Bushfire news from Australia, August 17

There are two items of interest from our down under brothers and sisters.

Black Saturday report

A 360-page interim report from the Black Saturday bushfires royal commission was released on August 17. Here is an excerpt from The Australian:

THE Black Saturday bushfires royal commission has been scathingly critical of Victoria’s fire services and of Country Fire Authority chief Russell Rees, finding he failed to take on an operational role “even when the disastrous consequences of the fires began to emerge”.

In its 360-page interim report released yesterday, the royal commission found that public warnings issued by the CFA on February 7 were inadequate, its contentious “stay or go” policy understated the risk of dying while trying to defend homes and the control centre for the most serious Black Saturday wildfire was inadequately staffed.

The CFA and the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s fire agency, which were supposed to have a fully integrated command structure on Black Saturday, were in reality doing little more than sharing the same location on the day that 173 people died and more than 2000 homes were destroyed.

The royal commission has made 51 recommendations, including an immediate overhaul of the “stay or go” policy, better public warnings and the introduction of voluntary evacuations or “relocations”, and set a deadline for the Brumby government of September 30 to provide a schedule for implementing the changes.

Addressing concerns raised during commission hearings that its recommendations might not be fully followed, it has also demanded an update from the government by March 31 next year on how the implementation of the changes is progressing.

Premier John Brumby said yesterday all 51 recommendations would be accepted, although some only in principle until the details of what the changes involved were examined more closely.

$15 million for research related to the Black Saturday fires

The Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre will receive $15 million over three years tackle specific research tasks arising from the experience of the Victorian bushfires.

From a news release from Sanator the Hon Kim Carr:

“Following the devastating Victorian bushfires, there is an urgent need to address the outcomes of the Royal Commission. The Bushfire CRC is well placed to bring together university and public sector researchers with industry to collaborate on research and development projects associated with bushfires,” Senator Carr said.

Thanks Chuck and Dick