management. (Much, much more to this story, but not space here.)
    THESE PEOPLE WERE OUR FIRST GREENIES. ( note it includes most farmers and foresrers.)
    During the 1970 and 80s we saw a proliferation of Groups like Land Care, River Bank Protection, Coastal Sand Dune maintenance and many others. All of these Groups are doing great work and Governments are still providing finance for their work. Many urban people have joined these Groups, which is a win, win situation for the environment and all concerned.
    However also about this time we saw the emergence of a third group.
    The mostly city based. THE POLITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST. This is a totally different beast, one who annoints himself with a religious like moral superiority that abides no discussion or reasoned debate. Anyone who disagrees is pilloried as being an environmental vandal.
    Unfortunately all of these people lack the most important attribute required in our free democratic society.
    Their fervor for the positions they hold and their manic belief that destruction of the planet is nigh, seems to have led them to the belief that repeatly misleading the Australian public on vital issues is some how acceptable.
    Lying is one of their basic weapons.
    The derision which has been expressed in this discussion I believe is all focussed on this third group.
    I do not wish to give examples or names here for obvious reasons. However I would welcome an open debate with some of these charlatans.
    I am going to post this and hopefully complete it later. Perhaps writing about this is making me ill.

  96. Viridis primus Davey March 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Thanks for some good thoughts. I think your green taxonomy is correct. I shall refer to myself as the species Viridis primus. Your second species might be Viridis secundus. The third Viridis perfidus. By the way, for anyone interested in recent thoughts on bushfire from the CRC, just Google (mccaw+monadnocks+crc). I think Dr Lachie McCaw might call himself a Viridis primus.

  97. Viridus primus Davey March 30, 2009 at 6:01 pm #

    Should that be ‘Viridis perfidissimus’?

  98. spangled drongo March 30, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    Thanks for your historical view. That’s how I see it too but you realise that the post mods have already “adjusted’ this data.

  99. wes george March 30, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

    Stewie, Ian and Hate-fest (Viridis Perfidus):

    “If Ian’s language offends you I suggest, politely that you toughen up a bit. Please.”

    Well, thank you Stewie, all your comments are insightful contributions. However, it’s not MY delicate constitution that needs toughening.

    Fact is, I enjoy Ian’s polemic style too and often roar hilariously when he gives some idiotarian a justified shafting.

    But for the moment I am representing the unseen audience here (self-appointed, of course, hope you’re not offended,) most of whom are sitting on the fence whatever the topic and could rationally tip either way in many of our little debates. Your task, should you chose to accept it, is to express your outrage in a manner that connects sympathetically with your audience so that they can empathize with your POV.

    Since I’m generally in awe of Ian on most topics I hear his experience and wisdom clearly over his grunts and I learn. Yet, when the spittle begins to fog Ian’s monitor at home, he’s costing his cause as many viewers as he’s converting. Not me or you, we know and love Ian. But what about the uninitiated casual and ever expanding traffic of readership?

    I cringe when Ian decides to whip out Biko’s Brick instead of mustering the intellectual courage to channel his outrage into a passionate yet iron-clad rational argument that leaves our invisible fence sitters nodding their heads at his sagacity. He can and does do it, you know.

    Reason trumps brickbats every time! What Stewie imagines is tough talk might be at the pub, but in mind-to-mind combat it’s the impotency of dimwits and wussies…any chimp can hurtle his poop. (See Luke for bang-up examples of simian coprolalia.)

    If you need to vent your spleen use the garden. Save water. Comment later. If you want to convert the undecided, casual silent majority of readers stick to passionately persuasive rhetoric intelligently expressed.

    Apologies to all for the OT digression. Adieu.

  100. stewie March 31, 2009 at 12:13 am #

    Fair enough Wes.

  101. Ian Mott March 31, 2009 at 1:44 am #

    In general, Wes, I have shared your perspective on written style. But there is also a very serious danger that the elimination of the extent of one’s outrage will significantly misrepresent the character and intensity of the message. It was WH Auden’s mate Christopher Isherwood who warned of the dangers of “annihilation by blandness”, the process of sanitising a message until it loses all meaning.

    Frankly, the most important message of all from this disaster is not getting out at all. That message is that the government and the greens have totally crossed the line. And it is complete nonsense to suggest that this message is best conveyed by us mincing about informing the urban community that “we are vewy vewy cwoth”. The easiest language of all to bury under an avalanche of verbage is the measured and the polite. And it is being buried as we speak.

    Steve Biko’s half brick was, in part, metaphor. But be they metaphor or missile, they are both just another communication device. And the first rule of communication is that the message must be coded in a manner that will be understood by the intended recipient. And it is absolutely clear that the message of common sense and reasoned argument has been, and is likely to continue to be, buried under a blanket of spin and misinformation.

    Mandella went to prison because he quite rightly observed that all the reasoned arguments and appeals to logic and principle were falling on deaf ears. The people in power had placed their own interests above everyone else’s. The people who were reading what they had been saying up till then probably approved of their use of language but they also mistook the mildness as an excuse to do nothing.

    There is no similar ambiguity when that message is in the form of half a brick. And if one were to rank farming communities around the world in terms of their success in influencing large metropolitan dominated policy processes then the overwhelming prize winners all go to those, like the French, the Japanese and the Koreans, who recognise rotten eggs, tomatoes, manure and, yes, half bricks, as nothing more than a less subtle form of self expression. They don’t communicate this way all the time because the fact that it forms part of their vocabulary tends to greatly improve the sensitivity of those they need to communicate with.

    Rural Australia is in its current state because its leaders have all been country gentlemen, so steeped in notions of proper form, so careful not to offend sensitivities, and so lacking in the “street smarts and mongrel” needed to win a single altercation, let alone a campaign, that they are routinely used as toe rags.

    So frankly, Wes, I really don’t give a tinkers cuss if some readers are left feeling a little uncomfortable by some of the messages here. If they feel that way then they probably should be feeling that way. The death of 210 people is something that can leave the people who share the same circumstances pretty pissed off. And the least the victims deserve is for us to convey the intensity of our disgust in a manner that is entirely true and accurate.

    We cannot water down the message without also watering down the justice of the outcome.

  102. Ron Pike March 31, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    Still crook but will try to finish my thoughts on fires.
    From this point on I am only refering to NSW and Victoria. I do not have sufficient information on the other states.
    To support my point of view on the Victotian fires I also believe we need to quickly rehash our history regarding the vast mountain ranges of NSW and Vic. Mostly Crown land under differing management practices.
    Once the early settlers began using this vast area for logging, grazing and recreation ( which began quite early), all of these people had a vested, commercial and environmental interest in maintaining this unique area in good shape.
    The need for access roads, fire trails, water storage and accomodation were all quickly realised and established and maintained.
    For well over 100 years the great majority of this vast region prospered. Mans commercial activity, once over logging and other damaging practices were stopped, brought this area into better shape than at any time in the previous 200 years.
    Of course there were some disasters and I note that Festival of Hate comments about “Black Friday “in 1939. In comparing this with the present situation Hate needs to accept that those who fought this fire had No fire tankers or aircraft like today. This blaze was fought with wet bags, leather beaters and Knapsack sprays holding less than 3 gallons of water.
    This fire and all bush fires until recently were stopped using “back burning.”
    So could the dreadful destruction and loss of life in the recent fires been avoided.
    Given the extreme conditions on Black Saturday ( similar to 1939) we cannot be too dogmatic about this. However we can be very sure about one thing, if anyone had tried to do what I am about to suggest, they would have been arrested and likely ended up in jail.
    While I have spoken to a number of people who were witness to these fires, I do not have facts, but I would like to suggest the following.
    If we take the town of Marysville and we assume that the out of control fire, driven by a NW wind is approaching the tiny town at say 10 miles/ hour and is presently12 miles away. At this point residents have 3 options: Leave and protect life, stay and so called fight the fire. or option 3 which is presently outlawed.
    An experienced firefighter with a couple of tankers and some crew, would do the following.
    He would find a road, track or ditch on the NW side of the town and immediately light a back burn along this road. As the fire took hold the tanker crews would extinguish the edge of the fire facing town.
    As this back burn was taking hold he would also be trying to contain the E and W flanks with some more fire.
    By now you are possibly thinking how siily to start another fire on a day like this. History tells us what the alternative was!
    As the approachong wild fire comes towards the town it is being driven by the NW wind, but as with all out of control fires it is also drawing air from in front as well. ( this is the roaring noise often refered to.)
    The aim is to get the back burn fire as agressive as possible and to burn as far away from what is being protected as can be achieved in the time available.
    As the 2 fronts approach, the back burn fire becomes turbo charged by the air being drawn in by the much larger fire. As they meet there is a huge uplift of extremely hot air carrying fire, embers,grass, burning leaves and most importantly smoke.
    At that instant the wild fire no longer has fuel. It is effectively out.
    This is vital to firefighters as it leaves the crews who will be mopping-up for some time, working in a reasonable environment with no danger from wild fire and little smoke.
    This is in vast contrast to have 100s of men and $Ms of equipment just watching the approaching fire and hoping for the best.
    I have personally been in dozens of situations where wise fire Captains have used back burning to save houses, sheds, villiages and even flocks of sheep.
    All of the major fires in both States were stopped by back burning until a few years ago, when all of the fire control decision making process was stealthily removed from the local level to giant, cumbersom, idioligically driven and incompetant bureaucracies in the capital cities.
    Since that time we have seen the destruction of most of this wouderful area of Australia, that I have been enjoying all of my life.
    It happened because Australia no longer has a “Fourth Estate ” There is no arm of our MSM that could seriously claim to be meeting the benchmarks of the 4th Estate.
    There is no code of ethics more regularly disregarded and abused than the Journalists code of ethics.
    Fire is one of the elements of antiquity and is more important to modern man than it was to cave man.
    Without fire man could not produce cheap power, could not run our cars, trucks, planes and tractors.
    Fire is a very efficient servant, howere he is a servant with an attidude problem.
    Fire ALWAYS tries to become the master. Once fire does this as on Black Saturday, Fire immediately seeks to create “Hell on Earth.” Fore destroys man, his housing, factories, the flora and fauna, his crops his stock. Left to his own devices his appitite is limitless.
    Every unintended fire should be extinguished as quickly and as economically as possible.
    I havený said much of what I wanted to include as i’m still crook.
    In conclusion I have written a poem called “Tears in the Ashes,” Jennifer in her wisdom has decided it is too hot for her to handle. However if you would like to have a look it is on the SOS site and at Aspen Poets Society.
    Would appreciate you comments.
    What we have is a group of self serving, arrogrant, incompetant people who are high on the sensationalist drug and not interested in truth or asking the difficult questions.

  103. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 31, 2009 at 9:03 am #

    Attempting a backburn in the bush on BS would have been suicide. It might work in grassland but sending a crew into bushland to backburn in extreme weather is criminally culpable. You’ll end up with a situation like the Upper Beaconsfield crew faced in ’83.

    The Marysville fire would have been spotting 10-15km in advance. The extreme conditions made fire behaviour erratic and extremely dangerous. Your little back burn would have merely added to the convoluted madness. People would have had even less time to escape. You really have no appreciation of the physical reality of the day.

    So much for folksy, down home wisdom. Stretton was talking about people like you, i.e. well intentioned but dumb. Even the good intentions could be questioned as you seem more intent on pursuing a political agenda that would remove the constraints of good governance so that you may advance your interests before those of the broader community.

    Anyway, that little detour dealt with, I refer you back to my last comment and the salient question. Well?

  104. spangled drongo March 31, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    Have you been in a situation where the fire front is going to get you? No way out?

    What Ron Pike says is true. But you need something special.


    You modern philosophers of fire fighting with all your ideas seem to lack the concept of that ingredient and bureaucrats in their arse-covering positions also cannot allow it to be part of the solution yet in spite of that it still happens frequently.
    And for courage to win the day it still needs good planning.
    But that’s the only way you can win.

  105. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 31, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    “Have you been in a situation where the fire front is going to get you? No way out?”

    Of course the difference in this scenario is the difference between being trapped inadvertently (either accident or ignorance) and deliberately putting yourself in a high risk situation.

    Modern fire services would not put a crew in front of a rapidly advancing fire front with a view to starting a backburn.

    No fire fighting agency should risk lives to save assets. With an hours notice, all educated residents should have fled at the first sign of fire from the NW. A sophisticated fire defence system should give homes a reasonable chance of survival. If it fails in extreme conditions you have insurance. No asset is worth a life. Stay and defend needs to be carefully evaluated in the context of numerous variables.

    This idea of backburning in heavy fuels on a day like BS is a pathetic joke and complete La La Land. It’s like I’ve stepped into a time warp. It’s 2009, not 1909.

    “What Ron Pike says is true. But you need something special.” A brain. Now, about that question…

  106. Ron Pike March 31, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    In relation to the two lines that some how managed to leave the body of my last post, they were meant to follow the Journalists Code of Ethics.
    Now Hate, having tried to lift this discussion above name calling, for you I am making an exception.
    Rather than having a tizzie that shows signs of inferiority complex when posters here do not respond the you words of nonsence.
    Try considering that most of us here are yet to see you post anything of substance.
    Rather than ranting at me as ä senile old fool,” well intentioned fool” and others, how about learning to at least develop some capacity for comprehention.
    Read my post again and then ask yourself why you said, ” sending a crew into bushland on BS is criminally culpable.”
    I distinctly said they would be burning back from a road on the edge of town.
    Read the post several times slowly to take it in. There is sufficient information for even you to understand.
    For someone like you to be repeatedly calling me a fool while hiding behind a silly name says much about your credability.
    An out of control bushfire is rarely unpredititable as you claim. They are mostly driven by a hot wind and their course is largey predictable. Successful back burns are best carried out when conditions assure a reasonably healthy fire.
    Most back burns which fail are conducted at night, because the back burn becomes disjointed and often goes out in places or across the whole burn.
    How was my suggested back burn going to make things worse?
    How can it be worse than total destruction with considerable loss of life.
    Now a little bit of my history ( we know we will never get yours, because you have”a family, assets and income to protect” Well what a hero. You think others here are any different. What a fraud)
    I believe I attended my first fire with my Dad at about age 15. I immediately began getting instruction from older fire fighters about what was happening and why. Always, always, fire fighter safty was paramount. That has never changed, but because authorities have put in place “Greenie policies” fire fighters are now much more at risk.
    Since then I have been very involved in over 30 major fires in all different terrain. By the time I retired I would confidently sayI have 55 years of practical worthwhile experience.
    My gut feel is that you have a little theory and little or no practical knowledge.
    This is more like one years experience 30 times over. Quite a difference.
    I have personally been involved in hundreds of back burns and never seen one get out of control.
    Back burns protect both property and fire fighters. Read the post again.
    Hate, your total lak of understanding on this subject is only exceeded by your capacity to keep demonstrating it.
    About 12 years ago I was involved in a large fire in the sanstone gorge country near Hornsby north of Sydney. The new regime of fire management was already in place by then.
    On a very hot day the fire was heading up the Galston Gorge ( an inacessable ravine)
    Developers had put a road along the cliff top some years earlier and a row of very upmarket houses had been built along the ridge.
    Everyone knew that at some time that day the fire would roar up the valley.
    We were precluded from commencing a back burn down the Gulley. It would have been very easy to accomplish.
    On hearing this at about 10 in the morning two house owners at the far end of the street went home and started a back burn behind their homes. By the time authorities realised what was happening there was nothing they could do about it.
    Gues what? About 3 in the afternoon the fire roared up the valley burning every house in the street except the two that had back burnt.
    These two gentlemen were charged and convicted and castigated by the Judge as being totally irresponsible.
    Now I ask you who was being most irresponsible?
    The two men who saved their homes with no downside for their neighbours, or firefighting bosses who allowed an army of people to stand by while homes were destroyed.
    Hate, throwing invective at people like Ian Mott, myself and others seems to be the only talent you have.
    I appreciate reasoned contrary opinion to my own, we all keep learning all our life. Unfortunately for you mate, you seem to be driven by some idioligical hatred of truth.
    Motty and I are not here because we need to stroke our egos, by seeing our name in print
    , nor is it because we do not have enough to do.
    We are here because our MSM is letting down our democracy by not providing any balance on many issues especially this one.
    Personally I will not stop until I see the complete dispersal of the Fire industry Bureauracy that have been established in Sydney and Melbourne and the decission making process returned to local level. The only place that can be effective.

  107. Ian Mott March 31, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    You didn’t answer any of our questions of you, Hate/Woodford. Are you a recently rural urbanite? Do you live next to a coastal lake? Is your fire fighting experience on par with your sailing?

    And you have the gall to suggest that 1939 events support your position on current events. Stretton began the process of responsible hazard reduction which has now degenerated to mere tokenism. To use pre-1939 conditions as some sort of evidence in support of your position makes it clear that you are nothing but a vigorous imagination, set loose on a field of expertise to grasp any factoid that might be bent to become grist for your mill. You obviously regard truth and fact as nothing more than a drop down menu, to be selected from at whim without regard for the veracity of the resulting picture.

    Back burns in 100km winds are not easy but can be done on the downwind side of a hill when the main fire is still on the other side. The fast wind shoots over the ridgetop and sucks air up under it from the down wind side. I don’t know the terrain at Marysville well enough to comment on whether this would have been possible there.

    What I do know is that one of the best ways to survive a large fire is to light a small fire ahead of it and then get well into the ashbed of the small fire.

    And there is no doubt that a deliberately lit fire, or one started by advanced embers, in modest fuel, will take some time to reach the intensity exhibited by the main fire. Yet, here you are, on one hand claiming that nothing could possibly stop the major fire, but on the other hand claiming that a smaller (to begin with) back burn some 10 or 20 minutes before the main fire, is an act of lunacy.

    If it was absolutely certain that the main fire would go straight through Marysville then a back burn on the down wind side, so that residents could then shelter in the resulting ash beds, would have had no bearing on the ultimate area of fire but major implications for resident survival. With such a rear burn in place then an additional one on the upwind side of town would have produced a milder burn through the town. It would have already passed through the town and died out on the rear burn area in the time it would have needed to gather lethal intensity.

    You do accept, I hope, that a small fire just starting out is much less intense, and much less lethal, than a crown topping fireball, don’t you?

    You do accept, I hope, that a crown topping fireball will generally die out when it hits an area that has already been burnt out a short time earlier, don’t you?

    You are so imbued with your murderous green ideology, and your politics of exclusion, that you regard any act of self preservation by people who live next to “your” forests, as something to be discouraged at all costs. So you oppose all threat reduction measures, whether they are conducted 6 or 18 months in advance or if they are conducted just 15 minutes in advance.

    And all you can fall back on is a classic display of arrogant metrocentric contempt for any person or concept that is outside your lumpencretinous tribal manifesto. You have squandered any right to be regarded as a reasonable man. You are not in possession of the relevant facts, you have no desire to acquire those facts and you are clearly incapable of acting in good faith in your dealings with the rural community.

  108. Right Wing Festival of Hate March 31, 2009 at 5:34 pm #


    “having tried to lift this discussion above name calling”

    Haha! You lot haven’t let up with the abuse directed at me and now you claim you’re trying to lift the tone! That’s comedy gold!

    “I distinctly said they would be burning back from a road on the edge of town.”

    There is no road on the NW, only a track in the bush. Even if you managed to burn a few hectares, the fire would probably only burn ground fuel and all the aerial fuel would still be there. If the canopy takes off, then you’ve just created a whole new set of problems for yourself. The winds would be difficult because you are on a leeward slope. In terms of the scale related to topography, conditions, forest type and fire intensity, I can only assume you don’t get it. How many of you know, or are actually in, Victoria?

    Followed by another folksy anecdote…awww, how quaint! 9 times out of 10 the heroes of your story would have probably burnt out their neighbours or themselves with their homespun remedy.


    “You didn’t answer any of our questions of you,” Oh, I thought that was stream of consciousness verbal bile. My mistake.

    “Stretton began the process of responsible hazard reduction” Or, alternatively, ended irresponsible and haphazard fuel reduction etc.

    You still haven’t addressed the question, if greenies are responsible for BS, how did BF and AW happen? Not a greenie or green by-law in sight but plenty of indiscriminate use of fire in the landscape. No matter how you spin it, your argument has a gaping hole in it.

    Backburns might be useful in some situations but to suggest it could have saved Marysville on the day is misguided at best. With a wind change imminent, and possibly coinciding with the fire’s arrival at the town, who would gamble hundreds of lives on the roll of a dice?

    “You do accept, I hope, that a crown topping fireball will generally die out when it hits an area that has already been burnt out a short time earlier, don’t you?”

    If the backburn was started a mere hour before the fire front hits at full throttle, and the canopy is intact, I hate to think what might happen when the two heat sources merge.

    “So you oppose all threat reduction measures, whether they are conducted 6 or 18 months in advance or if they are conducted just 15 minutes in advance.”

    Haha, another strawman! I’ve stated clearly that I don’t oppose FRBs in principle, I just pointed out widescale and recent FRBs did SFA to save Marysville. Your argument, to paraphrase, is that if only those damned greenies had allowed FRBs Marysville would have survived.

    I’ve already mentioned the frequency of FRBs around Marysville and there’s this…

    “Professor David Lindenmayer of the ANU (pers comm) points out that: “I worked out of Marysville for 25 years and every year for the past 5 years the outskirts of the town were fuel reduced.”” (from Andrew Campbell’s article on the fires)

    Your patronising “We know best” attitude just doesn’t cut the mustard boys. The science and expertise have moved on and only a few elements of your folklore are actually applicable in this day and age.

  109. Rob March 31, 2009 at 6:03 pm #

    Right Wing Festival of Hate

    Are you James Woodford aka Prof Poongschtock? The one that also thinks that FRB isnot relevant and uses Phil Zylstra’s opinion piece as “scientific” evidence against FRB? I actually think Ian is a slueth. Well done Ian -serves himself right for trying to hide behind an anaonymous pseudonym.

  110. Ron Pike April 1, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    The most foolish and stupid amoung us are those who having been presented with copious reasoned truth, still refuse to accept it.
    You hide behind anonymoty, pontificate about that of which you no little, resort to name calling when cornered and now I know you fabricate comments.
    Yes I do know the area around Marysville.
    Yes there IS A ROAD that could be used for the starting of a back burn.
    There is also a creek, however, given a couple of tankers and crew I could stiil do what was required without the above.
    And just in case you are wondering I have a lot of contact with the Streeton Group. Simon Patton, one of the founders, is a life long friend. He would have more fire fighting and fire prevention knowledgw in his little finger than you are ever likely to gain.
    You are a fraud!
    This is not so much about a point of view as it is a devision between those who care sufficiently to ensure that this loss of life does not happen again and others who seem not to care.

    While I weep for them, I weep for wisdom also,
    For truth, reason, common sence and freedom.
    Lost in a holy conflagration. An inferno
    Of zealous environmental whoredom.
    Suckled on the tit of political expediency.
    Oh, wisdom where now is thy decency?
    Oh, truth where now thy decency?
    To learn not from this hell; that is treason.

  111. Right Wing Festival of Hate April 1, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    “The most foolish and stupid amoung us are those who having been presented with copious reasoned truth, still refuse to accept it.” So, you’ve finally woken up to yourself?

    “Yes there IS A ROAD that could be used for the starting of a back burn.” Which road would you have tried to backburn from on BS?

    “There is also a creek, however, given a couple of tankers and crew I could stiil do what was required without the above.” So you’d take crew into bush and try to backburn in extreme conditions?

    I reckon you’re a loon. If you went anywhere near a box of matches, let alone a drip torch, on a day like BS you ought to be locked up and have the key thrown away.

    If you lot can’t see how bereft and desperate you look, God help you.

  112. Ian Mott April 2, 2009 at 11:15 am #

    Hate/Woodford, you continue to demonstrate your complete ignorance by claiming that a crew would be in danger by being in the bush to conduct a back burn. Only a bunch of dead bimbos from (S)Parks and Wildfires would be so thick as to try and outrun their own fire as the late Kuringai Chase clowns did.

    So let me spell this out for yourself and all the other visitors from “Dumbturdistan”. The safest place to be in a bush fire is behind it. So a fire crew would be quite safe if they lit a back burn and then followed along behind it. The part of the main fire that then catches up with the ash bed behind the crew would burn itself out as it cannot burn fuel that has already burned.

    But I must thank you for providing such a glaring example of the gross ignorance, fanatical determination to mislead, and callous disregard for the consequences, that characterises the murderous green ideologues.

    It is no surprise at all that you have been found to be nothing more than a metrocentric dilettante, seeking cheap thrills at the expense of the rural community you pretend to belong to. You are much worse than a parasite, you are a class enemy, grande mall.

  113. Ian Mott April 2, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    And to top it all off he quotes David Lindenmeyer, the guy who criticised a detailed critique of the nest hollow science as “absolute rubbish, having no basis in science”, BEFORE HE HAD EVEN SEEN A COPY OF THE CRITIQUE.

    And again, you claim that you are not opposed to fuel reduction burning but seek to imply that the fuel reduction burns near Marysville were a failure of themselves. You forget that we know first hand that numerous fuel reduction activities in that area were prevented by legislation.

    Lindenmeyer is implying that fuel reduction in that location was adequate when we know that this was far from the case. But long bows are his standard MO.

  114. Ron PIke April 2, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    Could you call me on 02 66537554?
    Very important!

    Hate, We don’t leave things to God.
    We act in the best interests of mankind.

  115. Matt White June 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    The WWI analogy is a good one. However, the response of ‘fire experts’ after every serious fire is simply more fuel reduction burning. Not dissimilar to the “War experts” after every failure in the trenches the response was not to question the tactic but merely scale up the effort – heavier artillery barrages and increasing numbers of men over the top. Intense life threatening fires occur in forests, woodlands and grasslands/pastures that have negligible ground fuels – for example no amount of background presuppression burning would have reduced ground fuels in the Kinglake forests area to the levels that are typical of the low productivity Bendigo-Redesdale forests. The Redesdale fire also destroyed numerous properties and claimed at least one life from memory.


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