A burning question

Does the benefit of conducting planned burns ever really outweigh the risks?  src=

That was one of the key questions raised by submitters to the Lancefield/Cobaw planned burn investigation.

The draft report of the findings from the investigation is due to be delivered to the secretary of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning tomorrow, and public meetings to explain the report will be announced soon.

Marcus Ward’s Pastoria East property was in the line of fire when the Cobaw burn-off escaped containment lines last month. 

He said the benefit/risk analysis following the 2009 Black Saturday fires clearly showed that controlled burning was never a good idea. 

“What it showed was that fuel reduction burns had very little influence on house loss. If it was done within 500 metres of a house and in the last few years, it did have some minimal effect, but beyond that there was no measurable effect.”

With very few houses within 500 metres of crown land, Mr Ward argued planned burns such as that at Cobaw were only ever going to have a tiny to immeasurable benefit. 

The report suggested other ways you could reduce the risk of fire by about 56 per cent, Mr Ward said.

These include keeping the fuel load down around your house and relying on gardens instead of native forest around your house, particularly within 40 metres. 

“Those are the simple things that science tells us from the 2009 fires make a big difference. But fuel reduction of big forest is false hope unfortunately and in this case it turned out to not only be false hope but extremely dangerous and counter productive,” he said.

Mr Ward said he hoped the inquiry would take “a deeper look”. 

“It’s an opportunity to look deeper about what the risk/benefit is from this type of activity. We’re spending a lot of money and we’re not getting much return from it, if any.”

He said even the Black Saturday Royal Commission recommendation to burn five per cent of the state was impossible.

“They don’t have the window of time to do it safely, nor the resources,” he said.

“And there’s very little evidence that mass fuel reduction burns are benefiting the community.”

Community representative Vivien Philpotts said she was grateful for the contribution of the many community members who assisted her to create, distribute and collect the survey conducted as part of the inquiry.

“We received a lot of submissions and very good community feedback,” Ms Philpotts said. 

“While the terms of reference (of the inquiry) were quite specifically about the fire, there will be an ancillary report as well that will cover all of the other issues and community concerns that have arisen through the investigation.”

Originally Published at http://www.elliottmidnews.com.au/story/3463009/a-burning-question/?cs=1227

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