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Second Blue Mountains fire in two years demands new thinking

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) chief executive officer Ross Hampton has called on the Federal Government to trial the effectiveness of machinery removal of understory bush and competing trees in an attempt to find new solutions to reducing the intensity of bushfires. Source: AFPA.

“For the second time in as many years the Blue Mountains are going up in smoke,” Hampton said.

“With many authorities citing climate change as a driver of more and deadlier bushfires, it is vital that we look at all options for decreasing the fuel load.

“The Australian Government allocated $15 million in the May budget to bushfire mitigation measures.

“I call on the Government to set aside $1.5 million of that fund to fund trials so we can ascertain if machinery removal can combine with the usual winter burn-offs to make a more dramatic impact on risk reduction.”

A Deloitte Access Economics scoping study, commissioned by AFPA, found that removing fuel from as little as 5 per cent of a dangerously dense areas could dramatically lessen the chances of out of control fires.

The study found that if fuel reduction had occurred before last year’s Blue Mountains fires for example, the blaze would have been far more manageable and saved NSW $34 million.

The study also found major community benefits such as fewer days off work for those affected and reduced health impacts such as asthma.

“Every year at this time all over Australia, our bush fight-fighters prep their gear and keep the fire-trucks idling in readiness for the inevitable call out,” Hampton said.

“But this is really akin to parking the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. It is past time we had a more rational discussion about reducing fuel load.

“Winter burn-offs are useful but are often limited because of their smoke impact on the community.

“Forestry industries in this country rely on the trees in state managed native forests and our 2 million hectares of hardwood and softwood plantations.

“Every time a fire in a National Park or on private land, crosses into a plantation or state forest these precious assets, which take up to 60 years to mature, are damaged or destroyed.”