Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why were the Black Saturday guilty not named?

THE Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s final report last weekend is the whitewash nobody even noticed.

For a whitewash, that’s as good as you can get.

But for a report meant to explain why so many Victorians died on Black Saturday - 173 of us - it is unforgivable.

Yes, a few of the lesser guilty were sort-of held to account.

Victoria Police chief commissioner Christine Nixon was tut-tutted for having knocked off at 6pm on that dreadful day, choosing to go to the pub rather than stay at her post to co-ordinate the emergency response to a fire she knew was killing people.

The former CFA chief fire officer, Russell Rees, and the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s chief fire officer, Ewan Waller, were also smacked for their passive leadership.

But what difference would it have made had all three had fought like lions? More people may have been warned, perhaps, and a handful more lives saved.

But Kinglake would still have been destroyed. Marysville razed. Other towns burned, and the people in them.

You see, the most fatal blunders had already been made, long before the fires. And those responsible for them, mostly politicians, have not even been named in this report, nor their motives exposed.

Why not? Why didn’t the commission name the guilty who ignored decades of warnings to use more fire to clear our forests of fuel?

Why didn’t it expose the mad new belief that seems to have convinced them that “saving” nature was more important than protecting lives?

The rest of the article is here:

It's worth noting that north-eastern Victoria is especially prone to devastating bushfires. (And we've only discovered in the last couple of years the Indian Ocean temperature oscillation that appears to govern when conditions will become dangerous in this regard, causing hot dry winds to course across the continent.)

While the Black Saturday fires may have been the worst in terms of the numbers of people killed, they were not the worst fires recorded in Victoria. Likewise, despite misleading media reports to the contrary, melbourne did not have its hottest day on record last year at 46.4 degrees C.

True enough, it was the hottest temperature recorded by the Bureau of Metereology (or its antecedents) since it began keeping records in 1855.

But, as the Melbourne Argus reported on the 7th of February 1851, the hottest day on record for Melbourne remains the 6th of February 1851 when a maximum of 47.2C was recorded.

This was Black Thursday.

And these fires raged over millions of hectares of Victoria, not hundreds of thousands like last year.

The smoke crossing the Tasman was so great and so dark that the terrified inhabitants of a town on the north coast of Tasmania thought that the end of the world had come.

I think the other thing that really needs to be asked here is - do people and gum trees mix?

Surely after the Canberra fires a few years ago, on top of the succession of terrible fires in regional and country areas, the answer must be no.

It's insane to deliberately surround people and property with trees that have evolved to not only withstand fire, but to also make any fire that does occur worse!

As you know, gums contain within their leaves flammable oils that will explosively ignite once a fire has gotten hot enough, something they also aid by contstantly dropping branches, bark and tough leaves that do not readily decompose onto the ground and thereby building up a store of fuel for any fire that happens to start.

And yet we have tree-change councils that require property owners to only plant native trees, ie fire promoting gums, and which forbid owners to remove any there already, all in the name of the green mania that has infected so many people these days and made them lose their minds.

Complete madness as a policy, and these situations are time bombs guaranteed to go off sooner or later.

Quite frankly, I think that no country town should have gum trees within it and there should be a buffer area of maybe a couple of kilometres at least where only introduced broad-leaf trees should be planted.


Well, back to those Canberra fires.

It is interesting to note which parts of Canberra burnt at the time, and even more so to note which parts didn't.

Around the city there are a number of tree plantations, such as one consisting of cork oaks, (as I understand it, the original idea was that the city would become self-sufficient and, amongst other things, would produce its own cork), as well as other ones of exotic broad-leafed trees from overseas.

But of course much of the city was planned as a "bush capital."

So the inevitable timb bomb was ticking away in Canberra right from the start and eventually (and inevitably) it went off. Not surprisingly, the fires burned as you'd expect any Australian bush fire to burn, given that so many gum trees had been planted. These exploded into flames, spreading the fires even further while hot embers driven by strong winds also did so in a terrifyingly more efficient manner, jumping fire breaks and other obstacles.

One of these fires raced towards the cork oak plantation - and stopped dead.

The green leaves of the oaks did not catch fire like those of gum trees would have, and there was not the layer of leaf and bark litter on the ground to provide fuel to the fire (the soft leaves of the oaks decomposing into the ground as a natural fertilizer during winter).

Elsewhere in the city though ember attacks were spreading fires to many houses. But the houses in one street, though in the path of a wind-driven ember attack, did not catch fire.

Many years before the street had been planted not with gum trees, but with Manchurian pears and this is what saved the houses. Embers striking the thick, soft and moisture rich foliage of the pears simply fizzled out as the trees provided a screen for anything behind them.

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

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