Claim: Bushfires have not been affected by climate change, and are affected by impeded hazard reduction

TheNZThrower

Active Member
I know I’m three years late and beating a dead horse, but there has been a video released by a fairly well known conservative youtuber called Actual Justice Warrior on the bushfires that ravaged my home nation, Australia. He pins the bulk of the blame on arson and policies prohibiting hazard reduction burns rather than climate change. But is that a fact, or a fallacy?

As AJW mostly parrots his information from this reposted Breitbart article, we shall mostly focus on addressing the claims within. I aim to use only sources that are dated before the publication of AJW’s video, so as to not cite sources against him that he couldn’t have known about. As I am not a climatologist, nor do I have any proper academic training in any climate change related fields, take anything I say with a grain of salt; and make sure to check my sources and point out any errors I may have made in my research.

AJW claims that the past few years leading up to the 2019-2020 bushfire season didn’t have an unusually low rainfall anomaly and hence weren’t unusually dry. He subsequently claims that the past 60 years in Australia were wetter than the 60 years after the start of the instrumental rainfall record, while claiming that the trend is showing that Australia is experiencing greater rainfall and moisture while referencing the following Bureau of Meteorology chart mentioned in the Breitbart article:

Where do I even begin? How about with the fact that the graph only focuses on spring rainfall anomalies specific only to NSW, rather than annual rainfall anomalies of NSW, let alone the entirety of Australia or even the regions affected by the fires. We have a term for this selective quoting of the data: Cherry picking. The reason why citing rainfall data solely from spring is problematic is because the fire season in NSW extends beyond the middle of spring up to the middle of summer, or from 1 October to 31st March, so spring rainfall alone does not cover the entirety of rainfall experienced during the fire season. That aside, the primary thesis of the Breitbart article, and of AJW by extension, for their assumption that NSW is experiencing more moisture and rainfall is that there are more blue lines in the graph in the (EDIT: second half of the time period documented), which means more years where rainfall is above average. The main reason why the aforementioned line of reasoning is faulty is that it ignores the actual trends in the data as indicated by the trend line I have added back in. If you look at the trend line in black, the spring rainfall anomaly has actually been slightly decreasing; with the only reason why more years recently have had above average rainfall anomaly being a result of a sudden increase in the anomaly around the 1940s, before continuing on the same slight decrease.

Furthermore, contrary to what AJW’s and Breitbart imply, NSW did experience record low rainfall on the year the bushfires hit in 2019 if you not only go by total annual rainfall:

But also by how much rainfall deviates from the long term average (i.e. the rainfall anomaly):

Now if there is something else anyone has noticed, it is that the same decreasing trend in spring rainfall anomaly persists in both the annual rainfall anomaly and total rainfall graphs.

Now if we look further into the Bureau of Meteorology’s report on spring rainfall in NSW in the year of the fires, it states that not only has the rainfall experienced in spring been below average, but it is also the sixth driest spring on record, with more than half of the state recording rainfall in the lowest 10%. In addition, all but one month in NSW have been at their third driest on record. So AJW is fractally wrong when he says that spring 2019 was not an unusually dry season in NSW, as I’m pretty sure that any spring that is in the top 10 driest on record is particularly dry.

That aside, AJW also doesn’t understand that the line of logic that heavier rainfall leads to more moisture and a reduced likelihood of fire is oversimplistic, as there are more variables that affect the moisture in a region than rainfall alone, as temperature also factors into it. As far as I know based on my very limited knowledge on climate science, increased rainfall will only increase moisture if the temperature remains more or less constant. If not, then a sufficient increase in temperature would increase the rate of evaporation of vegetation and soil, which would counteract the effects of the increased rainfall. But even assuming what AJW says about rainfall is true, then greater vegetation growth likely will occur, which means that if it all dries out, it provides more fuel for bushfires to increase in intensity. The record high temperatures NSW is experiencing also reduces the relative humidity of the regional atmosphere by increasing the amount of water vapour that the atmosphere in the region can hold. This increases the rate of evaporation, or transpiration of the plants, which causes them to dry out faster than at lower temperatures. Hence according to my simplistic, rough and probably inaccurate hypothesis owing to my lack of expertise, (EDIT: years of above average rainfall) increases vegetation that could become fuel, and higher temperatures combined with (EDIT: years of below average rainfall that subsequently follow) would lead to drier plants, increasing the amount of fuel available for bushfires.

In addition, the impact of the bushfires extends beyond NSW into VIC & even QLD, though NSW is the hardest hit of them all. Hence this is why rainfall data from Southeastern Australia as a whole is more accurate than from NSW alone. This leads us to observe an even more pronounced version of the prior trends in not only rainfall anomaly:

But also total rainfall:

To be continued...
 
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TheNZThrower

Active Member
Continuing on...

Now what does all this data mean? Surely correlation does not in and of itself mean causation between temperature rises and reduced rainfall in Southeastern Australia. True, but we can look to the relevant science and data to determine whether a causal link can be drawn between bushfires and rising temperatures.

According to the BOM’s 2018 State of the Climate report, the reduction in rainfall in Southeast and Southwest Australia is linked to a shift in average sea level pressures in the region:

This decrease, at an agriculturally and hydrologically important time of the year, is linked with a trend towards higher mean sea level pressure in the region and a shift in large-scale weather patterns—more highs and fewer lows. This increase in mean sea level pressure across southern latitudes is a known response to global warming.

According to Geoscience Australia, higher temperatures can and does exacerbate fire risks by raising the temperature of the fuel closer to its ignition point. On this basis alone, it is impossible to deny that climate change was a contributing factor to the severity of the recent bushfires, as the BOM notes in its 2018 State of the Climate report that extremely hot days have been trending upwards. The BOM also notes that the number of days with extreme fire weather per year has also been increasing since the 70s due to climate change, especially in Southeastern Australia, as measured by the Forest Fire Danger Index, or FFDI. As the FFDI also includes vegetation dryness, air temperature, humidity and windspeed into a calculation of fire risk in addition to rainfall, it is a much better gauge of bushfire risk than rainfall alone.

In addition, the BOM also mentions in the State of the Climate report that:

‘’There has been an associated increase in the length of the fire weather season.’’

Which means that as far as I know, bushfires now tend to start earlier, and end later as a whole. This would be rather important as it also addresses another one of AJW’s arguments that he makes later on that I will eventually get to.

The report also confirms what the prior graphs on rainfall anomalies and total rainfall imply, that rainfall in the recent two decades has been unusually low compared to the period of 1900-1999, which strongly contradicts AJW’s claim that the recent bushfire season was nothing unusually severe, as does an article written by former NSW fire commissioner Greg Mullins. In addition to mentioning that Australia has been experiencing record dryness, temperatures, wind speed, bushfire season length etc…, he also notes that the recent wave of bushfires have been starting earlier than usual and that bushfires have been starting in rainforests and other areas which don’t normally experience bushfires.

For further evidence of worsening fire conditions that confirm the BOM’s findings, we shall turn to a recent 2019 paper by Harris and Lucas discussing the variability of the Forest Fire Danger Index from 1973-2017. What they have found is that over the period of time they have analysed, the FFDI increased at most of the weather stations where they have got their data, especially in southeastern Australia during the spring and summer. This is represented by the following graph detailing the FFDI observed in autumn, winter, spring and summer respectively, with the red circles representing increases in the FFDI, and blue circles representing decreases:

This is further confirmed by the overall FFDI trend that Harris and Lucas have found as follows:

This still applies even after any short term climatic factors, such as El Nino, have been accounted for in the following graph:

Consequently, they pin the blame on climate change via raising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns. The reason being that other potential long term factors, such as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, fail to properly account for the observed FFDI trend.

The fact that both prior studies have uncovered an increasing trend towards weather conditions friendlier to bushfires within the past half century, and that climate change can impact short term climatic factors like El Nino as noted by Harris and Lucas, does pretty strongly hint that climate change just may be (EDIT: one of) the reasons why the most recent season of bushfires in Australia are so severe.

Thank your for listening to my TED talk, and please point out any errors I have made in data collection and interpretation by checking my sources. If you have any other data to contribute a more thorough picture of what exacerbated the bushfires, please do reply.
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.
My main takeaway is that "spring rain in NSW" is a bad proxy for fire danger in Western Australia, and better indicators are available that, when used, lead to a different conclusion.
I particularly like the argument that the dryness of plants depends on more than just rain; I can observe that with my potted plants which need more water when it's warm.

The "hazard reduction" argument reminded me of "raking the forest", how much of a factor is it really?
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
As anyone in a temperate climate who has a lawn can attest, wet spring growth can all be wiped out by a dry month later in the summer. My (admittedly limited) understanding of Australia's weather is that patterns vary widely from month to month, and a monsoon season is usual. But it didn't come as expected before the devastating fires, and the timing of weather events is critical - farmers all know that. This suggests that annual total rainfall charts only tell part of the story, and analyses based on that info alone may not be useful.

https://www.republicworld.com/world...y-due-to-indias-late-monsoon-end-experts.html
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Metabunk's link policy suggests that relevant parts of linked sources need to be quoted in the thread.
The catastrophic bushfires in Australia, which killed three people and displaced thousands, is partly due to the monsoon season ending late in India, according to an expert. Trent Penhman, who is associated with the University of Melbourne and studies the behaviour and formation of bushfires using real depictions of fuel, weather and topography, said the bushfires could be partly explained by monsoon season ending late in India,
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econ41

Senior Member
This topic is of interest to me. The topic is mainstream my professional career but I have not yet given in depth consideration of the OP Paper so this post will be a qualitative introduction with a couple of comments on specific issues.

For several decades of my civil engineering career I was involved in operations associated with the dams and catchments of the Sydney Water Supply. At varying levels of responsibility from front line operations engineer up to senior manager responsible for policy advice to Government. The scope of my involvement included emergency management of bush fires and floods.

So I'm well aware that the opening theme of the OP has been a subject of contention and strong emotions from stakeholder groups over recent decades.
I know I’m three years late and beating a dead horse, but there has been a video released by a fairly well known conservative youtuber called Actual Justice Warrior on the bushfires that ravaged my home nation, Australia. He pins the bulk of the blame on arson and policies prohibiting hazard reduction burns rather than climate change. But is that a fact, or a fallacy?
Whether effective or not "hazard reduction burning" has been a major component of activity directed at bush fire risk prevention or minimising in Australia. With the rise in environmental activism from about 40-50 years ago, there were strong pressures to cease "hazard reduction burning" and that issue very quickly saw Government policies change to support the "new policy" supporters who took positions of power as policy advisors to Government. They went too far. I can recount anecdotal evidence of runaway bushfires within a few years of the "no burn" policy introduction. And the traditional "old hands" claiming "we told you so!" But for this discussion topic in an international forum that should indicate one of the issues of contention in the Australian setting.

And a "bottom line" warning - which the OP paper recognises. Bush fire management is NOT a single-issue matter. And, whilst climate change must be a factor taken into consideration, it is far from being the single causal factor.
My main takeaway is that "spring rain in NSW" is a bad proxy for fire danger in Western Australia, and better indicators are available that, when used, lead to a different conclusion.
Broad-based indexes such as the "Forest Fire Danger Index" ["FFDI"] are more appropriate. But even more significant is the geographic and meteorological reality. Australia is a large piece of land. There can be, are, massive climatic changes across the "wide brown land" at all levels of time frame. In the immediacy of days to weeks, in the months to years time frames and decades to centuries. And in the immediacy time frames, it is common to have monsoonal floods in the tropical north in near enough the same time as bush fires elsewhere.
The "hazard reduction" argument reminded me of "raking the forest", how much of a factor is it really?
It can be of major significance in local - medium-scale - control of active bush fires. One anecdote - circa 1983 a large scale bush fire - fire fronts in the 30 plus miles scale - occurred in the same fire season that had resulted in the death of several firefighters at smaller fire. Massive resources were deployed but the fire was finally controlled when it ran into the edge of the last hazard reduction burn from five years earlier. But that is modestly small scale - fightable. The SE Australian fires of those couple of years back were way beyond overall control by hazard reduction. But we shouldn't fall for the "binary thinking trap" - "it works" or "it doesn't work". Targeted hazard reduction is a valuable tool.
My (admittedly limited) understanding of Australia's weather is that patterns vary widely from month to month, and a monsoon season is usual.
And year to year. Water supply systems for my part of AU are designed for a Seven Year drought period. (The hydrologist's definition of drought - rainfall less than average.) Many countries only design for two or three - their rainfall is far more reliable and predictable.

And "monsoonal" conditions only apply fully in the tropical north - the high rainfall reducing as you move south. It rarely affects my area - we often get some heavy rain following tropical cyclone conditions in the north.
This suggests that annual total rainfall charts only tell part of the story, and analyses based on that info alone may not be useful.
Yes.
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
In the video linked above, AJW then cites several incidences relating to restrictions on hazard reduction burns to back up his thesis that a lack of hazard reduction caused by environmentalists is the prime culprit in the severity of the bushfire season; the assumption being that the bushfire season wouldn't have been as severe if it weren't for a lack of hazard reduction. This is obviously a rather oversimplistic take on the issue, as even if his thesis was true, it does not negate the fact that climate change was a significant contributing factor in exacerbating the severity of the fires.

To quote NSW Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons in an ABC interview (timestamp 0:31)
The single biggest impediment to completing hazard reduction burning is the weather. And with longer fire seasons, earlier starts and later finishes to fire seasons, like we’ve been experiencing over recent times, you get a shrinking window of opportunity for more favourable hazard reduction burning periods. And in that shrinking window, you get the extremes of it can be too wet and too cold to to effectively get hazard reduction burns done, through to it being too hot and too dry, and therefore it being too dangerous.
He then notes in the same interview (timestamp 1:43) that under fire weather conditions as severe as they have been in the 2019 bushfires, hazard reduction work older than a year has little effect in curtailing the spread and severity of the bushfire.
Hazard reduction is absolutely an important factor when it comes to fire management, and managing fire in the landscape, but it is not the panacea. And as a matter of fact, this season under these extremely drought driven conditions, the depletion of moisture in the landscape, the vegetation is so dry, hazard reduction burns that are only 2 years old, we’re seeing these fires on these bad days just skip straight through it. We’re only seeing effective amelioration on fire spread, through hazard reduction areas, that have been done, say in the last 12 months. So hazard reduction has a place, and is a valuable tool for day to day fires, for normal seasons. But when you’ve got a really tough season, when you’ve got awful fire weather conditions, so when you’re running fires under severe extreme or worse conditions, hazard reduction has very little effect at all on fire spread. It’s only when conditions back off a little bit, generally speaking overnight or when the severe extreme or catastrophic conditions go back to very high, that you’ve actually got some prospect of slowing the fire spread.
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
AJW, and the Breitbart article by extension, then goes on to cite the following example (sorry for that grammatically awkward sentence) of an anti-hazard reduction burn protest from climate contrarian Joanne Nova to reinforce their thesis.

Nova claims that the Gippsland, Victoria branch of the ABC has covered an anti-hazard reduction burn protest on facebook and subsequently deleted the post:
Back in September ABC Gippsland put a story on Facebook about how locals were protesting the spring prescribed burns which were “killing baby birds alive”. The East Gippsland locals managed to stop the hazard reduction burns. We note also that the Forest Fire Management Victoria local manager said that the burns were planned “after extensive community consultation”. Which tells us just how impossibly hard it is to get even a small (tiny) cool burn done. We’re only talking about 370 ha.

Sharp eyed Michael Ayling noticed that the ABC deleted this Facebook post below. Most of it is still captured on Google Cache, though for some reason, if you wait on the google cache page even that will disappear soon too. Luckily skeptics with no budget are here to help the ABC and Google Cache keep historic records that may help explain the mystery of how a first world nation created such a catastrophe.
Of course, Nova implies that such a deletion is part of some grand conspiracy to silence the ''truth'' about the actual cause of the severity of the bushfires. Before we continue on with the debunking, we have to note that ABC Gippsland is an ABC radio station according to the highlighted green square on their facebook page:
Screen Shot 2022-02-05 at 12.09.21 pm.png
Hence they would have covered the same story on radio. That aside, the first link Nova posted from a ''Michael Ayling'' is dead. The second Google Cache link is also dead. However an archived version of it is still active, showing the allegedly deleted page. Pasting the URL of the page leads to the following dead link and two.

Nova also posted a screenshot of an update to the original post, to which the link is still up and active.

Putting this issue aside for the moment, do note how Nova frames the ABC as cheering the protestors on when the original post was neutral in tone, though it primarily covered the protestor's side, which is why some might perceive its coverage as biased. I also find it hilarious that she has the gall to dismiss a former NSW fire commissioner as being someone who knows nothing about climate change, when he probably has a better idea as to how the fires got started and as severe as they already are than she does:
*UPDATE: This is not about the protestors (or about a tiny 370 ha, which wouldn’t have changed anything yesterday). Accountability lies with decision-makers. Everyone has the right to protest and after twenty years of one sided and well funded propaganda it’s no wonder people are confused. The ABC cheered for “climate change”, and asked no hard questions. They mentioned fuel loads but didn’t put those experts on high rotation. They did repeated interviews with people who know nothing about climate change like Greg Mullins. He was free to repeat the mantra. The ABC decide what message goes out.
Sheesh, look at the arrogance on brazen display.

Anyways, can anyone tell me what reasons are there for ABC Gippsland to delete the original while keeping the updated version up and running? Anyone else has anything to contribute that I have missed out?
 

econ41

Senior Member
Sheesh, look at the arrogance on brazen display.

Anyways, can anyone tell me what reasons are there for ABC Gippsland to delete the original while keeping the updated version up and running? Anyone else has anything to contribute that I have missed out?
The anti "back burning"** AKA "anti hazard reduction burning" mob share many of the characteristics we see in obsessive conspiracy theorists. Viz a focus of concern which probably has a core of truth BUT that core truth is misrepresented out of proportion. So the WTC 9/11 collapse "looked like" CD >> yes they did but they weren't; the anti-vaxers claim a downside negative risk from vaccines which may be true BUT the benefits are orders of magnitude greater than the risks if any.

And the anti-hazard reduction push started in the early days of the environmental movement. In those early days (circa 1980 for NSW) the new "environmental movement" was made up of single-issue focus splinter groups. There were "clean air greenies", "Clean water greenies", "anti-nuclear greenies" and many more BUT no overall "Total ecosystems" focus. For several big issues in Sydney - the same territory as the quoted NSW Rural Fire commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, and his predecessor Phil Koperberg - the limiting factor for some water quality issues (sewage discharges or overflows) was energy. But the "Water Greenies" of that era were not thinking of "Energy" or any "total system" linkage were the solution to clean water required energy. And the new policy officers dominating the National Parks and Forestry agency approaches to fire fighting were also narrow focus "trees and bushes greenies"...

And much of the anti hazard reduction angst in SE Australia originated in that era of "narrow focus greenies". Ironically the better understanding of the total environment was with Koperberg >> Fitzgibbon on the firefighting side. And engineers like me on the resource and firefighting activity side.

** That has been the common terminology - Yes I understand the technical difference.
 
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TheNZThrower

Active Member
The anti "back burning"** AKA "anti hazard reduction burning" mob share many of the characteristics we see in obsessive conspiracy theorists. Viz a focus of concern which probably has a core of truth BUT that core truth is misrepresented out of proportion. So the WTC 9/11 collapse "looked like" CD >> yes they did but they weren't; the anti-vaxers claim a downside negative risk from vaccines which may be true BUT the benefits are orders of magnitude greater than the risks if any.

And the anti-hazard reduction push started in the early days of the environmental movement. In those early days (circa 1980 for NSW) the new "environmental movement" was made up of single-issue focus splinter groups. There were "clean air greenies", "Clean water greenies", "anti-nuclear greenies" and many more BUT no overall "Total ecosystems" focus. For several big issues in Sydney - the same territory as the quoted NSW Rural Fire commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, and his predecessor Phil Koperberg - the limiting factor for some water quality issues (sewage discharges or overflows) was energy. But the "Water Greenies" of that era were not thinking of "Energy" or any "total system" linkage were the solution to clean water required energy. And the new policy officers dominating the National Parks and Forestry agency approaches to fire fighting were also narrow focus "trees and bushes greenies"...

And much of the anti hazard reduction angst in SE Australia originated in that era of "narrow focus greenies". Ironically the better understanding of the total environment was with Koperberg >> Fitzgibbon on the firefighting side. And engineers like me on the resource and firefighting activity side.

** That has been the common terminology - Yes I understand the technical difference.
So what reason could the ABC have for deleting the original post they made of the anti-hazard reduction burn protest.
 
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TheNZThrower

Active Member
So looking back to the video I was debunking, and back to the graph on spring rainfall anomaly, the main claim is that as the second half of the instrumental record on spring rainfall has more above average years of rainfall than the first half, then it must mean that increasing CO2 and temperatures must positively correlate with an increase in the number of years where rainfall is above average, and thus an increasing trend in rainfall anomaly.

I didn't think I addressed this point very adequately, so how will you guys make of it?
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
AJW, and the Breitbart article by extension, then goes on to cite the following example (sorry for that grammatically awkward sentence) of an anti-hazard reduction burn protest from climate contrarian Joanne Nova to reinforce their thesis.

Nova claims that the Gippsland, Victoria branch of the ABC has covered an anti-hazard reduction burn protest on facebook and subsequently deleted the post:

Of course, Nova implies that such a deletion is part of some grand conspiracy to silence the ''truth'' about the actual cause of the severity of the bushfires. Before we continue on with the debunking, we have to note that ABC Gippsland is an ABC radio station according to the highlighted green square on their facebook page:
Screen Shot 2022-02-05 at 12.09.21 pm.png
Hence they would have covered the same story on radio. That aside, the first link Nova posted from a ''Michael Ayling'' is dead. The second Google Cache link is also dead. However an archived version of it is still active, showing the allegedly deleted page. Pasting the URL of the page leads to the following dead link and two.

Nova also posted a screenshot of an update to the original post, to which the link is still up and active.

Putting this issue aside for the moment, do note how Nova frames the ABC as cheering the protestors on when the original post was neutral in tone, though it primarily covered the protestor's side, which is why some might perceive its coverage as biased. I also find it hilarious that she has the gall to dismiss a former NSW fire commissioner as being someone who knows nothing about climate change, when he probably has a better idea as to how the fires got started and as severe as they already are than she does:

Sheesh, look at the arrogance on brazen display.

Anyways, can anyone tell me what reasons are there for ABC Gippsland to delete the original while keeping the updated version up and running? Anyone else has anything to contribute that I have missed out?
So does anyone have a rebuttal to Joanne Nova's article here?
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
So does anyone have a rebuttal to Joanne Nova's article here?
Wildfires and how they effect a giving population is a complicated issue. Anybody that tries to pick just one cause, be it brush clearing, climate change or faulty utilities while ignoring the others is being unrealistic.

I live just outside the town of Paradise CA. When the town incorporated in 1979 it passed the Town of Paradise Tree Preservation Ordinance to maintain the forest like environment. I'm pretty sure this is some of the ordinance from a 2005 update:

Sec. 3.08.001 Scope and purpose

(a) This article shall be effective within the geographical limits of the town, including any areas subsequently annexed by the town.

(b) The purpose of this article is to encourage the preservation of trees that once removed can be replaced only after generations, to preserve protected trees during construction and to control the removal of protected trees when necessary. It is the intent of this article to achieve the following:

(1) Prohibit the indiscriminate clearing of property.

(2) Protect and increase the value of residential and commercial properties within the town.

(3) Maintain and enhance a positive image for the attraction of new business enterprises to the town.

(4) Protect healthy quality trees and promote the natural ecological environmental and aesthetic qualities of the town.

(5) Help provide needed shaded areas in order to provide relief from the heat by reducing the ambient temperature.

(6) Help prevent erosion.
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And:

Sec. 3.08.005 Tree preservation and protection

(a) No person shall cut down, destroy, remove or move, or effectively destroy through damaging, any protected tree, directly or indirectly, regardless of whether the protected tree is on private property or the abutting public right-of-way, unless exempt or excepted under the provisions of this article.

(b) The town may issue a stop-work order for any development or construction project or activity at any time if the requirements of this article are not being met. Efforts will be made to allow a developer or builder to comply before the project is shut down.

(c) No clear-cutting of land is allowed. Prior to the removal of any protected tree, regardless of construction or development schedule, a tree preservation plan must be submitted to and approved by the town.

(d) Prior to construction or development of a commercial or residential subdivision project on a site that contains one (1) or more trees, a tree preservation plan must be submitted to and approved by the town. If the site does not contain any protected trees, a letter, prepared by a registered surveyor, engineer, architect or landscape architect, shall be submitted to the town which verifies that protected trees are not on the subject site.
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https://www.crossroadstx.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif6936/f/uploads/tree_preservation_ordinance.pdf

So while well intentioned, it does make it very difficult to thin trees with in the town limits.

Fast forward to 2018 and the Paradise consisted of ~ 27,000 people living in a forested area with 2 main and 2 secondary roads in and out. This type of area is called the Wildland Urban Interface or WUI (woo-ee) here in California and comes with certain building and land clearing requirements, that we had to follow when we built our house in 2017-2018.

But, even though most of the town was built up before the WUI was enacted, it still did not apply, even to new homes with in the town limits. Some guy was building a new home the same time we were ~1/4 mile or less from me, but just inside the town limits. He did not have to follow WUI regulations.

Paradise
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is a town in Butte County, California, United States in the Sierra Nevada foothills above the northeastern Sacramento Valley.[1] As of the 2010 census, the town population was 26,218.
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradise,_California?msclkid=0e0b3655b1fb11ec8d64ab97800103e3

Then there were droughts:

Over the past 10 years before this winter, California experienced two droughts: the big one, from 2012 to 2016, and a more modest one, from 2007 to 2009. As a result, in only three years over the past decade has San Francisco received more than its historical average of 23.65 inches of rain.

Those years were the winter of 2016-17, when drenching storms broke the drought, flooded downtown San Jose, caused mudslides in Big Sur and led to the collapse of the main spillway at Oroville Dam in Butte County, and the winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11, which were slightly wetter than the historical average.
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https://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/2...ink/?msclkid=a709152fb1fb11ecb8b5eb3b1b1acecb

On the morning of November 8, 2018 there were high winds blowing from the Northeast towards the Southwest with very low humidity and then some of Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE)'s old equipment hit some trees just to the Northeast of the Town sparking the Campfire and blowing it straight into town.

The fire, which started on Nov. 8, killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 homes, businesses and other buildings. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said on Wednesday that, after a “very meticulous and thorough investigation,” it had determined that the Camp Fire was caused by “electrical transmission lines owned and operated” by PG&E. The company had said in February that its equipment had probably caused the fire.
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/www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/business/pge-fire.html#:~:text=The%20California%20Department%20of%20Forestry%20and%20Fire%20Protection%2C,that%20its%20equipment%20had%20probably%20caused%20the%20fire.?msclkid=bfb07a13b1fd11ec814ebd07e0c690c8

So drought, faulty utilities, some bureaucratic ineptness (the town did not apply the WUI codes to new homes, so the guy that built around the corner form us didn't have to follow it. He lost his house less than a year after building it), maybe some unintended consequences from trying to protect trees and some plain old bad luck (PGE's old equipment also started the 2021 Dixie fire only a few miles from where the Campfire was started but the summer winds blew it the other way, away from town) all combined.

I think it's disingenuous to focus on just one element, especially to make a political point with something as complicated as wildfires.

Now it's time to get ready for another summer :)

As record-breaking drought fuels another potentially dangerous wildfire season, the state auditor reported today that state officials are failing to hold California’s electric utilities accountable for preventing fires caused by their equipment.

Since 2015, power lines have caused six of California’s 20 most-destructive wildfires, according to the report. Uninsulated lines and older transformers and other equipment are dangerous during high winds, when falling trees or flying debris can strike them and spark flames.
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https://www.pressdemocrat.com/artic...rent-doing-enough-to-reduce-wildfire-threats/
 

Woolery

Banned
Banned
I think it's disingenuous to focus on just one element, especially to make a political point with something as complicated as wildfires.

Now it's time to get ready for another summer :)
Great post. My wife’s brother, his wife and their two kids lost everything in the Camp Fire. We live in Sonoma county. Summers have been stressful. It is indeed a complicated (and serious) problem.

Here’s to some timely spring rain, low winds and a cooler than anticipated summer.
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
Here’s to some timely spring rain, low winds and a cooler than anticipated summer.
I doubt it!! But here's to hoping.

You guys in Sonoma have been hit hard! After the Campfire we had the Bear (2020) and Dixie (2021), they went the other way, but not before grinding on one's nerves. Like your brother in law, my dad and most of the people my wife grew up with lost everything.

Love taking the RV trailer to Sonoma for some vino!
 

DaftVaguer

New Member
Putting this issue aside for the moment, do note how Nova frames the ABC as cheering the protestors on when the original post was neutral in tone, though it primarily covered the protestor's side, which is why some might perceive its coverage as biased. I also find it hilarious that she has the gall to dismiss a former NSW fire commissioner as being someone who knows nothing about climate change, when he probably has a better idea as to how the fires got started and as severe as they already are than she does:
Sheesh, look at the arrogance on brazen display.

Anyways, can anyone tell me what reasons are there for ABC Gippsland to delete the original while keeping the updated version up and running? Anyone else has anything to contribute that I have missed out?
Both posts by the ABC were done before the fires hit. Calling them versions, sounds like one was to replace the other.
The first post was taken down after the bushfires months later.
According to the BuzzFeed
https://www.buzzfeed.com/cameronwilson/unverified-false-information-list-australian-bushfires (item 13)
A local Facebook page for the ABC in Gippsland posted about a group of a dozen residents of Nowa Nowa, a small town in Australia’s southeast, protesting a planned burn of about 900 acres on Sept. 5, 2019.
Claims circulating on social media that the ABC deleted this post are true. An ABC spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the post was deleted because “we are unable to properly moderate comments on the Facebook post at this time”.
Content from External Source
I have the impression a link to the first controlled burn post went viral amongst the Right Wing social media when fires a few months later were impacting coastal towns, and they were overloading the post with commentary.

For the second post:
Source: https://www.facebook.com/ABCGippsland/posts/10157073716334825

A clip of some of the comments might give some indication of sort of comments were appearing in the first.

1648896807383.png
The Daily Mail also ran an article about the same time pointing out the first ABC post.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ar...-blocked-burning-East-Gippsland-bushfire.html
How a tiny group of Greenie protesters managed to stop backburning in East Gippsland over worries baby birds would die - before fires ravaged the area killing four people and forcing mass evacuations from the beach
..
The department scaled back the planned burn from 370 hectares to just nine in what would prove a disastrous move as Australia entered a summer of disaster.
Content from External Source
However according to a media release from Forest Fire Management Victoria Nowa Nowa (where the reduction burns were reduced) was not affected due to reductions elsewhere:
https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/media-re...hfire-in-its-tracks-and-kept-communities-safe
“The Radar Hill planned burn did exactly what it was intended to do,” Mr Fisher said.
“It acted as a barrier to a high intensity fire from the north, slowing its speed and intensity, reduced ember spotting and preventing the bushfire from progressing further to the south.
“Had the fuel reduced area not been there, the fire would have continued to burn fiercely to the south east with spot fires forming well in front of the main fire, overrunning the Princess Highway and impacting the communities of Nowa Nowa, Toorloo and Lake Tyers Beach.”
Content from External Source
The top comments in the second ABC controlled burn post:
1648898870378.png
So reduction burns were successful in containing the fire in some directions. In the second ABC controlled burn article, the Fire Service expressed no concern that reducing burning would be a risk. In south Nowa Nowa, you are getting closer to the sea further south. Fires are more menacing in Victoria if there are hot dry northerlies coming off the land (which usually create our hottest days), which means major fires usually start further north.
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
Nobody likes to make the hard decisions. Everybody wants their forest to remain a forest. Everybody wants things to be as they were before. Life's not like that, though. I sympathize with the people who live in a lovely place, but if the situation calls for change, responsible people put up with change.

I had a tornado come through my property, and was fortunate enough to survive without much damage to the house. But I had a sixty-foot pine that draped over the house and dangled down to the ground on the far side, plus a dozen more littering the back yard like pick-up sticks, leaving that half-acre very bare indeed. The result was loss of windbreak, so the next severe storm left several more trees leaning precariously. I had them all cut down, and made the judgement that the ones they were leaning against were also probably weakened. Out they came. I miss the deep woods I once had ...but wishing things were the same as they were is a fruitless exercise. It was my property and my decision, but I can understand how difficult it would be for people to reach a consensus ...and how essential that responsible people step up to make the hard choices, by law if necessary.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Everybody wants their forest to remain a forest.
And everybody wants their house to remain a house.

Mother Nature replaces old trees with young trees via storms and fires and pests; humans do it with forestry.
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
Going back to the reposted Breitbart Article, it then posts a story from the Daily Mail about an incident where a former volunteer firefighter was fined for clearing trees on his property 100 metres from his house:
Liam Sheahan cleared trees and shrubs within 100 metres of his home in the hills at Strath Creek, central Victoria, in 2002 to create a firebreak in case bushfires ever hit.

While Mr Sheahan thought that was a 'common sense' decision, the local council did not, taking him to court where fines and legal costs left him $100,000 out of pocket.
The story itself was a decade old by then. It was first broken by the Sydney Morning Herald as follows:
THEY were labelled law breakers, fined $50,000 and left emotionally and financially drained.

But seven years after the Sheahans bulldozed trees to make a fire break — an act that got them dragged before a magistrate and penalised — they feel vindicated. Their house is one of the few in Reedy Creek still standing...

Mr Sheahan is still angry about his prosecution, which cost him $100,000 in fines and legal fees. The council's planning laws allow trees to be cleared only when they are within six metres of a house. Mr Sheahan cleared trees up to 100 metres away from his house.
And from this story the article extrapolates that a lack of hazard reduction, plus governmental restrictions on private property owners thereof, as is the case with Sheahan, is a widespread issue plaguing the regions affected by the bushfire.
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
The Breitbart article also links to this blog post which shows this BOM graph documenting financial year rainfall anomalies:
1666847952264.png
Which is drastically different from their annual rainfall anomaly:
1666848039953.png
Now why is this the case? Well it's because the financial year graph is averaging rainfall data that spans across two separate years. This means each point is an average of 12 months worth of data, but 6 months of it are in one year and 6 months another. This leads to a form of statistical distortion
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
The story itself was a decade old by then. It was first broken by the Sydney Morning Herald as follows:
Article:
The family of four had discussed evacuation but decided their property was defensible, due largely to their decision to clear a fire break. It also helped that Mr Sheahan, his son Rowan and daughter Kirsten were all experienced members of the local CFA.

"We prayed and we worked bloody hard. Our house was lit up eight times by the fire as the front passed," Mr Sheahan said. "The elements off our TV antenna melted. We lost a Land Rover, two Subarus, a truck and trailer and two sheds."

if anybody else had been living there, the house would've still burned down
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Which is drastically different from their annual rainfall anomaly:
doesn't look that drastically different, qualitatively they look the same

if you want to look at dry summers, you're better off with the financial year as that keeps the summer months together, so that one bar equals one summer; if you want to look at wet winters, the calendar year graph is more useful.
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
doesn't look that drastically different, qualitatively they look the same

if you want to look at dry summers, you're better off with the financial year as that keeps the summer months together, so that one bar equals one summer; if you want to look at wet winters, the calendar year graph is more useful.

Vice versa - they have summer in winter down under.
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
vice versa - they have summer in winter down under.
Maybe I'm missing it, but if the fiscal year is July of 2020 through June of 2021 doesn't that group November 2020 through March 2021 together? Summer down under, right?

Likewise, a calander year would group the winter months, May through September, together. No?

if anybody else had been living there, the house would've still burned down
Seems likely.

As we live in the fire prone part of the county outside the nearby town limits, we're required to have 100' (30m) of "defensible space" by CalFire. Bulldozing out to 300+ (100m) does seem a bit excessive.

After clearing around a house, the next biggest danger is blowing embers, which I'm guessing was the problem for these guys. I tried to be prudent when I built in '17 and have no wood of any kind on the exterior of the house. All metal, stucco and concrete board along with ember-proof vents. So, it was unscathed even though the property around it, as well as 2 neighboring homes were all burned and there was no response from CalFire.

Unscathed, except for the seafood in the freezer which sat for 10 days with no power. :confused:
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
But, as he said, "We lost a Land Rover, two Subarus, a truck and trailer and two sheds", so that suggests it wasn't excessive after all.
why do you feel a 30m fire break would have performed differently? given that the heat may well have blown up the hillside from the valley below?
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
Article:
The family of four had discussed evacuation but decided their property was defensible, due largely to their decision to clear a fire break. It also helped that Mr Sheahan, his son Rowan and daughter Kirsten were all experienced members of the local CFA.

"We prayed and we worked bloody hard. Our house was lit up eight times by the fire as the front passed," Mr Sheahan said. "The elements off our TV antenna melted. We lost a Land Rover, two Subarus, a truck and trailer and two sheds."

if anybody else had been living there, the house would've still burned down
I don't think this necessarily addresses the point made by the Breitbart article I linked, which is that Sheahan's case is representative of all the councils in the bushfire affected regions, as in most of them have laws restricting the size of the firebreak you can create from your house. My counter is that you can't make such an extrapolation from just one case alone, and that the laws could have well changed since then.

And the article also cites this 2009 SMH Op-ed by a Miranda Devine:
In July 2007 Scott Gentle... Gentle complained of obstruction from green local government authorities of any type of fire mitigation strategies. He told of green interference at Kinglake - at the epicentre of Saturday's disaster, where at least 147 people died - during a smaller fire there in 2007...

In nearby St Andrews, where more than 20 people are believed to have died, surviving residents have spoken angrily of "greenies" who prevented them from cutting back trees near their property, including in one case, a tea tree that went "whoomp".
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
Maybe I'm missing it, but if the fiscal year is July of 2020 through June of 2021 doesn't that group November 2020 through March 2021 together? Summer down under, right?

Likewise, a calander year would group the winter months, May through September, together. No?

Yes. I truly herped the derp there, didn't I.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
In the video linked above, AJW then cites several incidences relating to restrictions on hazard reduction burns to back up his thesis that a lack of hazard reduction caused by environmentalists is the prime culprit in the severity of the bushfire season; the assumption being that the bushfire season wouldn't have been as severe if it weren't for a lack of hazard reduction.
And from this story the article extrapolates that a lack of hazard reduction, plus governmental restrictions on private property owners thereof, as is the case with Sheahan, is a widespread issue plaguing the regions affected by the bushfire.
I don't think this necessarily addresses the point made by the Breitbart article I linked, which is that Sheahan's case is representative of all the councils in the bushfire affected regions, as in most of them have laws restricting the size of the firebreak you can create from your house.
Assuming I have identified the point you're referring to, my counter is that the 100m fire break did not save the cars or the sheds and would not have saved the house had the inhabitants not been experienced fire fighters (I assume that's shat a CFA is?). The claim that the regulation size firebreak is too small is not well supported by the Sheahan case, as even the big fire break resulted in significant loss of property.
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
Assuming I have identified the point you're referring to, my counter is that the 100m fire break did not save the cars or the sheds and would not have saved the house had the inhabitants not been experienced fire fighters (I assume that's shat a CFA is?). The claim that the regulation size firebreak is too small is not well supported by the Sheahan case, as even the big fire break resulted in significant loss of property.
So how do you square your observation that Sheahan's house wouldn't had survived if he hadn't been an experienced firefighter with his personal perception that his firebreak helped?
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
Perhaps this video of potholer54 could help; it deals with almost every argument that went around and shows what the science and fire combatting officials have tot say about it.
Source: https://youtu.be/t0x46-enxsA
At timestamp 9:46 in the vid, Potholer cites this 2010 study which demonstrates an increased FFDI trend. However, the study does mention that they aren't able to determine how much of it is caused by natural vs anthropogenic climate change:
Although these trends are consistent with projected impacts of climate change on FFDI, this study cannot separate the influence of climate change, if any, with that of natural variability.
Though I think Potholer wasn't so much trying to cite it to prove that the increase in FFDI was caused by climate change, moreso to prove that the FFDI has increased, and therefore the current bushfire weather is more severe than in prior years.
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
However, the study does mention that they aren't able to determine how much of it is caused by natural vs anthropogenic climate change:
An analogy I have heard is that of a baseball player who has a certain batting average, which increases the next season after he has been taking steroids. It isn't possible to say this hit was natural and that hit was steroid-enhanced ...but his average still rose. A lack of ability to quantify the cause and effect with any precision doesn't mean it isn't there.
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
So how do you square your observation that Sheahan's house wouldn't had survived if he hadn't been an experienced firefighter with his personal perception that his firebreak helped?

I would think just by reading what the people said happened:

The family of four had discussed evacuation but decided their property was defensible, due largely to their decision to clear a fire break. It also helped that Mr Sheahan, his son Rowan and daughter Kirsten were all experienced members of the local CFA.

"We prayed and we worked bloody hard. Our house was lit up eight times by the fire as the front passed," Mr Sheahan said. "The elements off our TV antenna melted. We lost a Land Rover, two Subarus, a truck and trailer and two sheds.
Content from External Source
It's possible they are exaggerating to sound heroic, but if we take them at their word, despite the fire break the house caught on fire multiple times. Because they stayed and were firefighters of some sort, they managed to save the house and some of the outbuildings. Had they not made the fire break, they would have been overwhelmed. It's possible a non-firefighter trained person may have been able to do the same with the fire break.

The fire break wasn't a fail-safe, it just helped to create a "defensible space" around the house so it could be defended. Which it was.

If this is the house in the background, it appears to have be a wood sided house with a wood(?) porch. It also seems to have a number of trees still around it, all of which would have been subject to blowing embers.

1667073495387.png
1667073628820.png
In addition, check out the wall of burned out timber. If that would have been closer to the house, I doubt they could have saved it:

1667074009631.png

Here's what CalFire requires for defensible space:

1667074170007.png

And in the next year, there will be a new 0-5' ember rule, something that might have helped the Sheahans:

Zone 0 extends 5 feet from buildings, structures, decks, etc.

The ember-resistant zone is currently not required by law, but science has proven it to be the most important of all the defensible space zones. This zone includes the area under and around all attached decks, and requires the most stringent wildfire fuel reduction. The ember-resistant zone is designed to keep fire or embers from igniting materials that can spread the fire to your home. The following provides guidance for this zone, which may change based on the regulation developed by the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Content from External Source
https://www.fire.ca.gov/programs/communications/defensible-space-prc-4291/
 

TheNZThrower

Active Member
The video by AJW also cited an article from The Age paraphrasing bushfire scientist called David Packham, who claims that green policy is leading to a lack of hazard reduction:
Forest fuel levels have worsened over the past 30 years because of "misguided green ideology", vested interests, political failure and mismanagement, creating a massive bushfire threat, a former CSIRO bushfire scientist has warned.

Victoria's "failed fire management policy" is an increasing threat to human life, water supplies, property and the forest environment, David Packham said in a submission to the state's Inspector-General for Emergency Management.
How credible is Packham?
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
How credible is Packham?
According to Monash university, "David Packham, School of Geography and Environmental Science" was their "Bushfire management" expert back in 2013. I hear he's retired now.

However, his claims are quite debunkable.
Article:
In addition, the policies that block property owners from carrying out fire reduction measures don’t exist, in fact, quite the opposite. Professor Ross Bradstock, the director of the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong, says property holders are largely free to carry out fuel removal activities themselves without needing to seek permits.

The Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy supports this – here is a smattering of the fuel clearing and fire prevention activities that landowners can undertake without a permit:

• continued lawful land uses that were occurring before July 2000. This includes activities that have continued in the same location without enlargement, expansion or intensification, including activities done cyclically over long periods of time such as works to reduce the fire risk. The types of activities that might fall within this category include:
• maintaining access tracks and fire breaks
• maintaining existing fire infrastructure, services and utilities
• doing routine controlled burns of the type that have occurred in the past

• forestry operations done in accordance with a Regional Forest Agreement (as defined in the Regional Forest Agreement Act 2002)

• activities done in accordance with an endorsed strategic assessment policy, plan or program under national environment law

Fire prevention activities that are unlikely to require approval by the federal government may include:
• routine fuel reduction burns, including roadside burns, done in accordance with state or territory law requirements
• routine maintenance of existing fire breaks, fire infrastructure, services and utilities
• clearing of a defendable space around a home or rural asset in accordance with state/territory and local government requirements.

The full list of inclusions, exclusions, and the application process for those actions that aren’t allowed is viewable here.

So Packham is wrong about both the green influence on fire reduction legislation and what that legislation actually is.

Over and above this legislation, the Australian governments (both central and state) have been actively encouraging the clearing of large areas of bush and forest, at the rate of 395,000 hectares a year (in Queensland).


Article:
Packham ridicules fire chiefs and scientists for suggesting that climate change is in anyway causal to the current fires. Yet, in his own interview (at around the 8 minute mark), he makes reference to the necessary (but sufficient only in combination) aspects of the phenomenon of bushfires:

1. Hot, dry, windy weather
2. Fuel
3. An ignition source

The article then goes on to claim that the hotness and dryness of the weather is obviously affected by climate change.

Article:
It is clear that fuel and the management thereof is key to the Australian situation, as noted above. However, to claim that – somehow – fuel is not also affected by just how hot, dry and windy it is again ignores physics. Furthermore, given that this current fire season started two months early, there hasn’t been the necessary window in which to do the necessary burning. Bill McCormick notes in his paper ‘Is Fuel Reduction Burning the Answer?’

While fuel reduction burning is the principal means to reduce the risks of bushfire, under extreme conditions bushfires can burn across land with very low fuel loads, which would have been halted under milder conditions.

In addition, and in Greg Mullins words, “…the windows for standard hazard reduction measures during winter months [are] becoming increasingly sparse.”


Article:
Summary

To revisit and rebut the points in the “Giordano Bruno” article (which is more or less a restatement of Packham’s position):

1. Eucalyptus oil is highly flammable so fallen branches should not be allowed to pile up.

They aren’t. Or at least there is no legal impediment to clearing them.

2. Not enough clearing of potential fuel is being done, and legislation actively discourages such actions.

The issues here are resources (time and people), which is mostly an issue of policy (and nothing to do with “Greenies”), and the length of the season available to do this via burning is as short as three months (as in the Northern Territory), and certainly shorter than it was when Packham was actively working in the field (at least 10 years ago).

3. This legislation is especially problematic in native reserves or forests.

In reality, Australia’s east coast is a world hotspot for clear felling, thanks to Government rather than Green policy. Protection laws have in fact been loosened, but it’s not just the fuel that’s being cleared.

4. Climate change has nothing to do with these failures.

The fact and impact of fuel and its flammability are affected by how hot and dry the bush is. Fuel clearance programs that require burn-off require large windows of appropriate conditions to carry out; these have been reduced by a hotter, drier climate. Forest clearing, simultaneously removes areas of fuel but also reduces the carbon-sink land area of Australia, and it is continuing apace.

The four main points made by ECLA address all of the issues noted by Packham and then some:

1. take immediate measures to aid current firefighting and community protection efforts.
2. make effective strategic interventions to increase community resilience and support fire and emergency services
3. a suitable auditing framework for strategic fuel management requirements.
4. action on climate change

Packham is not wrong about fuel clearing, he’s just wrong in how he goes about promulgating his views about it. He is attacking the very group of people that would be most likely to enact the measures he believes are necessary (and more besides) and in doing so is adding fuel to the fire of denialism. In Australia, such denialism is in bed with clear felling for agriculture and the exporting of coal.

Conclusion

In the maelstrom of misinformation that is the public square, it is incredibly easy to be seduced by reasonable-sounding bad actors, and even just people with good ideas who are using deceptive means to get their ideas accepted. What is clear is that Climate Change is a large contextual factor for the Australian bushfires with implications and ramifications for how fuel and other resources should be (and can be) managed.

The unpopular take home is that Australia, in the medium term, needs volunteer bush fuel clearers. This is more thankless and less “romantic” than being a volunteer bush fire fighter, but prevention is clearly better than cure. This, ironically, makes the management of fuel loads in the Australian bush an excellent metaphor for Climate Change more generally.
 
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