Bush fire season cranks up in Australia

NSW bush fire
A tough day for firefighters across New South Wales Wednesday with warm, dry and windy conditions. At 5:30 pm there were 94 bush and grass fires, with 38 uncontained. NSWRFS photo.

The bush fire season is heating up in New South Wales, Australia as they move into their Spring down under.

The video below was shot by a helicopter over a fire at Lakes Way at Tuncurry in New South Wales. It includes infrared and conventional images.

At the last report the fire had burned 1,700 hectares (4,201 acres) east of Nabiac and North of Tuncurry.

Government of Victoria proposes shakeup of fire services

The Country Fire Authority would become totally volunteer.

Daniel Andrews, the Premier of the Australian state of Victoria, is proposing a major overhaul of the fire services organizations. If legislation to enact the changes is passed, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) will become a volunteer-only agency when its paid employees merge with what has been the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) to morph into the newly-created Fire Rescue Victoria.

The Premier said, “These challenges have been made clear through a number of reviews in recent years, including the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.”

The MFB provides firefighting, rescue, medical, and hazardous material incident response services to the metropolitan area of Melbourne. The CFA, which provides firefighting and emergency services to rural areas of Victoria, has been mostly volunteer, with about 35,000 volunteers and over 1,000 paid professionals.

The Premier intends to sweeten the deal by promising more than $100 million to support volunteer brigades with additional training, equipment and facilities.

In addition (and this is big) the government intends to recognize presumptive cancers that are diagnosed among volunteers.

Below is an excerpt from a summary of the proposed fire services reorganization:

This recognises the challenges that firefighters have faced in accessing compensation for cancer arising from their service. The scheme will deliver equal access to compensation for career and volunteer firefighters.

It will apply to firefighters who have developed cancer because of their service and have been diagnosed since 1 June 2016. Rules that require volunteer firefighters to have attended a specific number of fires are problematic, so the scheme will instead mirror the approach taken in Queensland, which has no specific incident requirements.

Skeptics think one of the reasons for the major revamping of the agencies is the hope that it “will end a controversial dispute with the United Firefighters Union, which has fought bitterly with the government, the CFA, the MFB and volunteers over new pay deals”, according to an article at 9news.com.au.

Federal wildland fire agencies revise and replace agreement with Australia

U.S. firefighters in Australia
U.S. firefighters in Victoria, Australia, February, 2009. Photo by Wol Worrell.

The United States Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture have renewed an international arrangement with Australia to continue a partnership that provides mutual assistance for wildland fire preparedness, suppression and post-fire recovery.

These agreements have existed for years but language was added during this revision to enhance prevention and presuppression activities. Here is how the National Wildfire Coordinating Group defines presuppression:

Activities in advance of fire occurrence to ensure effective suppression action. Includes planning the organization, recruiting and training, procuring equipment and supplies, maintaining fire equipment and fire control improvements, and negotiating cooperative and/or mutual aid agreements.

U.S. Embassy Canberra Chargé d’Affaires James Carouso and Emergency Management Australia Director-General Mark Crosweller signed the renewal of the Wildland Fire Management Arrangement January 23, 2017 in Australia. The arrangement builds on 15 years of close collaboration between firefighters, and allows for the sharing of personnel, research, and technology to boost the mutual wildland fire management capabilities.

Since the U.S. and Australia have opposite fire seasons, and because these countries use interchangeable methods and doctrine, a mutually beneficial mechanism was established in 2002 for quickly sharing trained personnel and critical resources.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim.

Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Currandoole Fire burns 6,000 acres near Tarago, NSW

Above: A helicopter flies over the Currandooley Fire near Tarago. New South Wales Rural Fire Service photo.

The Currandoole Fire has burned 6,054 acres (2,450 ha) and one structure in the Boro and Mount Fairy area south of Tarago, New South Wales.

On Tuesday a severe thunderstorm moved across the fire and dropped some rain, but not enough to extinguish the blaze. Firefighters will continue to strengthen containment lines Tuesday night ahead of challenging hot, dry and windy conditions predicted for Wednesday.

The DC-10 and RJ85 air tankers were dispatched and assisted firefighters on the ground.

Currandooley Fire map
Map produced by an infrared line scanner of the Currandooley Fire near Tarago, New South Wales, Australia.

A briefing in New South Wales

Above photo by New South Wales Rural Fire Service

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service, in the middle of their down under bushfire season, posted this photo yesterday with the following description:

Multi-agency briefing held this morning at NSW RFS State Operations Centre, ensuring all involved are aware and sharing details of current situation and latest weather forecasts for today. Currently we have 18 fires across NSW, 5 of which are yet to be contained. There are are over 60 vehicles and 200 personnel deployed, as well as 4 Rapid Aerial Response Teams (RART) and 20 aircraft tasked to assist.

UPDATE January 18, 2017: here is a better photo of the NSW RFS State Operations Center on January 18, 2017:

New South Wales State Operations Center
New South Wales State Operations Center, January 18, 2017. Photo by NSW RFS.