Protect people and the environment from fires
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The Burning Issue
Our Wet Tropics bioregion has been ravaged by wildfire and recent, wide- spread deliberate ('hazard reduction') burns. These large scale and too frequent burns often cause extensive damage to flora and fauna and can create a more fire prone landscape. In the short term, a burn produces fuel in form of trees killed by the fire, dead leaves or cured grass. In the long term, a different ecosystem can be formed with more fire resistant plants such as eucalyptus trees and C4 grasses that create a worse fire danger. Also frequent burns subject residents to smoke which is carcinogenic and can provoke life threatening asthma attacks, causing significant human suffering.
According to Neil Parker, QFES Area Director Cairns, in the last 15 years all fires in this region were caused by humans -accidentally or on purpose. However people lighting fires are rarely held responsible.
Controlling Permits to Burn and Liability
There is no regulation to refuse repeat offenders a permit to burn. Also if you have a permit to burn and your fire gets away, the law says you are not liable- as long as you followed the permit conditions. This is unfortunate if you are a neighbour whose property was damaged by an out of control fire- which does happen.
A triple zero call does not automatically lead to an investigation in how the fire started if the cause is unknown. It is up to the incident controller to report a cause or not. As Volunteer fire fighters might not feel comfortable reporting community members, the cause of the fire is often hidden, giving offenders a clean slate.
A New Approach
With a community scared of wildfires and a dwindling number of volunteer fire fighters, 'hazard reduction' burns have become increasingly common. A new approach is needed to protect both our diverse wildlife and human health.
We can use alternative methods to reduce the bushfire hazard e.g. grazing, slashing or planting certain tree species to increase moisture levels.
We are calling for the following changes:
1. People to be held responsible for lighting illegal or out of control fires whether there was a permit or not.
2. Making recording the cause of fire by the responding crew obligatory.
3. All fires of unknown cause to be investigated.
4. Hazard reduction burns in rural residential areas not to be permitted due to health risks.
5. The vegetation type of remnant vegetation to be considered when deciding both frequency. and timing of deliberate burns.
6. Restriction of development in bush fire hazard areas- taking both human safety and potential wildlife damage into account.
Image: Fire sensitive of concern regional ecosystem 7.11.41a severely damaged in recent hazard reduction burn
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