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Bushfire Threat Assessment of Anglesea and surrounds, Victoria
My aim is to acknowledge and congratulate the local authorities for creating a bushfire-protected town and to convince the people of Anglesea that they now have a bushfire-protected workplace within which they can now take charge and re-learn the knowledge and skills to self-defend their homes from a worst-case bushfire attack, which is now thankfully a low density, low probability ember attack.
Please read Bushfire Threat Assessment of Anglesea, Victoria
Aftermath of Spring fires 2019
By Christmas 2019, we followed a few more, finally into East Gippsland and North East. Subsequently, we made submissions to three Inquiries. All to no avail. Nobody in authority is interested in identifying or treating the causes. They are definitely letting the fires run in National Parks. They then let them grow large in the mild weather. Too large to contain. But Mother Nature in action. No thought for consequences. Then inevitably, bad days come and escape into private property. Be prepared to self defend before they escape. More later.
We are beginning to emerge from our shell shock after a year of study during Covid – rediscovering and studying the basic fundamental Theory of flame spread and ignition. I live in hope that true valid science will finally overcome myth and opinion.
Spring 2019 ….. Bushfires in Queensland and NSW run riot
We followed four of them to learn why they grew so large and caused so much disruption. Was it caused by climate change or by fire agency policies? See the Support Centre page for our findings.
Queensland fires = Peregian and NSW fires in Spring 2019 = Long Gully, Busbys Flat and Minimbah / Tuncurry were allowed to run, but when the severe weather blow-up day came, they escaped containment and caused death, house loss and distress. All avoidable if best practice suppression principles were practiced. People were caught by surprise, unprepared. If they choose self defence, they can isolate their house from such mistakes.
This familiar pattern repeats each year in each State. Why do we allow it?
Each problem fire expands explosively on one severe weather day.
People and houses are exposed to the out of control fires on that day.
People and houses are unprepared for that day.
Fire agency protection policy uses Plan A = suppression / evacuation policy
Mass damage and destruction occurs on that day, typically by mass ember attack.
Plan A fails to prevent mass damage on that day.
There is no Plan B to prevent mass damage on that day.
To prevent mass damage requires preparation and many more resources than fire agencies have.
There is as yet no catalyst to coordinate people, training, skills, knowledge equipment together into a Plan B self-defence-by-neighbourhood
What catalyst is required? Government has to adopt a goal of zero house loss. “Towards zero” would be a good start. Meanwhile, we encourage people to learn self-defence.
Red Eagle is proud to publish Victoria’s Bushfire History, 1802 to Present
We publish it as an e-Book, freely available to the public. It is the most comprehensive account of our rich bushfire history yet published. We want it to be widely known, quoted, examined and its lessons well learnt.
Ten years ago, on 7 Feb 2009, Red Eagle was fully involved in self-defence of a property attacked by the East Kilmore bushfire using a professional self-defence system. Alongside us were other self-defending neighbours. This e-Book shows how our pioneers did the same – fiercely defended their properties from the bushfire enemy.
THIS IS A 500-page EPIC. A YEAR BY YEAR SUMMARY OF BUSHFIRE SEASON WEATHER, FIRES AND STORIES.
But this collection of data and stories is just a good start. It is not a complete record because there are too many knowledge gaps. However, it does provide a useful framework to insert additions and amendments. It is a work in progress. We therefore invite readers to send us private records, diary notes, newspaper reports, book references which we can add to the public record.
Our purpose is to present enough evidence to demonstrate the extent of bushfire losses and responses of residents, insurers and the government in each era, so that we can compare and learn – how they have things changed or not changed, have things improved or got worse?
Read how self-reliant our forebears were at protecting their homes and towns against bushfire attack for the first hundred years of white settlement.
Read how as late as the 1950’s and sixties, residents ran as teams toward the fire danger, practicing suppression skills the aborigines taught the pioneers 100 years earlier.
Read how today, people meekly submit to fire authority instructions, evacuate their homes and then see their homes destroyed, defended by nobody, and how fire authorities then praise their resilience.
Readers will see that this EPIC is a history with attitude. Red Eagle wants it to be a catalyst for reform and to eradicate the bushfire menace in Victoria.
We ask why does the Victorian public tolerate the annual bushfire menace when bushfire is a totally preventable disaster? Take away its fuel source strategically and there is no bushfire problem. Many parts of Victoria will never be threatened by bushfire again.
To help kick-off the policy reformation, Red Eagle has also published two companion Papers that analyse the historical data:
Red Eagle hopes that these documents will help reform Victorian government policy and march it towards eliminating the bushfire menace in Victoria.
In the meantime, Red Eagle encourages and teaches people to self-defend their homes and towns and to be self-reliant like our pioneers were.
And when the people read about Victoria’s Bushfire History, they rose up and said – Let us eliminate the bushfire menace and protect all people and their homes and their assets
And the people took control of the government and immediately implemented this seven point plan:
(1) sack all fire agency executives who believe that their Plan A fire suppression response model is acceptable to protect Victorians from the bushfire menace and re-hire people who understand (a) that bushfires are preventable disasters, (b) that people expect fire agencies to be accountable to protect their houses and assets from bushfires, and (c) that explaining house loss as collateral damage due to Mother Nature’s fury is an unacceptable excuse for inaction,
(2) implement two strong objectives – firstly, protect houses and assets of people from bushfire damage and extend this protection to each settlement and town so that within 5 years we can declare all towns and settlements are bushfire-protected and we are well on the second objective – eradicate the bushfire menace from Victoria
(3) recognise residents as a highly valuable resource essential to saving their homes and neighbourhoods from bushfire damage and harness the latent spirit of our pioneers to encourage and empower people to self-defend their homes and towns in safety alongside fire fighters, just as our pioneers did.
(4) recognise that the inferno fires that get away in severe weather are the unaddressed problem and that fire agencies will now protect houses and towns from them.
(5) Appoint and fund two types of fire fighter units:
Perimeter protection units funded by Treasury’s bottomless pockets and accounting tricks
Asset protection units fully funded by local fire levy contributions
Units will bushfire-protect the town and empower residents and fire fighters to self defend. They be managed by autonomous but accountable Citizen Bushfire Protection Bodies that include a voting majority of sensible local women and insurance reps. Fire fighters will be part time or volunteers and they or their employers will be paid market rates for their time away from work and on bushfire related activities. Their working target is zero house loss under severe bushfire attack.
(6) Facilitate third party / comprehensive bushfire protection insurance akin to vehicle accident insurance, whereby the property owner who allowed or failed to prevent the escape of bushfire (flame or embers) will be accountable for losses and damage incurred.
(7) Adopt meaningful performance criteria that transparently measures damage toll and bushfire related expenditure, particularly in severe bushfire weather. The people require fire agencies to deliver a substantial and lasting reduction in both. The people will base their annual assessment on transparent feedback from Citizen Bushfire Protection Bodies.
Comment about Protection of life:
It goes without saying that protection of life is expected government policy. Government is currently using “primacy of life” as a reason for evacuation when evacuation is nothing more than a shameful and self-protective policy response to avoid a death toll in towns they persistently fail to bushfire-protect. So far, they have avoided charges of liability for the high house loss toll. They know very well their evacuation policy creates a sea of vacant undefended houses, which when under severe bushfire attack is the cause of high house losses. People are ordered out by a stentorian voice without legal authority for coercion and without fair explanation of reason or consequence, eg, you do have a choice – your house will be exposed to a mass ember attack which is defendable if you have knowledge and skills etc to extinguish small spot fires; you are not at risk from the flame of the fire front; if you leave, we will not have enough trucks to defend your house and it will probably be lost.
Fixated on their Plan A response of suppression (where not dangerous to fire fighters) and evacuation, they ignore their requirement to pre-organise a Plan B preparation and response system to protect houses from the escaped infernos, as happens when Plan A fails.
Protection of the house protects the life, protection of the town protects the life, empowerment of residents with knowledge and skills protects the life.
Evacuating the person might protect a life for a day. Teach the person how to self-defend protects the life for a lifetime.
Nov 2018 … Update on the Separation Creek / Wye River Tragedy
This paper uses real time fire agency data to analyse what they did and how they failed each day against professional bushfire suppression principles.
Most worrying of all, this fire happened in low to moderate fire severity weather.
The fire was under government control on government land.
The escape was avoidable.
The towns were defendable
The houses were evacuated by the fire fighters.
The escape destroyed 116 houses.
Liability is clear cut.
Remedy is owed by government to their victims.
Read how this fire was a simple lightning fire that was once 1 ha and should have been stopped on Day 1. This was a government-run fire on government land.
They let it get away by a succession of errors.
AFTER A FEW DAYS OF MULTIPLE ESCAPES, they put in a back burn along 4km of Jamieson Track after delayed approval by HQ in Melbourne.
Their beliefs were astounding and thought processes were deficient.
They all believed the back burn would stop the run of the original fire.
But the original fire was dying out. They could have rounded it up where it was. Cheaper, safer, faster.
It was a good back burn because they brought in massive resources to build it.
But they failed to realise the backburn becomes the new fire front.
They did not understand the extreme risk of fresh hot spots along a control line in mid-summer, two days before strong northerlies.
They did no planning or works to aggressively prevent the escape of the backburn or to stop the breakaway spot fires.
They did no works to protect the unprotected towns.
They did, however, plan the evacuation of the towns and they set a trigger for it.
They could have prevented the back burn escaping on Christmas Day with massed resources and an aggressive plan of attack.
But they under-resourced the control line.
It was a pretty good back burn because there were no reported breakaways during the first 10 hours of strong winds.
Jamieson Track was the safest place to be that day, but inexplicably, they were soon to declare it unsafe.
The first breakaway was the evacuate-the-town trigger and the trigger to abandon the back burnt control line.
It should have been the trigger to deploy more standby resources onto the control line.
The first escape after 11am was spectacular, but did not threaten the towns.
They officially abandoned the line at 2pm, just when the western half of the control line was enlivening, but stoppable with adequate coordinated resources.
Alas. There were none.
The escapes from the western part of Jamieson Track spotted south and the spot fires ran SE into the towns as the winds changed direction during the afternoon.
Did they send the fire line troops to defend the towns? NO
They allocated a few tankers
The very wide running flame stopped at the outskirts of Separation Creek and Wye River due to terrain protection (ie, the downslope run) and threw embers into the towns where most properties were well maintained at low fuel loads.
But, after the non-dangerous ember attack began at 3pm, government-controlled fire fighters soon declared the towns unsafe and did not defend the evacuated empty houses for at least another 12 hours.
The subsequent CSIRO report confirmed the average flame height of the spot fires was half a metre.
FEAR, PANIC, POOR DECISIONS through IGNORANCE now appears to rule government-controlled bushfire fighting.
Wye River disaster is evidence of system failure in moderate severity weather just as Black Saturday disaster was evidence of system failure in highest severity weather.
We are now in the Dark Ages.
But these mistakes have been successfully covered up by a government that favours fire protection by spin and non-information. All is great, occasionally Mother Nature strikes, but we will help your recover.
NO. This is wrong.
Best practice fire suppression based on valid bushfire behaviour science must be restored.
The house loss at Wye River was the government’s doing in mild to moderate severity weather. They are not learning from their mistakes.
They must unreservedly and transparently compensate the townsfolk.
It has long been a fact that:
Government fire fighters cannot stop forest fires that get away in severe weather
CFA fire fighters cannot stop private property fires that get away in severe weather
These escaped fires in severe weather do all the damage.
Government has not protected our towns from these runaway infernos
They now evacuate us, knowing we will lose our homes.
NO. This is wrong.
Our government must urgently bushfire-protect our towns to make it safe for us and firefighters to stay put and self-defend together against ember attack.
Together we can eliminate the bushfire menace in Victoria
ABC covers the continuing sad plight of Wye River – Separation Creek residents
The story focused on the rebuilding, which is a very unfair and unjust burden for them. They ran my comment – “Every step of the way it’s been totally unfair on the residents of Wye River and Separation Creek,” he said – but it was a little bit out of context because it referred to the whole sad saga, starting with the bushfire escape: This bushfire escaped from government control and escaped from government land and the houses were unprotected due to government omission and now the government is forcing people to pay huge rebuilding costs for no good protection reason.
The stern defence of current BAL policy by Craig was predictable, even though the reasoning was ill advised – Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the high BAL ratings were being imposed for a reason. “In 2009 we lost 173 lives, 2,000 homes in an afternoon. The BAL rating has been put in as a result of that. It’s scientifically right,” he said. His adviser’s opinion that the BAL system is scientifically right is delusional. His adviser must have forgotten that the CSIRO resigned from the AS3959 committee, may not have read the recent CSIRO report that highest BAL houses were destroyed when the closest flames were half a metre spot fires, and that the Royal Commission berated the BAL / AS3959 concept and found no evidence it or the WMO saved any houses. I independently analysed the Building Commission figures and found there was no statistical difference between house loss in BAL and non BAL houses. Scarily, I found the dead body count was three times higher in BAL houses than non BAL houses. His adviser may not yet have told him that the BAL system treats the wrong threat, meaning that piloted radiation is a negligible cause of house loss in severe bushfires, and rather than defend poor policy, the former CFA Board should be admonished for adopting it as a policy in the first place. Maybe now is a good time to correct past mistakes via the new CFA Board.
Bushfire Behaviour Master Classes
Understand and tame Australian bushfires using logic, science, maths and common sense
We all re-start at first principles to get our thinking right about flame and ember behaviour, to re-learn what causes damage and how to prevent it, and to re-learn that we all need to understand, predict, monitor and apply bushfire behaviour as second nature, like swimming or driving a car.
We all need these foundations for advanced learning in flame height, flame spread and ember behaviour, in forest, heath and grass fuel types, for proper application in property protection and fire suppression to save lives and houses.
The joy of learning correct knowledge and skills from experienced experts in their field
On-going and casual classes, beginners & advanced levels, late morning or early evening, learn step by step, join anytime
Beginning from 20 September, 2016, initially at Portarlington
From $20 (excl GST) per class, discounts also
CONTACT email@example.com to register or to obtain more information
The unacknowledged truth is that the bushfire problem in an area can be eliminated when correct bushfire behaviour is known and applied properly.
An independent community education initiative
This report is unique because it tracks a preventable disaster from embryo to consequence to rebuilding. Having drawn out the known facts, the strong hand of the government is evident throughout each stage, either by action and inaction – suppression of the bushfire, escape of the bushfire, bushfire behaviour on route to and within the towns, preparation of the towns for a bushfire attack, house loss rate and finally the rebuilding program.
Please read it because it is a snapshot of current day government bushfire policy, yes 2015 / 2016, and it is rather disturbing. It has made us re-double our efforts to teach people to self defend. When you read the report, you will understand why. It is carefully referenced with recent government reports and has many facts and figures and pictures to help you understand what happened and why. Here is a summary of most chapters for your information.
Chapter 3 The bushfire grows and escapes
On Day 1, the 1 ha fire escaped control of the night time crew. In the first few days, the planned control line was along the fire edge and the fall back control line in the south was Jamieson Track. In those first few days, each daily fire control plan failed to achieve its objective.
On Day 4, when the control plan changed tactics to a 4 km back-burn along Jamieson Track, the southern control line became Jamieson Track, but there was no fall back line. Fresh fire along the southerly control line just ahead of a severe northerly wind forecast made escape inevitable. The fire control plan failed to prevent breakaways on Christmas Day.
Chapter 4 The bushfire escape across Jamieson Track
Breakaways occurred at different times in different locations. The first escape was via short distance spotting from the tallest peak along Jamieson Track around 11 – 11.30 am. The second escapes occurred after 12.30, at least four recent breakaway points along the back-burn area in Jamieson Track / Godfrey Track area that ran firstly towards the coast and then along the coast toward Separation Creek township when the wind became Northerly. The third escapes occurred prior to 2.30 pm, some four recent breakaways along the western end of Jamison Track that leap frogged under a North wind towards Separation Creek and Wye River townships. A fourth breakaway batch occurred after 3 pm along the eastern end of Jamieson Track, running toward the burnt area of the second breakaway batch.
It is probable that the initial source of embers into Separation Creek was in the National Park, approx 1 km to the NW
Chapter 5 Bushfire behaviour within the townships
The initial bushfire attack into both towns was by embers commencing in Separation Creek around 3 pm and Wye River before 4 pm. The line scans suggested they was a huge fire mass, but FLIR images showed the leading edge comprised patchy fire fronts with narrow flame depths. Spot fires were up to a few hundred metres ahead of the mother smoke mass. Spot fire smoke direction varied between vertical, with the prevailing wind and opposite to the prevailing wind.
Most spot fires ignited the surface fuel bed on litter and grass, generating a low flame. Some ignited flammable fuel on house roof and sides and developed rapidly into a fully involved house fire. Some spot fires spread into higher fuel loads near houses that then ignited the house. Several houses burnt within half an hour or so after the ember attack began.
The continuous fuel between houses allowed uphill and lateral spread of the spot fires throughout the town. Average flame height in surface fuel was under 0.4 m. but rose to 0.8 m when flame rose uphill in scrubby areas, eg Iluka.
The main fire fighting effort was aerial water bombing mainly by helicopter buckets onto spot fires and some by fixed wing.
Chapter 6 Preparation of the towns for a bushfire attack
The townships were rated at extreme bushfire risk but there was no protection. There were plans, but the towns had no fuel reduction infrastructure in place for protection from external bushfire. There was no program for internal fuel reduction. There was no infrastructure in place to prevent spread of flame or embers from national park.
Chapter 7 House loss rate
House loss rate: The average house loss rate within the fire area was 80%. The average house loss rate within the ember rain area was 33%. The average house loss rate of AS3959 compliant houses was at least 33%, and probably around 43%. Thus there was either a negligible difference in house loss rate between the populations of AS3959 compliant and non compliant houses or more likely, the AS3959 compliant houses had a significantly higher loss rate.
Causes of house loss: Some houses were directly ignited by embers (via accumulations of fine dry flammable fuel in gutters, roofs and adjacent to walls), but most were ignited by flame in urban fuels that were ignited by low flame in contiguous surface fuel bed, most likely spot fires running up hill, which were in turn ignited by live embers originating from a few hundred metres to 1 km upwind. Continuous surface fuel bed of litter / grass provided an uninterrupted pathway to the flammable urban fuels. Few houses were ignited directly by flame in surface fuel bed.
Chapter 8 Rebuilding the burnt houses
Government has accepted the use of the AS3959 model and BAL as a proxy for bushfire risk in Wye River / Separation Creek despite flame radiation being a negligible cause of house loss in severe bushfire, the AS3959 model being a single threat model, and the assumptions of AS3959 being unrelated to bushfire reality.
Government has adopted a very substantial variation from the BMO and AS3959 rules for Wye River / Separation Creek via Amendment C089 that has assigned very high DTBAL’s for house rebuilding If the original BMO rules were in operation, BAL’s would be substantially lower in almost all areas of the towns. The Amendment was based on a report which calculated DTBAL’s using subjectively derived perceived or predetermined threat levels. The C089 Amendment is shown to present several legal challenges, particularly its apparent inability to operate in the Building Regulations.
MANUAL of Bushfire Behaviour Mechanisms in Australian Vegetation
Red Eagle has just updated the MANUAL of Bushfire Behaviour Mechanisms in Australian Vegetation. We commend it as very useful tool to use before discussing, studying or applying bushfire behaviour. It now has a user friendly summary of each of the mechanisms for flame spread, firebrand spread and flame height.
Our study of the Jamieson Track bushfire identified six different spread mechanisms as it ran the 4 km into Wye River and Separation Creek townships on Christmas Day, 2015. Mechanisms (2) and (3) and maybe (6) dumped the embers which ignited into mechanism (4) which lit the heavy flammable fuel that did most of the damage. Strategic prior preparation would have made the houses safely defendable.
(1) Wind driven spread mechanism
(2) Short distance spotting spread mechanism
(3) Moderate version of Wandilo effect spread mechanism
(4) Upslope spread mechanism
(5) Down slope spread mechanism
(6) Medium distance spotting spread mechanism
This bushfire myth is condemning the wrong enemy, trees are our friend
Red Eagle can confirm that fire authorities and researchers and hangers on have entrenched this false belief about trees and bushfires so well, it has almost become a scientific fact.
Please re-read Bushfire Solution Paper 3B to rid your mind of this falsity. Take trees off your list and discover what the real threats are.
Bushfire risk has no causal correlation with distance to forest
Concerns about new policy directions by CFA
We all understand the CFA has a duty to take all steps “for the protection of life and property in case of fire” (Section 20, CFA Act) but we at Red Eagle are very concerned about some of their reported actions and policies as explained in the 2013/2014 annual report.
Their headline messages seem to be: CFA declares properties near forests as high bushfire risk / CFA targets high risk areas with information and advice / CFA opposes development in high risk areas
Here are some troubling references from the CFA 2013/2014 annual report:
CFA relies on the Victorian Fire Risk Register and proximity to the bush to identify properties at high bushfire risk.
Our first concern is that the VFRR is an unsuitable risk management system. The CFA copied it from NSW Rural Fire Service, apparently without too much due diligence. VFRR claims to be based on ISO 31,000, but ISO 31,000 is not designed for or relevant to broad area bushfire risk assessment or management. Instead ISO 31,000 is designed for risk management within an organisation. Furthermore, the VFRR risk ratings have no correlation to ISO 31000, and are in effect, a confusing and distorted replica of it. In addition, ISO 31,000 specifically says that “ISO 31,000 cannot be used for certification purposes”. Refer Solution Paper 8B Paper 8B Misuse of ISO 31000 for bushfire risk.
Our second concern is that proximity to the bush is not the cause of bushfire damage. It is coincidental, but gets the blame. Refer to Solution Paper 3B. Paper 3B What is not to blame for house loss Demonising the forest penalises property owners near the forest irrationally and unfairly. It suggests an innate fear of forests within CFA culture. On the contrary, Red Eagle has found that forests with mitigated fuel are as good or a better an ally to the fire fighter and resident than mitigated grass fuel is. Demonising the forest diverts CFA attention from dealing with the real causes of bushfire damage – Refer Solution Paper 3A. Paper 3A House Loss – causes and influences
CFA aims to develop community resilience, ie, community’s ability to respond after adversity.
• CFA advises people about risk and encourages people to undertake protection.
• The CFA does annual research including monitoring risk perception in high risk areas
• Research helps discover people’s information needs
Our concern: We would prefer to see a policy of self reliance – use community resources and teamwork to prevent damage from the real causes before it happens. A policy of developing community resilience suggests that damage is regarded as inevitable, or that government lacks will or knowledge to prevent damage.
CFA targets people living within 150m of forest because research says 87% of bushfire deaths occur there.
There are 100,000 properties close to the bush and therefore deemed to be at high risk. CFA advises these people about risk and encourages them to leave early.
CFA also sent 100,000 personal messages to new residents in high risk areas to register for CFA information.
CFA regions monitor and develop preparedness levels in at-risk communities
Community Information Guides target at-risk communities.
Our concern is that CFA policy is confused by statistics and is targeting the wrong areas with the wrong messages. CFA seems to have a strong belief that proximity to forest is the cause of risk, house loss and deaths, and this has become the basis of policies which encourage residents near the bush to evacuate on bad weather days even before fires occur and policies which prevent new house construction near the bush.
We do not know which paper the CFA quotes from, but we are concerned that it is presented as a cut and dried fact because it is regarded by CFA as such. We are aware of a 2013 paper by CSIRO people in which they analysed bushfire death data back to 1901. They were looking for correlations not causes. They found 50% of deaths occurred inside a structure within 9m of forest, 78% within 30 m of the forest edge and 95% within 50 m, and 100% within 130m. Wow. Would a confused CFA boffin blame the structure and the forest, or just the forest? Come on CFA boffins. Listen up. When CFA policy people read references that say, for example, 80% of house loss occurs within 100m of forest, they use this as evidence to condemn the forest. It is like discovering that all people who lived in the 18th century are now dead, and then blaming the 18th century as a killer century. They do not understand that if 80% of all houses occur within 100m of houses, the presence of forest is a coincidence and therefore is not a cause of house loss. When they read a reference that 80% of house loss occurs within 100m of forest, they would also read that 10% of house loss occurs within 10m of the forest. They do not understand that these references are about cumulative house loss. If they apply their same misguided logic, they would promote that houses are safer near the bush because house loss is lower, wouldn’t they? See Solution Paper 6B. Paper 6B House loss rate in severe bushfires Part 2
While promoting evacuations, the boffins seem to selectively ignore the messages in other well known statistics, eg, (1) the loss rate in vacant houses in severe bushfire attack is 77% (this means if evacuation policy is successful, house losses are very high), and (2) the survey of residents during 2009 Victorian bushfires that found 77% of houses that were defended by one or more people survived the fires (this means self defence was a successful strategy during the Black Saturday fires).
Come on CFA boffins. For the sake of the people, seek help about your forest-a-phobia paranoia, and in the meantime look at facts and valid science for solutions.
The CFA has a new approach to discouraging new subdivision development at the planning stages, ie, to avoid “placing more people and new communities in high- or extreme-risk locations where the bushfire risk cannot be reduced to an acceptable level.”
They also say that works “such as the inclusion of a buffer, use of perimeter roads, etc can reduce the overall risk to an acceptable level”
Our concern is that the new CFA policy is now classifying areas near forest as high risk and is now determined not to allow any development. If so, this is against the spirit of the CFA Act. Remember the spirit of the CFA Act is to protect people and property where they are, eg, by enforcing removal of fuel hazards if a house is under threat and providing suppression services. It is also inimical to land values and the regional economy.
Is the change of policy an indication that the CFA now believes their risk-slaying tools do not reduce risk near forests to acceptable level? Since the WMO era began, the CFA has applied works such as buffers, roads and water supply to subdivisions, and then approved them. Since the WMO days, the CFA has required new owners to apply defendable space and BAL because they believed this reduced risk to acceptable level.
Maybe they now agree with our view that the whole WMO / AS3959 / BMO concept is flawed risk management because it is based on treating an artificial flame in an artificial forest that has no relation to causes of house loss. That would be the start of a breath of fresh air. They would have the support of the Royal Commission, which found no evidence that the WMO system or the AS3959 / BAL system reduced house loss on Black Saturday. See Solution Papers 7A, 7B, 7C and 7D. Paper 7A The BMO Experiment Paper 7B The WMO Experiment Paper 7C The AS3959 Experiment Paper 7D Can two wrongs make a right
But, alas the answer is no. Despite the non evidence, the CFA’s belief doctrine survives in the current BMO system, which also relies on these beliefs. Thus, CFA, fire agency and planning department policy protects us with the invisible but potent shield of beliefs. Unfortunately, beliefs might work well within the human mind, but are ineffective against the bushfire, which cannot think and simply obeys the laws of Nature.
We urgently ask that the CFA policy makers eschew fear of forests and entrenched beliefs to lead the revolution to base community protection policy on rational thinking that mitigates the real causes of bushfire damage.
CFA identifies 45,000 low risk allotments that do not need CFA referrals.
We support the idea of reducing red tape. We support the idea of declaring areas as bushfire-protected. We support the idea of freedom from the costly burden of ineffective statutory bushfire conditions on development. Our concern however, is that this risk category is based simply on them being far from a forest. If they are in grassland, the risk may be very high. Look at the grass fires of last year and the year before. They easily outran the high tech, post-Royal Commission fire agencies in relatively mild weather. The core issue is if they propose to protect their surrounding communities from bushfire attack? If the answer is yes, they can tell us how they will protect them. That would be a positive step for bushfire world in Victoria.
The brutal impact of the CFA’s new policy can be seen in the recent rejection of a planning permit. The planning permit meets all the government’s criteria for the Bushfire Management Overlay, but the CFA advises the Council of its opinion that the area is high bushfire risk and advises against a new house, despite being within a settled area. On the basis of this opinion, the Council rejects the application. Amazingly, Council does not seek documentary justification of the opinion nor seek an independent risk assessment. Thus, we are witnessing how CFA beliefs overrule the government’s planning policy.
Brutal? We think so. The property owners were burnt out in the 2009 Black Saturday fires, five years ago. He wanted to stay and defend, but the local CFA told him to get out quickly, leaving the house vacant and undefended. Now the same CFA has a policy that prevents rebuilding in the same area.
We wonder what has changed.
A bit of history: According to the CFA Act, the CFA is a suppression organisation, pure and simple. The suppression model relies on volunteer fire fighters attending reported fires. This is its Plan A protection strategy. It has long known that suppression capability is limited to a windy FDI 30, but the volunteers always do the best they can. What happens to the fires that escape fire fighter control? We can confidently say that the CFA leadership has never seriously considered this. Privately they must know they run as infernos towards communities and towns. But there is no Plan B, ie, no towns or communities are consciously protected from them using targeted, accountable strategies. Perhaps Plan A suppression leadership just does not do Plan B stuff.
Remember the night before Black Saturday, 2009. The Premier assures us we are the best prepared ever to deal with what is to come. Next day the CFA cannot stop some Black Saturday fires from causing death and damage on private property. Did CFA leadership mislead the Premier or were they conveying in hope their unshakeable beliefs? Later, the Royal Commission found fire command and organisation was a shambles, despite a decade of very high bushfire activity. It heard evidence that volunteer fire fighters were distraught because they were way out of their depth or because they experienced high danger situations, and heard evidence that towns were not protected from either flame or firebrands. We can reasonably conclude that the CFA’s Plan A protection strategy (the fire suppression model) was ineffective on this day (because the fires got away), and that the towns and settlements in the path of the runaway inferno had no Plan B protection strategy.
Returning to new houses … Before Black Saturday, CFA policy approves building in high bushfire risk rural fringe areas, applying AS3959 and the CFA-designed WMO protection strategies to new houses because it believes they reduce risk. In the event of a bushfire attack, Plan A is the CFA’s protection strategy, even though leadership knows it fails in severe bushfire attack. There is no Plan B.
The severe bushfire attack happens and houses are destroyed, both new and existing.
Fast forward five years and now the CFA does not want people to build in these areas. An application comes in to rebuild a house, and it meets similar protection strategies as before (WMO and AS3959 have since been morphed into the BMO). But new CFA policy overrules these and now prevents rebuilding in rural fringe, saying it is high bushfire risk. As before, in the event of a bushfire attack, Plan A is the CFA’s protection strategy, even though leadership knows it fails in severe bushfire attack. It now has a larger budget, so it is a stronger suppression organisation. In addition, the CFA has now declared such rural fringe areas are extreme risk. There are many existing houses within them, but it has no plan to protect them against flame and firebrands. Instead, it will do what all sensible suppression focused leadership does – evacuate the people.
Thus, the CFA’s apparent message is this – bushfire risk is high but we only deliver Plan A protection. Because Plan A will not protect you or your house, we don’t want you building there.
This logic is destroying people’s lives and asset values. It is in a time warp. Plan B is not contemplated by suppression focused leadership, even though it would make new and existing houses safe.
We call on the fire agencies to acknowledge Plan A’s maximum design capability and voluntarily initiate Plan B strategies to protect communities and houses from bushfire from higher danger levels. We help them with Solution Paper 9. Paper 9 Defensive suppression. We call it defensive suppression, so they should feel comfortable. It is based on the proven principles of dry fire fighting, but it has elements of wet fire fighting, which will make them feel good. When Plan B is done properly, new development and existing houses can coexist in safety within a bushfire-protected environment. See Solution Paper 1 and Solution Paper 10. Paper 1 Introduction to the bushfire solution papers, Paper 10 Bushfire Solution. Black Saturday tragedies are avoidable with the correct strategies.
Marysville update – mid year 2014
It is now five years since the Black Saturday fires wiped Marysville township out. Politicians and celebrities promised they would never forget the victims. How is Marysville rebuilding itself now?
We have a map showing where the houses were destroyed, presented to the Royal Commission by the Shire. We have been waiting for Google Maps to produce a clear image to allow houses to be counted.
Here is what we counted in the sample. Of 372 houses destroyed, 87 have been rebuilt. This is 23%.
This surely cannot be right. We double check. Five years after the bushfire, only a quarter of houses have been rebuilt.
Marysville was a beautiful town with irreplaceable buildings full of character. It survived the 1939 fires and the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires. It was well worth saving. Our considered view is that Marysville and the other towns were destroyed because of government policy failure. Despite the decade of building drought, nobody in authority was ever required to ask the question – is Marysville physically protected against a severe bushfire from the known danger directions? We have had a Royal Commission since, but fundamental policy has not changed. To this day, nobody is required to ask that that question of Marysville, or any other town.
Rural communities need to know that the government protection policy still relies on suppression by the volunteer fire brigade model and wet fire fighting. It has an upper capability and cannot catch running bush fires if they get away in windy weather. This is no fault of the volunteers. They know tankers and water cannot handle a severe running bushfire. The government policy failure is that it knows these runaway fires will attack towns, but it does not make them protected. We must change this. Read Paper 5 Victoria not protected from running bushfire and Paper 10 Bushfire Solution of our new eBOOK to find out more information.
We must find out if we can help Marysville recover now, and we must prevent other Marysville’s from occurring in the coming fire season and afterwards.
New eBOOK – The Bushfire Solution Papers
This is a collection of background papers that discuss concerning issues as stand alone papers and then put the pieces together under a redefine goal of protecting the house from damage. Why? When we protect the house, we protect the person and the house.
We are very concerned about the continuing decline of fire protection standards in Victoria. We hope these Papers will highlight the vital need to turn them around.
The Papers cover the issues that we are most concerned about at the moment, for example
• The government relies solely on suppression to protect the community, knowing very well that the fire brigade model has a limited design capacity and that when running fires escape control, there is no Plan B for the unprotected communities they attack.
• The government blames proximity to forest and trees as the major measure of danger, yet there is no valid evidence. It is nothing more than a dogmatic belief. But, on this basis, it requires new houses to fortify at great expense and declares towns extreme risk and encourages evacuation
• Investment in fire equipment and bureaucracy is steadily growing, but the bushfire performance statistics are getting worse. The CFA now has assets of over $1B and annual budget of $0.5B,
• Bushfires are regarded as natural disasters but they are controllable at the source and prior to the ignition. With natural disasters, there is an acceptance of collateral damage as inevitable = house loss. “Houses will be lost anyway, so let’s get the people out of the way”.
• Evacuation is the people protection tool yet researchers say house loss increases with vacancy rate. Evacuation is the easy option that creates more problems than it solves.
• Researchers tell us their findings, but we do not apply them