the fire hazzard reduction program

Subject: the fire hazzard reduction program
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Thu, 05 Sep 2013 02:03:45 +0800

Tony, I couldn't agree more. It has long been a bug bear of mine in WA. But you get one major wildfire, and it is blamed on not enough control burns (even if it is a firestorm that nothing would stop), and they seem to be given open slather to burn anywhere.

A few thoughts I have had over the years.

1. Is this 'control burn' practice counted in the greenhouse gas emissions? On the one hand, there are credits for locking up carbon in plantations, etc. On the other, they ruthlessly burn the bush.

2. I have no problem with some control burns. e.g. 500 metres around towns. 100 metres around major property. 50 metres along major roads. But they blanket burn areas. This is legalised arson.

3. There was a proposal after the Victorian bushfires to burn national parks in Victoria on a 20 year rotation. This was decided that it had to be for every national park / reserve. So they were going to burn the old growth mallee. This would have been a disaster for mallee / spinifex species. I wrote a letter to the department against this. I don't know the final outcome.

4. In WA, there have been occurrences where 'controlled burns' got out of control. My understanding of the Margaret River fires is that they tried on 13 days to set it alight, and finally succeeded on a day of forecast severe conditions (40+ knot winds, hot weather, etc). There have been controlled burns in the Fitzgerald River NP that burnt out a camp ground (including the Malleefowl that had an active mound), and almost burnt down the rangers house. There are others I am aware of. I have heard that a control burn to protect Western Ground Parrot habitat in Cape Arid NP got out of control and burnt out about 40% of the WGP habitat they were trying to protect. They did not have emergency equipment on standby (e.g. the water bombing aircraft), or it was needed for other purposes. Was this because the WGPs were not valuable enough.

5. My impression of CALM / then DEC / now DPaW in WA is that they have people heavily involved in wildlife, others who are experienced in managing reserves, and others who are experienced in fires. The former (too few for all the conservation issues we have) don't seem to have much influence when it comes to burning off practices.

6. In south west WA, I am sure they would like to burn more in spring, but I think they get issues with winds, and also conditions moving the smoke over the metropolitan area which is a bad look. So my impression is that a lot of the control burns are done in autumn. They always complain that they can't reach their target.

7. The Kimberley and areas such as Kakadu have the crap burnt out of them year after year. They fly planes over dropping fire balls. This is not good for the environment to happen year after year.

8. When I have been to inland areas with spinifex in the past few years, it has been getting harder and harder to find areas of old growth spinifex suitable for species such as grasswrens, Rufous-crowned Emu-wren and Spinifexbird (plus all the mammals and reptiles that prefer this habitat). e.g. Cape Range NP. Near Newman. Near Paraburdoo.

9. This issue seems to be 'the white elephant in the room' to a large extent. Noone wants to seriously discuss it. If you do, you get attacked and all the wildfire damage is brought up, as I said as though the lack of controlled burns is the major cause.

There does need to be some control, but I cannot agree with any blanket burning of large areas, whether it is spring or autumn.

There, I have got it off my chest.  It won't change things though.

Frank O'Connor           Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email :

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