11/11/2018 at 2:18 PM #11174Tim Wainwright Fire Support NSWParticipant
Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Burning in Sydney
I am a Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Burning Contractor in Sydney. My company is called Fire Support NSW.
Houses do not have to burn down due to bush fires.
I remember growing up in the urban/bushland interface. My father taught me how to clear Fire Breaks (Asset Protection Zones – APZ), how to build a good pile for burning and how to conduct safe and effective Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Burning in the bush.
Things were simpler in the past, the only paperwork required (if any) was a Fire Permit required in the summer months, which was easily obtained from the local Fire Station officer or Bush Fire Brigade HQ, and then to notify your neighbours of the burn.
Unfortunately in the past few decades, it seems now that fewer and fewer land owners/home owners in the urban/bushland interface have the knowledge, experience and/or capability to conduct their own basic bush fire hazard reduction burning and pile burning.
In addition to the lost knowledge, the paperwork requirements has increased with the need for a NSW RFS Hazard Reduction Certificate (Environmental Approval) for all proposed burning works, and in many cases a year-round requirement for a Fire Permit from Fire and Rescue NSW. (Fire Permit from NSW RFS during the bush fire danger period only)
Obtaining these approvals and permits is supposed to be an easy and quick process. It even says so on the fire service websites. However, the fact is, even for a professional contractor, this can be quite a lengthy and frustrating process. We have had hazard reduction burns delayed for several months, just waiting for a simple Fire Permit from an unnamed professional fire service, even though we already had the NSW RFS Hazard Reduction Certificate (Environmental Approval) and had even previously obtained permits for the same area and had already provided approved Prescribed Burn Plans. In addition to the RFS HRC and previous Fire Permits for this area, we had also submitted two separate Environmental Approvals in the form of a Review of Environmental Factors REF and a Statement of Environmental Effects SEE.
These delayed hazard reduction burns were supposed to protect homes and families from the hazard of uncontrolled bushfires. (The houses were in Flamezone – the highest bush fire danger a house can be in). So if we are facing unfair delays, delays which has unnecessarily placed lives and property at risk from bushfire, what hope does the average citizen have? Not much I would suggest.
Perhaps this is why so few ordinary citizens bother with trying to reduce bush fire fuels around their properties using pile burning and bush fire hazard reduction burning?
There are other methods of reducing bushfire fuels, manual methods, cutting and mulching etc, however manual methods are not always feasible or environmentally beneficial. If you want to minimize the destruction of plants and encourage the heat germination and regeneration of native plant species, along with reducing bush fire fuels then nothing really compares with the natural method of bush fire hazard reduction burning.
In fairness to the fire services, in some areas we have not had as many problems and in some areas have obtained permits easily. But there does not seem to be clear and even approach among senior fire officers regarding the issue of fire permits across all regions. Hence our frustrations.
It has always been the duty of the fire services to protect life and property above all other considerations.
It has always been the responsibility of the land owner to maintain their own property.
The fire services cannot possibly provide bushfire hazard reduction burning for all properties in NSW.
Citizens and land owners need to be able to do what burning work they can and to have access to fire permits without being unduly delayed. (Especially if they already have the Environmental Approvals).
Houses and Lives do not have to be lost due to bush fires.
In regards to bush fire safety, I just wonder where we will all be in another 20-30 years.
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