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Bushfire Politics Part 2 : A short history of bushfires in Australia

Bushfires Australia

Executive Summary:

Aboriginals have, for tens of thousands of years, followed by settlers and farmers, burnt the bush to reduce fuel loads, understanding bushfires are an integral part of the Australian landscape. Over the past few decades, however, governments have been derelict in their ‘duty-of-care’ to manage fires effectively.  As expected, the blame-game is in full swing between governments, fire authorities, communities and property owners.  To help make sense of this current catastrophic fire season, we decided to investigate. This paper looks at four (4) areas that are relevant to the current bush fire outcomes. We,

  • Question why lessons learnt and inquiries in the past have largely been ignored
  • Examine the recommendations from the 2003 and 2009 inquiries
  • Ask why State Governments have increased areas of National Parks, reduced fire services and closed fire trails
  • Look at Local Governments green-tape legislation and planning laws
  • Provide a possible explanation for catastrophic bushfires that appear linked to cost cutting, mismanagement, political negligence and international influence

Section 1:  Presents solutions to ensure a repeat of 2019/20 bushfires cannot happen again.

Section 2:  Investigates the history of Australian bushfires

Section 3: Examines the findings of the 2003 Federal Parliamentary Inquiry and the Vic. 2009 Royal Commission into bushfires

Section 4: Looks at the politics and possible outside influences that have affected bushfire prevention and mitigation


Section 2: A short history of bushfires in Australia:

We are told this years’ fires are unprecedented. Basic historical research proves this is not true.   Australia has a long history of catastrophic bushfires, and governments have the recommendations from 56 previous inquiries. These facts are now conveniently forgotten by those in positions of responsibility and those with a political agenda!  

Bushfires are nothing new in Australia. In fact, some Australian native flora has evolved to rely on bushfires as a means of reproduction.   The grass tree following fire duress will send up large flower spikes to assist in procreation of the species and Banksias need fire to release seeds from their strong pods.

Fire events were, in the past, an interwoven part of the ecology of the continent.   For thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have used fire to clear grasslands for hunting and to clear tracks through dense vegetation to aid hunting.  These fires today are known as ‘cool burning’ or hazard reduction burning.

In comparison, hot and intense bush fires due to excessive fuel loads and prolonged dry periods, are the worst at destroying vast swathes of forests and pastures. They kill animals and destroy their local habitats, leaving survivors vulnerable once the fires have passed. Professor Chris Dickman at Sydney University estimates that in the first three months of the 2019-2020 bushfires, over 800 million animals have died in NSW and more than one billion animals have been impacted nationally. (2)Bushfire regrowth

This figure includes mammals, birds and reptiles but does not include insects, bats or frogs. Many of these animals were burnt to death in the fires, with many others dying later due to the depletion of food and shelter resources and predation by feral cats and red foxes. Dickman adds that Australia has the highest rate of species loss of any area in the world.

Living in Australia means living with bushfires in the driest inhabited continent on the planet.  To put this into perspective we investigated the number of bushfires in Australian recorded history and where they were located. We detail a list of the major recorded fires below, and ask ‘are the current fires unprecedented in Australia’s recorded history of bushfires?’

It is known that major bushfires often start in National Parks, State Forests or heavily wooded areas.

Increasingly these bushfires are human- induced through carelessness or deliberate acts of arson. In the latest 2019/20 fires 87% of fires were human induced with 51% of these being acts of arson, and only 13% due to lighting strikes.  Alarmingly this fact alone is being silenced by the shouting of ‘climate-change’ activists who appear to believe that the basic three ignition sources are almost ‘irrelevant’.

 

Fires need three components

  • An ignition source
  • Fuel
  • Oxygen

 

 

 

When these three come together – a fire results.  When the first two components are in oversupply, catastrophic fires are the result. 

a) IGNITION SOURCE

In total 183 people have been arrested so far, this current bushfire season. It is deeply concerning that people would use fire to destroy property, communities, and in some cases cause the death of innocent people. It is critical that the punishment for arson more effectively reflects the serious nature of the crime.  (3)

Recommendation #35 of the 2009 Victorian Royal Commission into bushfires called for a research program aimed at refining arson prevention and detection. This recommendation, we believe, is critical, but appears not to have been implemented. (4)

b) EXCESS FUEL

An oversupply of fuel – created by prolonged previous wet seasons and hazard-reduction-targets either non-existent or not being met, have made this current fire season catastrophic.  State National Parks have been closed to cool burning, hazard reduction and grazing, amplifying the effects of a prolonged drought. Fuel build-up is tinder dry, creating a higher risk of easy ignition. (5)

c) OXYGEN

In addition, the third component of fire – oxygen – is ever present waiting for a spark and the fuel to create a fire.

MAJOR Bushfires events in Australia over the past 170 years:

1851    BLACK THURSDAY Death Toll: Approx. 12 people Damage: 5 million hectares burned

1898    RED TUESDAY Death Toll: 12 people Damage: 260,000 hectares burned

1939:   BLACK FRIDAY Death toll: 71 people Damage: About 2 million hectares burned

1955:   BLACK SUNDAY Death toll: Two firefighters Damage: 40,000 hectares burned

1967:   BLACK TUESDAY Death toll: 62 people killed, 900 injured. Damage: 264,270 hectares burned; 1,293 homes destroyed

1974:  AUSTRALIA    Death toll: 3 people in NSW  Damage: About 117 million hectares in Central Australia

1983  ASH WEDNESDAY Death toll: 47 people in Victoria, 28 people in South Australia.  Damage: 150,000 hectares in Victoria and 160,000 hectares in South Australia

2001    BLACK CHRISTMAS  Death toll: None  Damage: About 753,314 hectares burned

2003  CANBERRA  Death toll: 4 people  Damage: About 160,000 hectares burned

2009       BLACK SATURDAY Death toll: 173 people died  Damage: 450,000 hectares burned

2019/20 AUSTRALIA, 2019/20 Death toll: 25 people dead so far. Damage: About 10 million hectares burned, including 5 million hectares in NSW.

For a more comprehensive list please refer here   (6)

Giving a koala water during a bushfire

Bushfires Australia

 

We are told this season’s fires and temperatures are ‘unprecedented’, however that is simply not true.

The inferno in Victoria in 1939 killed 71 people and destroyed 3,700 buildings.   Temperatures in 1939 got to a sweltering 45C mid-afternoon in Melbourne CBD, and at 3.15pm in Adelaide, they reached 47C.  High temperatures and prolonged droughts HAVE been experienced before!  Claims of ‘climate-change’ being the cause of bushfires ignores history and many other contributing factors. (8,9)

After the 1939 fires in Australia, there was a Royal Commission set up to study what happened and what could have been done differently. This inquiry concluded:

  1. The fires were man-made
  2. There was a long drought followed by extreme heat
  3. Almost the entire state of Victoria appeared to be on fire on January 13
  4. It was dark as night at midday
  5. The amount of controlled burning was ridiculously inadequate

Not much has changed since 1939!

The cost of the 2019 bushfires, is less than the cost of the 1939 fires. (10)

The weather today is much the same as in 1939, but the major change between then and now is the POLITICAL CLIMATE.

The media is hostile towards conservative governments, social media obstructs conservatives, and our educational institutions are all predominantly ‘anti- conservative’.

The changing ‘political climate’ has the potential to damage this nation much more than bushfires ever will. A determined and deliberate misrepresentation of the truth has the potential to change public opinion and election outcomes – all based on a lie. Australians deserve better!

Section 2: A short history of bushfires in Australia: We are told this years’ fires are unprecedented. Basic historical research proves this is not true. Australia has a long history of catastrophic bushfires, and governments have the recommendations from 56 previous inquiries. These facts are now conveniently forgotten by those in positions of responsibility and those with a political agenda! Bushfires are nothing new in Australia. In fact, some Australian native flora has evolved to rely on bushfires as a means of reproduction. The grass tree following fire duress will send up large flower spikes to assist in procreation of the species and Banksias need fire to release seeds from their strong pods. Fire events were, in the past, an interwoven part of the ecology of the continent. For thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have used fire to clear grasslands for hunting and to clear tracks through dense vegetation to aid hunting. These fires today are known as ‘cool burning’ or hazard reduction burning. In comparison, hot and intense bush fires due to excessive fuel loads and prolonged dry periods, are the worst at destroying vast swathes of forests and pastures. They kill animals and destroy their local habitats, leaving survivors vulnerable once the fires have passed. Professor Chris Dickman at Sydney University estimates that in the first three months of the 2019-2020 bushfires, over 800 million animals have died in NSW and more than one billion animals have been impacted nationally. (2) This figure includes mammals, birds and reptiles but does not include insects, bats or frogs. Many of these animals were burnt to death in the fires, with many others dying later due to the depletion of food and shelter resources and predation by feral cats and red foxes. Dickman adds that Australia has the highest rate of species loss of any area in the world. Living in Australia means living with bushfires in the driest inhabited continent on the planet. To put this into perspective we investigated the number of bushfires in Australian recorded history and where they were located. We detail a list of the major recorded fires below, and ask ‘are the current fires unprecedented in Australia’s recorded history of bushfires?’ It is known that major bushfires often start in National Parks, State Forests or heavily wooded areas. Increasingly these bushfires are human- induced through carelessness or deliberate acts of arson. In the latest 2019/20 fires 87% of fires were human induced with 51% of these being acts of arson, and only 13% due to lighting strikes. Alarmingly this fact alone is being silenced by the shouting of ‘climate-change’ activists who appear to believe that the basic three ignition sources are almost ‘irrelevant’. Fires need three components • An ignition source • Fuel • Oxygen When these three come together - a fire results. When the first two components are in oversupply, catastrophic fires are the result. a) IGNITION SOURCE In total 183 people have been arrested so far, this current bushfire season. It is deeply concerning that people would use fire to destroy property, communities, and in some cases cause the death of innocent people. It is critical that the punishment for arson more effectively reflects the serious nature of the crime. (3) Recommendation #35 of the 2009 Victorian Royal Commission into bushfires called for a research program aimed at refining arson prevention and detection. This recommendation, we believe, is critical, but appears not to have been implemented. (4) b) EXCESS FUEL An oversupply of fuel – created by prolonged previous wet seasons and hazard-reduction-targets either non-existent or not being met, have made this current fire season catastrophic. State National Parks have been closed to cool burning, hazard reduction and grazing, amplifying the effects of a prolonged drought. Fuel build-up is tinder dry, creating a higher risk of easy ignition. (5) c) OXYGEN In addition, the third component of fire - oxygen - is ever present waiting for a spark and the fuel to create a fire. MAJOR Bushfires events in Australia over the past 170 years: 1851 BLACK THURSDAY Death Toll: Approx. 12 people Damage: 5 million hectares burned 1898 RED TUESDAY Death Toll: 12 people Damage: 260,000 hectares burned 1939: BLACK FRIDAY Death toll: 71 people Damage: About 2 million hectares burned 1955: BLACK SUNDAY Death toll: Two firefighters Damage: 40,000 hectares burned 1967: BLACK TUESDAY Death toll: 62 people killed, 900 injured. Damage: 264,270 hectares burned; 1,293 homes destroyed 1974: AUSTRALIA Death toll: 3 people in NSW Damage: About 117 million hectares in Central Australia 1983 ASH WEDNESDAY Death toll: 47 people in Victoria, 28 people in South Australia. Damage: 150,000 hectares in Victoria and 160,000 hectares in South Australia 2001 BLACK CHRISTMAS Death toll: None Damage: About 753,314 hectares burned 2003 CANBERRA Death toll: 4 people Damage: About 160,000 hectares burned 2009 BLACK SATURDAY Death toll: 173 people died Damage: 450,000 hectares burned 2019/20 AUSTRALIA, 2019/20 Death toll: 25 people dead so far. Damage: About 10 million hectares burned, including 5 million hectares in NSW. For a more comprehensive list please refer to the reference (6) We are told this season’s fires and temperatures are ‘unprecedented’, however that is simply not true. The inferno in Victoria in 1939 killed 71 people and destroyed 3,700 buildings. Temperatures in 1939 got to a sweltering 45C mid-afternoon in Melbourne CBD, and at 3.15pm in Adelaide, they reached 47C. High temperatures and prolonged droughts HAVE been experienced before! Claims of ‘climate-change’ being the cause of bushfires ignores history and many other contributing factors. (8,9) After the 1939 fires in Australia, there was a Royal Commission set up to study what happened and what could have been done differently. This inquiry concluded: 1. The fires were man-made 2. There was a long drought followed by extreme heat 3. Almost the entire state of Victoria appeared to be on fire on January 13 4. It was dark as night at midday 5. The amount of controlled burning was ridiculously inadequate Not much has changed since 1939! The cost of the 2019 bushfires, is less than the cost of the 1939 fires. (10) The weather today is much the same as in 1939, but the major change between then and now is the POLITICAL CLIMATE. The media is hostile towards conservative governments, social media obstructs conservatives, and our educational institutions are all predominantly ‘anti- conservative’. The changing ‘political climate’ has the potential to damage this nation much more than bushfires ever will. A determined and deliberate misrepresentation of the truth has the potential to change public opinion and election outcomes – all based on a lie. Australians deserve better! Black Friday Fires of 1939 The full report of the 1939 Victorian Bush Fires can be read here (11) https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-52798639/view?partId=nla.obj-95601640#page/n10/mode/1up . Extracts from the 1939 Victorian Royal Commission are shown below: • Australia has a long history of bush fires. • Until we accept and adapt to our unique environment, we will continue to experience loss of life, property, wildlife and vegetation. • Bushfires have become political footballs. • Until we take politics out of bushfires and make them issues of personal, community and state security, governments will continue to fail in their ‘duty-of-care’. Cool burnt forest – managed vegetation Hot burnt forest – mis-managed vegetation If we cannot learn the lessons of history, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes. Coming soon - Part 3: covering the recommendations of the 2003 and 2009 inquiries. Do we already have effective blueprints for fire mitigation, property protection, and native flora and fauna preservation? References: 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushfires_in_Australia 2. https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/01/03/a-statement-about-the-480-million-animals-killed-in-nsw-bushfire.html 3. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/bushfires-firebugs-fuelling-crisis-asarson-arresttollhits183/news-story/52536dc9ca9bb87b7c76d36ed1acf53f 4. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/bushfires arsonist-study-key-to-snuffing-out-hostile-acts/news-story/3e8b0680ba75c98220e7d63cba247ab2 5. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/bushfire-crisis-climate-wailing-ignores-fuel-buildups/news-story/13858ba2f9b6b08c7e2b4532d9e3ac92 6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushfires_in_Australia 7. https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/how-the-2019-australian-bushfire-season-compares-to-other-fire-disasters/news-story/7924ce9c58b5d2f435d0ed73ffe34174 8. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/season/vic/archive/201902.melbourne.shtml 9. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/season/sa/archive/201902.adelaide.shtml 10. https://realclimatescience.com/2020/01/2019-fires-much-less-extensive-than-1939/ 11. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-52798639/view?partId=nla.obj-95601640#page/n10/mode/1up

Black Friday Fires of 1939

The full report of the 1939 Victorian Bush Fires can be read here (11) https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-52798639/view?partId=nla.obj-95601640#page/n10/mode/1up .  Extracts from the 1939 Victorian Royal Commission are shown below:

  • Australia has a long history of bush fires.
  • Until we accept and adapt to our unique environment, we will continue to experience loss of life, property, wildlife and vegetation.
  • Bushfires have become political footballs.
  • Until we take politics out of bushfires and make them issues of personal, community and state security, governments will continue to fail in their ‘duty-of-care’.

 

Cool burnt forest – managed vegetation

Hot burnt forest – mis-managed vegetation 

 

If we cannot learn the lessons of history, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes.

Coming soon –
Part 3: covering the recommendations of the 2003 and 2009 inquiries.
Do we already have effective blueprints for fire mitigation, property protection, and native flora and fauna preservation?

 References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushfires_in_Australia
  2. https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/01/03/a-statement-about-the-480-million-animals-killed-in-nsw-bushfire.html
  3. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/bushfires-firebugs-fuelling-crisis-asarson-arresttollhits183/news-story/52536dc9ca9bb87b7c76d36ed1acf53f
  4. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/bushfires arsonist-study-key-to-snuffing-out-hostile-acts/news-story/3e8b0680ba75c98220e7d63cba247ab2
  5. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/bushfire-crisis-climate-wailing-ignores-fuel-buildups/news-story/13858ba2f9b6b08c7e2b4532d9e3ac92
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushfires_in_Australia
  7. https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/how-the-2019-australian-bushfire-season-compares-to-other-fire-disasters/news-story/7924ce9c58b5d2f435d0ed73ffe34174
  8. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/season/vic/archive/201902.melbourne.shtml
  9. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/season/sa/archive/201902.adelaide.shtml
  10. https://realclimatescience.com/2020/01/2019-fires-much-less-extensive-than-1939/
  11. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-52798639/view?partId=nla.obj-95601640#page/n10/mode/1up

 

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