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Your views: on a paid emergency taskforce, and fuel loads v climate change

Reader contributions

Today, readers discuss the role of emergency services volunteers, and managing forest fuel loads to reduce bushfire risk.

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Commenting on the opinion piece: Building tomorrow’s disaster response today

This story has merit in parts, but it ignores the fundamental nature of volunteer firefighter and SES volunteers.

I write this as a 15 year SES volunteer and 15 year CFS volunteer. I was also an officer in both organisations.

One major fact is that disasters like we are seeing now have a greater effect on rural communities, rather than metropolitan cities.

Therefore, getting city people to understand fully the need for such an organisation is much harder.

We have seen here in South Australia the opposition to the Emergency Services Levy, which was brought in to provide a stable funding source for our volunteers.

Another fact is that local volunteers have an intimate knowledge of their environment, and when the Mount Brown fire erupted in December, 1996, fully paid CFS officers were brought in from Adelaide to manage it.

They struggled in some areas to adequately communicate with people on the fireground.

The notion of a national body to co-ordinate and manage has merit.

Currently, in CFS, brigades respond to an incident. If it’s too big for them to handle, they call in other brigades in their group, who then take over management.

At this point assistance is given by regional staff. As the situation escalates, neighbouring regions are asked for resources, and while crews on the ground manage the fire, resources and support services are handled at state level.

Ideally, there could then be a referral to a national body such as the National Disaster Organization in Canberra to co-ordinate an interstate and military response if needed.

In regards to compensation, there are two things that could be done. Firstly, as has been argued by a lot of SA CFS Brigades, their members should not have to pay the ESL.

Secondly, when I was a volunteer, working in the railways, which was a government entity, initially I was automatically released on full pay to attend incidents.

That then changed, but has now been re-instated by the PM. The states need to follow suit.

Private employers also need to be encouraged to release people, and ideally both they and the volunteer would be financially compensated.

My final comment relates to the actual creation of such a body. How many people would be needed, and are there enough potential employees out there without impinging on existing emergency services?

What resources would they be given, and how would they interact with local volunteers, most of whom resent people coming in to deal with their fire (at least initially)? – William George Cole

Commenting on the story: Liberal MP says fuel load not climate change driving bushfires

Dangerously simplistic thinking by Craig Kelly.

Ask him if he has ever seen a bushfire tearing across open paddocks where the fuel load is stubble barely 10 centimetres high e.g. the Pinery fire in South Australia.

Ask him if he has ever heard of the catalytic converter on a car starting a bushfire in short grass , e.g. the Wangary fire on the Eyre Peninsula in 2005, which killed nine people.  Brian Donaghy

Craig is very close to the money with his statement that the intensity and duration of more recent bushfires is because of fuel load.

The climate change question is debateable, but we cannot ignore that over the past several years Australia has been historically dry.

With or without climate change, the fuel load problem needs to be addressed.

National parks have been entrusted to managers that are very strongly aligned with nature. The policy seems to be to leave the parks untouched.

This would be the very first time in history that this has happened, with most of the country having some interaction since time began.

The parks and wildlife managers now have very large pieces of lands with very limited resources to administer that land. They also appear to have little appetite to make that land safe.

If the main fires were to be closely examined, we would find that the conditions (including fuel loads), abundant throughout the national parks areas  contributed immensely to the ferocity and duration of the bushfires.

I have been trying for a full year to clear up and reduce fuel loads on a crown lease area of some 1700 hectares, only to have resistance from native vegetation and local council thwart my efforts. They would rather see it burnt than managed.

Let’s call on our leaders to take a better look at land management placing some emphasis on human life, while putting some pressure on the managers of native vegetation, so we can safely maintain our reserves.

The naturalists have a lot to say when prescribed burns are conducted, but are voiceless at times such as now when we are counting the costs of having pristine vegetation areas.

My point is with or without believing in climate change, lets manage our assets in a safer and more balanced manner.

No point in buying carbon credits when we need to put funding into cleaning up our own act. Ed Morgan

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