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Responding to incorrect fire information by joining the debate

Every time opinions like Boswell's or Turkey's or the Australian newspaper's go unchallenged more people will believe them.

As a movement are people who defend forests prepared to be kicked down with lies and then try to challenge an entrenched view over months or years?

After I watched 200 people loose their lives, I want you to read some very basic information.

The Kilmore fire started on the edge of a farmland, was not catchable, ripped through plantations and across huge firebreaks like the Hume freeway and strategic breaks. It had burnt around the farmland trapping people trying to escape out of Kinglake long before it burnt through the National Park and into Kinglake. It burnt quite slowly through the Wallaby Creek catchment compared to the Mt Disapointment state forest. Even though it was still moving at over 10kmh. A fire is pretty well much uncontrollable at around 2kmh.

Mt Dissapointment state forest is a mecca for 4wds and other recreationists that claim by allowing them into the bush, then fires will be stopped. Didn't do a thing to slow the fire down and it sped up to a speed that fire fighting agencies couldn't even get around to warn communities what was coming.

This fire has burnt through the urban interface, the most heavily fire managed areas around.

This fire has burnt through the urban interface, the most heavily fire managed areas around. The Kinglake National Park is on very poor quality soils. Hence it is mainly only low growing grasses.

Fire ripped through the most heavily woodchipped area and mecca for recreational groups

The Murrundindi fire started in very close proximity to a timber mill. It burnt to Marysville 20 kms away in just over an hour. This is in currently the most heavily woodchipped area in Victoria and also a mecca for the 4wd and associated groups. It has spotted across the Acheron valley and raced up areas heavily woodchipped as a crown fire into the closed O'shannassy water catchment.

Old growth forest did better than most, but resources not stretching to put out low intensity fires

We are getting a picture that SOME areas of old growth ash forest remained unburnt in the initial fire storm. But unfortunately they are now burning because there are not enough resources to go and put them out and they are a little inaccessible. But they are burning at very low intensity and will hopefully survive. DSE are putting their emphasis onto stopping the fire from getting into the Upper Yarra catchment and this may include back burning the rubicon state forest and private land and other catchments.

The Old growth of Maroondah catchment has generally survived to date but again fires are just starting to enter them. hopefully they will stay at an intensity low enough for the eucs to survive.

Plantations and heavily managed forestry areas attracted the worst fires

Apart from Bunyip, I cannot think of any major fire this season that hasn't been in a plantation or other heavily managed forestry area. It is almost like they are being targetted.

Current lifestyle of making everything drier and hotter. We can expect fire events like this again.

Now is the time for the logging industry to be moved into the plantations.

Now is the time for the logging industry to be moved into the plantations.We've barely got any forest left. The burnt forests will eventually re-grow - Australian native forests can recover from fire. Moving into plantations is a better way for the industry to move forward.

In a way this event is wiping the slate clean of our past land management mistakes and giving the Australian bush the opportunity to continue to evolve as it has for thousands of years with fire.

Salvage logging - will strip everything there

Salvage logging - will strip everything there. At the moment the situation is that the forests have burnt, but that's happened for millions of years in Australia. Fire does provide opportunities for nature, native forests recover from fire.

The plantations need to be salvaged - these are private investments that farmers and other landowners have made - in the face of losing other assets, they need to be worked with to make the most of what's left and what they've invested in over years. Help stimulate the economy, protect communities and stop it from being a burden on tax payers.

Claims about record levels of fuel don't make sense after 12 yrs of drought and much fuel-reduction burning

How after 12 years of drought and recent mega fires and a policy of so much fuel reduction burning, do we get the claimed record levels of fuel?

But how do you control a fire under the following circumstances?

Temperatures were the hottest ever recorded at 47 degrees celsius. Relative humidity in single figures and winds constantly hitting 100kmh. A 12 year drought. 1ml of rain in 6 weeks. The previous week a run of 5 days each over 40 degrees. Previously unheard of.

The media should respond with fact and not create hatred at a time when Australians are bonding.

Paul.

Comments

"How after 12 years of drought and recent mega fires and a policy of so much fuel reduction burning, do we get the claimed record levels of fuel? "

Like so many people that are not directly involved in the conservation sector, you underestimate the contribution to fuel loads that environmental weeds can make.

Weedy pasture grasses like Philaris and Bromus etc as well as former nursery shrubs like Genista monsplessulana / Cape Broom seem to have very different growth patterns compared to a lot of native species.

When we do get rainfall in our current drought weed species like these seem to bolt and can generate a great deal of biomass in a very short time. By contrast most native species remain dormant unless the rainfall is substantial and sustained.

And there is barely a patch of forest in the vicinity of settlements and farms that is not heavily infested with a variety of environmental weeds including the above ones.

Greg,

The old-growth forest fared better than the managed, burned off forests. See "Responding to incorrect fire information by joining the debate" and "Comments on recent fire-management in bush-fire areas" which dissect these matters.
But your comments don't actually address my article. My article may start off mentioning burning off, but it actually suggests wetting the forests and gives a long list of ways to do that. Maybe you jumped the gun when you saw the title?

Also I am directly involved in the conservation sector, as are the authors of the articles referred to above.

all the best,

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Did areas that had been cleared and now covered in mainly eucalyptus (natural regrowth) fare worse than areas that have had minimal disturbance since European settlement.
And a more detailed question: Did the areas that were cleared and had substantial top-soil loss fare worse than regrowth areas which still had substantial topsoil.

I would like to speculate that an area with more top soil can hold more water and thus be less dry compared to a regrowth forest where mulch falls onto exposed sub-soil and breaks down over very long periods.
Would be interested in any comment.

Thanks very much for sending this on Pamela. Paul's analysis is spot on.

Having lived part time at Granton, near Marysville for 8 years now, and having been there on Saturday (Luckily saved our house) I have myself observed the fire ripping through the 'managed areas' of forest near our house and elsewhere.

It makes sense to me that where the trees have been thinned out, or where there is miles of regrowth scrub, there is less resistance to the fire. Where the trees and shrubs near our place were greenest, the fire passed through relatively slowly and did not crown.

Paul's message needs to get out.

Just like to clear up some typical green based rhetoric.

Quote: "It burnt quite slowly through the Wallaby Creek catchment compared to the Mt Disapointment state forest."

I'm guessing that you havn't been over there for a look yet, just relying on green spin doctoring. It burnt just as hard at Mt Disso, what do you think wiped out Kinglake West and Flowerdale?
You do realise that every known tree over 90m on mainland Australia (namely located in the Wallaby Creek and O'Shannesy catchments) are now dead as a result of the fires? These 2 catchment are totally removed from timber harvesting and have now burnt to a crisp. Mountain Ash can survive a low intensity fire, much like parts of the Toolangi State Forest and the Acheron Valley. Wallaby Creek didn't burn slowly, I know from first hand experience. I've witnessed it all with my own eyes, I'm guessing this is something that you have yet to do?

Quote: "The Murrundindi fire started in very close proximity to a timber mill. It burnt to Marysville 20 kms away in just over an hour. This is in currently the most heavily woodchipped area in Victoria"

The mill has been closed now for about 2 years. The area that it started in and first burnt is the Murrindindi Scenic Reserve, totally protected from timber harvesting. The entire scenic reserve was burnt harder than most other areas I have seen. The other being the road up out of Marysville towards Lake Mountain, again no harvesting in that spot.

I suggest you get your facts correct before bombarding us with you slanted view of reality.