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Kevin Tolhurst’s untimely death leaves a void in forestry

Prof Kevin Tolhurst

Australia’s top bushfire scientist, University of Melbourne Associate Professor Kevin Tolhurst has died of a heart attack. Source: Weekly Times

The news was confirmed by the Forests Commission Retired Personnel Association, which was informed of Professor Tolhurst’s death by his family.

Professor Tolhurst was speaking at a bushfire preparedness event in Mallacoota on Thursday, where Fire Management Victoria chief fire officer Chris Hardman was also a presenter.

Mr Hardman said Professor Tolhurst was “an irreplaceable human being”.

“Kevin is one of the architects of reshaping bushfire modelling in Victoria,” Mr Hardman said.

“One of his real superpowers as a highly regarded academic was his ability to take complex scientific messaging and make it so regular people could understand it.

“I’ve always been in awe of his ability to do that.”

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester was also at the Mallacoota event and offered condolences in a statement.

“The death of Kevin Tolhurst is an enormous loss to his loved ones and all regional Australians who live in, or alongside, our native forests,” the statement said.

“I’ve no doubt that Kevin’s contribution to bushfire science has helped to save lives in the past and contributed to better decision making when it comes to natural resource management.

“Kevin was a rare breed. I spoke to him briefly after the meeting in Mallacoota and thanked him for his outstanding presentation, and I was very sad to learn he had fallen ill and didn’t recover despite the prompt treatment of health professionals. May he rest in peace.”

The event was organised by The Howitt Society, and Howitt society Secretary Garry Squires said Professor Tolhurst “did a very comprehensive presentation to the community of Mallacoota. He’s been absolutely critical to some of the fire prediction work in Victoria for a long, long time”.

“It will be a major loss.”

Attendees at the meeting said Professor Tolhurst left the room after his presentation under no apparent duress before requesting an ambulance.