Message to Australians in bushfire-prone areas: “Leave and live”

Lorne-Jamieson Track Bushfire
A community impacted by the Lorne-Jamieson Track Bushfire. Country Fire Authority photo.

One of the many fires that have plagued Victoria, Australia in recent weeks, the Lorne-Jamieson Track Bushfire, destroyed 116 homes. With the state being in the midst of their bushfire season fire officials are encouraging residents to leave early if there is a report of a fire, rather than waiting too late — a mistake that has killed civilians who became trapped on roads and overrun by flames.

Below is an excerpt from an article in The Age written by Craig Lapsley, Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner.

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“…The only guaranteed way of surviving a bushfire is to not be there. That is the underpinning logic behind leaving early.

Fire is neither logical nor forgiving. Few people are adequately prepared, physically or emotionally, or have sufficient resources to remain and defend their properties. And so the message again this summer is to leave early. The message is captured in the slogan “Leave and live”.

On Christmas day, even after a recommendation to evacuate had been made, there were those in Lorne who chose to “wait and see”, the circumstance that has historically led to most bushfire deaths as people leave late and are caught on the roads, in the open or trapped in homes that cannot be defended.

fire crew Otways bushfire
Anthony Hester and his fire crew at the Otways bushfire in Victoria, Australia. Photo by Hamish Blair.

Larger, more complex questions face our community in the months and years ahead. The issue of land-use planning is one of these. More people are seeking to live deeper in the bush and enabling them to do so safely presents significant challenges.  A more structured approach to private shelters in high bushfire risk developments is one option.

More fundamentally, urban development both around Melbourne and regional centres, is being pushed into forested and even grassland areas that are inherently fire prone. New communities must be planned in a manner that does not inadvertently expose them to risk, be it from bushfire or other natural hazards. There is work being done within governments around this but a significant dialogue remains to be had with the broader community.

How existing communities are strengthened both physically and in terms of social resilience remains one of our biggest challenges. The vast majority of the existing building stock in high risk areas across the state is simply not designed to withstand the passage of a bushfire. This will not change within the foreseeable future. Community based planning that factors this inherent weakness into survival strategies has to play a part in strengthening communities against disaster…”

116 homes burn near the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia

Lorne-Jamieson Track bushfire
The Lorne-Jamieson Track bushfire. Country Fire Authority photo.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) has confirmed that at least 116 homes were destroyed in a bushfire that burned along the Great Ocean Road near Separation Creek and Wye River in Victoria Australia. Many people were forced from their homes on Christmas night, causing traffic jams as residents fled to Torquay or Melbourne.

Lorne fire
Lorne-Jamieson Track Bushfire. CFA map.

One couple who live in nearby Lorne, Wilma and Ian Bishop, did not evacuate but slept in their car near the beach, planning to run into the sea if the fire spread into the town. However the fire bypassed Lorne, inflicting most of the damage in Wye River and Separation Creek.

The fire started December 19 from a lightning strike in Great Otway National Park eight kilometers west of Lorne. At the last report it had burned 2,290 hectares (5,659 acres). On December 24 the resources on the fire included 150 firefighters, 6 air tankers, 7 dozers, and a 40-person incident management team.

Lorne fire IMT
Part of the Incident Management Team on the Lorne-Jamieson Track Bushfire, December 24, 2015. CFA photo.
Lorne fire community meeting
The CFA hosts a community meeting on December 25, 2015, for the Loren-Jamieson Track Bushfire.

Homes burn and firefighters entrapped in Victoria’s bushfires

Coulson C-130s Victoria
Coulson’s air tankers 131 and 132 were together for the first time ever, Saturday in Avalon, Victoria. They are working on separate contracts in New South Wales and Victoria. Coulson photo by Hayden Biggs.

Firefighters in Victoria, Australia have been very busy in recent days fighting numerous bushfires. Approximately 10 homes and 23 outbuildings have burned.

The Guardian reports that three crews from the Country Fire Authority were overrun by fire.

…Three CFA crews, in two separate incidents, were lucky to escape when their vehicles became trapped when a storm cell ran into the smoke plume at Scotsburn, pushing the fire to the west while the winds came from the north.

“That actually caught firefighters out,” Lapsley said.

The trapped crews activated the sprinklers over the trucks and huddled under fire retardant blankets until the danger had passed.

 

Victorian Supreme Court approves $494 million settlement for Black Saturday bushfires

The Supreme Court in Victoria, Australia has approved a payout of A$494 million ($406 million) to survivors and families after 119 people were killed, more than 1,000 injured, 125,000 hectares (309,000 acres) burned, and 1,172 homes and properties were destroyed in a bushfire in Victoria on February 7, 2009.

Below are excerpts from an article at ABC.net.au:

The action, which involved about 5,000 people, was taken against power distributor SP AusNet and asset manager Utility Services Group. The defendants have denied liability.

The case came about after the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission found the Kilmore East-Kinglake bushfire was caused by an ageing SP AusNet power line.

Parties including SP AusNet and the Victorian Government had agreed to the $500 million settlement but it required the court’s approval.

SP AusNet has agreed to pay $378.6 million, while Utility Services Corporation Ltd will pay $12.5 million.

The Victorian Government, which includes Victoria Police and the Country Fire Authority, have agreed to pay $103.6 million.

At least one of the fires exhibited very extreme fire behavior, as we reported on May 21, 2009. Fire behavior expert Dr. Kevin Tolhurst determined that spot fires occurred a record 35 kilometers (21 miles) ahead of the main fire.

Wildfire briefing, December 18, 2014

Possible wildfire suppression scam

From the Rapid City Fire Department:

Scam Alert: Investigators for the RCPD would like to inform the public of a possible scam targeting local businesses. An individual has been soliciting donations for an organization called ‘Atta Katta Wildland Fire Suppression.’ The Rapid City Police Department has reason to believe that this organization is fraudulent. If you’ve been solicited for a donation to this organization, please contact Sgt. Warren Poches at 394.4134.

Moonlight fire scandal continues to grow

The accusations of prosecutorial abuse, fraud, and government coverups related to the 2007 Moonlight Fire in northern California are gathering more nationwide attention. Here is how an article by Kathleen Parker begins:

First there’s the spark, then the conflagration, followed by the litigation and then, surely, the movie. Call it “Moonlight Fire,” and prepare to suspend disbelief. The story is a doozy — a tale of corruption, prosecutorial abuse, alleged fraud upon the court, and possible government cover-ups in the service of power and greed. All the script needs is a Forest Service employee urinating on his bare feet in his lookout tower just as the fire was beginning.

What?!

This is what a real-life ranger discovered when she went to the tower to pick up a radio for repair. She also reported spotting a small glass pipe and smelling marijuana. As for the urinary exercise, the lookout said he was treating his athlete’s foot. But of course.

So goes one of the more colorful anecdotes surrounding the 2007 California wildfire that burned up to 65,000 acres — 45,000 of them on federal land — in the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains…

Jonathan Keim also wrote about the debacle for the National Review.

Articles at Wildfire Today tagged Moonlight Fire.

Study on the Rim Fire recommends more interagency prescribed fires

Excerpts from an article a KSBW:

A fierce wildfire that scorched part of Yosemite National Park burned less intensely in places that had fires in recent years – a finding that researchers said Wednesday supports a belief that controlled burning often curtails extreme fires.

The U.S. Forest Service study focused on areas of the Rim Fire that burned 400 square miles in Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite’s backcountry and private timber land.

It was the largest fire in the recorded history of the Sierra Nevada. It destroyed 11 homes and cost more than $125 million to fight.

Areas hit by the Rim Fire within Yosemite had burned within 14 years and experienced less intense flames, said U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, which authored the study.

Researchers recommend that forestry agencies with shared borders and interests combine their efforts to conduct controlled burns during moderate weather conditions, giving them the best chance for to avoid massive high-intensity fires.

Night flying helicopters in southern California

An article at The Coast News reports on the two night-flying helicopters operated by the city of San Diego.

10-year high for people charged with lighting fires in Victoria

From The Age in Australia:

The number of charges for lighting fires on days of total fire ban or during bushfire danger periods has reached a 10-year high, as police crack down on the foolishness that has sparked destructive blazes since Black Saturday.

There were 227 charges for lighting a fire on a total fire ban day or in a fire danger period last year, an increase of more than 17 per cent compared to the previous year and more than five times the number recorded in 2010-11.

While most of the fires raging in Victoria this week are believed to have started because of lightning strikes, Emergency Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said some of the 350 blazes burning on Wednesday would have been caused by people ignoring the volatile conditions.

“It wouldn’t all be lightning. There would have been some foolish behaviour…

Homes burn in Victoria bushfire

Four homes burned in a bushfire in the Creighton’s Creek area of Victoria. State Control Centre spokesperson Leigh Miezis said 1,500 firefighters are currently battling the blaze.

The video below was filmed by Jacob Haddrill in Creightons Creek. He saved his cattle but his feed and fencing was damaged in the fire.