Australia’s Royal Commission releases final report on 2009 bushfires disaster

2009 Royal Commission Australia BushfiresThe Royal Commission has released their final report on the bush fires of February, 2009 that left 173 dead in Australia. Interestingly, the Commission recommends keeping the “stay and defend or leave early” policy after augmenting and improving it in a number of areas.  The report consists of five volumes and thousands of pages. HERE is a link to the report, and below is an excerpt about it from the Telegraph:

The report into the worst bush fire in Australian history, which killed 173 people, described the authorites’ response as “inadequate”.

The detailed document recommended building bush fire refuges and shelters in vulnerable areas, buying land back from home owners who are living in the most at risk parts of the countryside, and implementing a new emergency evacuation strategy.

It also recommended appointing a new independent fire commissioner to oversee the state’s firefighting operations after leadership during the deadly blazes was found to be lacking.
However, the commission, which was set up by the federal Australian government to investigate the causes and responses to the bush fires, recommended that the controversial “stay and defend or leave early policy” – which has been blamed for putting scores of people in the path of the catastrophic blazes – be thoroughly overhauled but not abandoned.

A total of 173 people died when the worst bush fires in Australian history engulfed rural towns and communities in the southern state of Victoria on Feb 7 2009. Temperatures soared to 118F and strong winds fanned the flames.

Of those who died on Black Saturday, 113 were found in or near houses that were burned to the ground by towering flames that outran fire engines and swept across 1.1 million acres of countryside in a matter of hours.

The commission, which has spent 17 months hearing evidence from more than 400 witnesses, found that the policy, which encourages home owners to decide when and if to leave their properties, was “sound” but needed to be revised.

“Leaving early is still the safest option. Staying to defend a well-prepared defendable home is also a sound choice in less severe fires but there needs to be greater emphasis on important qualifications,” the report said.

The report stated that the power of the infernos generated on Black Saturday exposed weaknesses in the “stay or go” policy.

The policy was too “simplistic” and “realistic advice is unavoidably more complex”, it said.

“As a consequence, although the Commission suggests retaining the effective elements of the existing policy it also recommends augmenting and improving the policy in a number of areas.”

Thanks Chuck

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

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