Lower our fire risk

By Olivia Duffey

As the bushfire crisis continues to grip the nation, in Deniliquin and district there is a concern that little is being done to reduce the risk of a disastrous blaze which could easily surround the town.

Retired Rural Fire Service captain Noel Porter said management practices in the Murray Valley National and Regional Parks are particularly under the spotlight during this crisis, and he believes the hazard reduction efforts are lacking.

He said it’s not just in the depths of the Murray Valley National Park between Deniliquin and Mathoura that the fire risk is growing.

He said debris build up in the ‘‘often not maintained’’ Regional Parks that more closely surround the town and a range of recreational facilities is ‘‘concerning’’.

As a volunteer for the Deniliquin Golf Club Pro Shop, Mr Porter said the growing hazard is quite noticeable.

‘‘If someone was to drop a match in there (the Murray Valley Regional Park), it would take off,’’ he said.

‘‘Even a lightning strike could start a fire. It is just a time bomb waiting to go off.

‘‘It is too late when it comes to burning things off this season, but perhaps we need to look at doing that in winter.

‘‘It (the forest) has not been maintained in years, especially since they stopped grading the tracks three or four years ago, so the forest floor is built up with solid fuels.

‘‘All we can do this season is urge people to take care. Do do not throw your cigarette butts out there or light any fires.

‘‘There are signs at the entrances of the forests, so heed their warnings before something serious develops.’’

Mid-Murray Rural Fire Service Inspector Doug Adamson agreed that following the rules and taking extra precautions is the best chance to avoid devastation.

‘‘There is a fire risk in our forests and parks almost all the time, fire is a natural part of our landscape,’’ he said.

‘‘National Parks is responsible for monitoring conditions in the national parks, but we at the RFS are fully aware of it too.

‘‘The risk changes with every season and varies from year to year depending on the season.

‘‘The RFS simply recommends that people follow rules and regulations that are already in place.’’

National Parks and Wildlife Service said it is continuously working with local services and emergency teams to monitor the risk and rectify issues as they arise.

‘‘NPWS works closely with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue New South Wales, Forestry Corporation and Water New South Wales, neighbours of national parks and the community to reduce bushfire risk across our parks and make decisions on the location, size and frequency of hazard reduction burns conducted in parks, in the appropriate season,’’ a spokesperson said.

‘‘People should visit the Rural Fire Service website for information in relation to preparing for the fire season.

‘‘Everyone should have a plan even where they do not live near forests and maintain awareness of current fire activity.’’

Earlier this fire season NPWS said a number of fire preparation days had been held to ensure staff and equipment were ready for the season ahead.

They also conducted 80kms to 100kms of ‘‘strategic fire trail maintenance’’ within local reserves.

It was at the same time, in late November, NPWS admitted its last fuel load assessment in the local forests was carried out in 2016.

Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said the bushfire crisis has highlighted that natural resource management is not just lacking in Deniliquin, but across the country.

She said policies driven by city-based ideologies are to blame, and must be revised to prevent tragedies like we’re seeing now from occurring again.

‘‘It is unfortunate that some sections of the media want to continually focus on climate change, yet appear to ignore or downplay the impact of land management policies and lack of hazard reduction,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

‘‘It is time to take stock, learn from past mistakes and start involving local people, some with generational involvement in management of their environs, in the decision-making process.

‘‘Whether some people like it or not, we must accept the indisputable fact that we have failed our nation in the Natural Resource Management stakes.

‘‘The ‘lock up and leave’ policies which have been developed have increased fuel loads, and the problem is exacerbated with reduced maintenance and fewer controlled burns,’’ Mrs Scoullar said