Slow to Bushfire Ignitions

Bombardier 415
“This amphibious aircraft is the backbone of firefighting missions around the globe. Launched in 1994, this high-wing, all-metal amphibian remains the only aircraft specifically designed for aerial firefighting. Its proven technology and fire-extinguishing power make it the most effective machine for the job.”
Photo:  ©1997 Bombardier Aerospace.


A proven effective strategy against bushfires is early detection and response to ignitions.

Suppressing and ignition before it spreads seems logical enough, although perhaps with existing Rural Fire Service (RFS) is easier said than done.  But is funding, and are RFS ‘fuel management’ strategies focusing on this albeit logical fire-fighting solution?

The Blackheath Glen wildfire (reportedly lit by bush arsonists, unconvicted) that started on 13th December 2002 was confirmed as having spread over 13 kilometres in less than six hours.  By simple calculation the fire was travelling at less than 3kph.  Why was it not detected early and suppressed?

Bushfire ignitions should be responded to before growing into uncontrollable wildlife fronts.  Relying upon phone calls from the public to ‘000’ shouldn’t be a main detection mechanism, especially during times of known extreme bushfire (arson) risk.

Constant monitoring of bushfire prone bushland during the high risk season is crucial if we are serious about early detection.  These days we have sophisticated long-range digital video cameras, radar and real-time satellite infrared cameras that can pick up individual trees!  Perhaps the RFS should also have dedicated airborne fire surveillance crews.  As for operational response, are fire crews sited in the most strategic response locations 24/7 on standby?

Is bushfire modelling and are the fire history databases utilised to allocate crews strategically to vulnerable and probable ignition locations?  Stand-by helicopter air cranes equipped with water bombing capability provide faster response and superior access than truck-based crews.

Such solutions exist, yet require sophisticated resources, management and cost millions.

We choose to build closer to the bush, but are we serious about protecting lives and million of dollars worth of property from bushfire?  Can we afford to rely on a grant and raffle-funded volunteer force or is it time to evolve the RFS into a specialist division of the NSW Fire Brigade and seriously resource it?

[This letter by this editor was first published in the Blue Mountains Gazette, 7th December 2005 on page 10]




Reader feedback to this letter at the time:


Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply


error: Content is copyright protected !!