NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Says Hazard Reduction Burns Aren't The Silver Bullet To Bushfires
There has been a big conversation around hazard reduction burns as parts of Australia are consumed with bushfires.
These missions happen in the off-season as a way to help reduce the fuel loads that a fire can use to get bigger and burn for longer. People have been pointing the finger at various state fire authorities for not doing enough of these burns, which they say would have prevented the catastrophic scenes we've been seeing.
But New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says hazard reduction burns aren't the silver bullet to every bushfire season.
He's told the ABC: "Hazard reduction is absolutely an important factor when it comes to fire management and managing fire in the landscape but it is not the panacea.
"When you're running fires under severe, extreme or worse conditions, hazard reduction has very little effect at all on fire spread.
"It's only when the conditions back off a bit...that you've actually got some prospect of slowing the fire spread."
Australia has sweltered through some absolutely catastrophic fire conditions that have been a perfect breeding ground for the fires to spread. It's been hot, dry and very windy, meaning it only needs a small fire to turn into an inferno.
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But Mr Fitzsimmons poured cold water on the idea that they weren't doing their duties during the off season.
"Our biggest challenge with hazard reduction is the weather and the windows available to do it safely and effectively," Mr Fitzsimmons told Channel 7.
"Sure, there's environmental and other checks to go through but we streamline those. There's special legislation to give us clearance and to cut through what would otherwise be a very complex environment.
"There's no doubt that we see longer, hotter fire seasons which then correlates with shorter periods where you typically get your safest periods for burning. With burning, you typically get too cold, too wet...or too hot and too dangerous.
"We've only got to go back a couple of months and we were the public enemy for doing hazard reduction burns because we had smoke inundating populated areas.
"As a society, we're really got to embrace and have a meaningful argument about what it means to hazard reduce."
There are still many weeks left of the official bushfire season left to go and it's clear firefighters need all the help they can get. Once the fires die down, a proper investigation has been suggested to see whether more could have been done.
Featured Image Credit: NSW RFS