Hansard of the
AWARENESS AND PREPAREDNESS
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, hot
northerly winds and the fearsome smell of an approaching bushfire and black hot
cinders in the air are far from our minds at this time of the year. Now is the
time for many landowners to start thinking about our next bushfire season. We
got off pretty unscathed during the last summer, unlike the previous summer.
The fuel load keeps building up and the coming bushfire season could be very
We do not know
what temperatures or northerly winds are ahead of us but we know that there has
been unprecedented growth during last year's spring and early summer and it
could be similar next spring. Many rural properties and homes are surrounded
with potential tinder. We have also heard of the predictions of a coming El
Nino event, with its associated drop in rainfall.
services, especially the Tasmania Fire Service, are better equipped and
informed than ever before to combat bushfires and the level of awareness among
rural residents has never been higher. This statement is backed up by an
ongoing study in New South Wales. A team of academics led by the Associate
Professor in Geography at the University of Wollongong, Nicholas Gill, interviewed many people living
near bushland in the Blue Mountains ravaged by bushfires last October. I quote
from Professor Gill's article in The Conversation online:
fires in New South Wales prompted a resurgence of debate about how to safeguard
lives and homes. On one side are those who call for landscape‑scale fuel‑reduction
burns, with government‑mandated minimum areas to be burnt each year.
On the other
side are those who argue that resources are best devoted to preparing houses
and their owners. This raises the question of how residents living near
bushland will react to hazard-reduction strategies such as removing or thinning
the trees they have chosen to live among.
already found evidence ... that the most effective risk reduction is undertaken
in and around properties.
suggests that landscape-scale burning is less cost‑effective in reducing risk
to property than treatment that is focused within just 1‑2 km of homes. In
turn, this raises the question of whether residents are ready for the
responsibility they must bear.
Tasmania Fire Service takes the view that strategic fuel‑reduction burning on a
landscape scale is warranted to reduce the bushfire threat to identified at‑risk
communities. It says these communities are supported and educated to reduce
their individual property risks. These two approaches are highly complementary
and form the basis of the current TFS community fire‑protection
emergency services, landholders have learnt from history. They keep the grass
down, especially to the north of their homes. They manage trees and vegetation
near homes and many have effective fire plans. In this, in the recent past, we
have been greatly helped by the Tasmania Fire Service's website, which has
downloadable material, including advice to householders, evacuation procedures,
a stay‑put check list, and how to put together an emergency kit. This
information is well presented. It is up to date and includes advice on how to
understand warnings on ABC local radio, which in recent years has been a boon
to that communication of what is actually happening when fires occur.
Home owners in
bushfire-prone areas are now much more aware of how to prepare their buildings.
Water tank retailers report to me that there is increasing interest in tanks
for fire pumps. One pump and irrigation seller in Launceston has designed many
rooftop sprinkler systems for customers. These usually involve a water source
close to the home. A 15,000‑litre tank costing about $2,000 is the usual
recommendation because that can supply a 5‑horsepower fire pump for about two‑and‑a‑half
hours. That is plenty of time for the fire front and its aftermath to pass.
Sprinklers along a home's roof ridge can envelop the house and its immediate
surroundings in a cloud of spray for hours. I am not suggesting that protection
systems like these necessarily obviate the need to evacuate in catastrophic
circumstances, but I am stressing that properly prepared home owners are the
most cost‑effective way of saving homes in a bushfire.
The best way
to survive a bushfire is to leave the endangered area. I quote the Victorian Fire Services Commissioner, Craig Lapsley in a
story in the Melbourne Age:
There is one
truth in a bushfire: if you are not in its path when it arrives, you will not
be killed by it. Every other course of action during a bushfire carries a
greater or lesser degree of risk. ...... on Black Saturday, everyone who left
individuals are responsible for their own decisions about how to respond to
bushfire risk. I believe the message is getting through with the help of the
Tasmania Fire Service. Tasmanians are better prepared than ever, but there is
never any room for complacency. The approaching bushfire season may be far from
our minds now, but it should not be.