Plans to increase the area burnt across our forests and woodlands to meet a target that has no scientific backing is bad enough. But the plans to punch huge ‘fire breaks’ hundreds of kilometres long across the landscape is the ultimate insanity. Below are a few important points on the issue:
- A fire break will not protect anyone in an extreme fire event. A hundred metre wide strip of bare dirt scalped of all greenery and life will not stop a fire.
- Even a wide fire break along a road will not enable rescue vehicles to travel along them in an extreme fire event.
- Extreme fires can jump 20km ahead of the front, moderate fires can spot 1-5 km ahead.
- Fire breaks can increase the risk of fire by pushing up dry dead vegetation on the edges, drying out edge vegetation, and creating effective wind tunnels that carry fire.
- Fire fear is the new industry. It’s a political winner to be seen to be using large machines “doing something about it”. Logic and science is not part of it.
- Related impacts such as tonnes of herbicides used to kill regrowth along fire breaks will end up in streams to pollute drinking water and kill sensitive native fauna.
- It is a naive belief that destroying kilometres of forests along a wide fire break will somehow make it safe to travel down a road during an extreme bushfire. Many people died in cars on Black Saturday when blinded by smoke or caught in fire flashing across open paddocks.
- No fire fighter would risk their lives fighting a fire from such a death trap.
- Environmentally, they create a ‘Berlin wall’ for wildlife movement, especially for the smaller species like gliders, potoroos, bandicoots, amphibians and reptiles.
Now that the precautionary principle has been clarified (Brown Mountain Supreme Court ruling) it should mean the authorities have to make sure that no threatened species will be impacted by so called fire suppression plans. However, policies, codes and legislation have not stopped DSE, loggers and bulldozer drivers from illegally destroying protected areas in the past. All the government has to do is shout ‘fire’ and precaution and penalties disappear. But a persistent, scientifically based, and systematic approach will make progress on this issue, just as it did with Alpine grazing.