Hit it hard and fast...

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Hit it hard and fast...

Postby tastrax » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 9:00 am

A topic for discussion...

The current thread on the Gell River fires has again raised the issue of rapid detection of fires and hitting them hard and fast and putting them out, however fire management, to me, seems to be a much more complex issue. Surely if you are suggesting every fire should be extinguished rapidly you are also accepting continued growth of fuels in adjacent areas. This must mean that as time goes by each fire becomes harder to extinguish as fuels build, unless there is some fuel reduction program?

Of course any fuel reduction program must have clear objectives as to what is hoped to be achieved (% of fuel removed, area to be covered, assets or values being protected by such burns etc) even before you determine the best method (traditional, broadscale, bare earth trails etc).

Finally, we also have to be prepared to fund all these initiatives somehow and prioritise resources between concurrent events.

Is this really a possibility and what are we prepared to give up to accomplish such an objective?
Cheers - Phil

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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby potato » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 9:15 am

I doubt any agency would ever get the funding needed to achieve the suggested hard and fast suppression and fuel reduction regime.

I'm kind of glad that is the case as we would adding another anthropogenic management layer to these wilderness landscapes.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby Mark F » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 9:34 am

Hit it hard and fast seems like a good idea but when it was practiced for several decades in US - think Smokey the Bear - it has lead to worse fire outcomes due to fuel build up and loss of a mosaic pattern of fuel accumulation. This, of course, was in conifer forest rather than more open vegetation. Buttongrass is normally thought of as enjoying a fire frequency of 1 - 5 years ? but this frequency of burning has been missing for many years in remote locations like much of the south west leading to hotter and larger fires when conditions allow ignition. A single burn will not restore the balance, rather it would take a decade of careful, well planned mosaic burning to come close.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby north-north-west » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 10:01 am

It depends on a lot of factors, including the vegetation types actually burning and those threatened by a spread.

Specifically in relation to the Gell River fire, there's no question that the lower ground - the scrub and buttongrass - needed burning. But big fire events like this are not the best way for that to happen, and not only because of the endangered plant communities that can be affected by a quick moving uncontrolled fire. We have to remember how those extensive plains developed and were maintained.

A fire that, given expected and prevailing conditions, can easily spread into sensitive areas, needs to be dealt with quickly. But, as Mark said, the only way to minimise the danger of these big, hot, fast fires, is to reinstitute the old small, slow, regular, colder season burning regimen. It takes, time, money, effort, understanding and commitment to maintain the program over the long term - none of which we are particularly good at. Actually doing something about climate change wouldn't be a bad thing either.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby stepbystep » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 10:21 am

tastrax wrote:Is this really a possibility and what are we prepared to give up to accomplish such an objective?


Quite happy to give up a fleet of submarines!
Fire is not only the biggest threat to our wilderness regions but also our built environments, not to mention the wilderness 'brand' is worth billions to a place like Tasmania. Last weekend we were very lucky the cool SE change came when it did. Political will and lots of dollars required!

Consider what would happen if the Overland Track was razed...
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby potato » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 10:24 am

north-north-west wrote: Actually doing something about climate change wouldn't be a bad thing either.


That is it. But as we are doing nothing about that, we need to face the fact that the structure of these landscapes are responding to a changing climate. Pumping $$$$$ into hard and fast efforts isn't going to do everything the firies want you to believe.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby tastrax » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 10:30 am

north-north-west wrote:But, as Mark said, the only way to minimise the danger of these big, hot, fast fires, is to reinstitute the old small, slow, regular, colder season burning regimen. It takes, time, money, effort, understanding and commitment to maintain the program over the long term - none of which we are particularly good at.


This is what I cant get my head around. If the areas are small and it needs to done regularly then the costs would be very, very high. For instance with the Vale of Rasselass would a regime of a total area burn (albeit in patches) be needed on a 5 year rotation. I just cant see anyone funding that given there are hundreds of these types of areas across the WHA (before even thinking about specific species protection fires in special locations that might need a more regular regime).
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby tastrax » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 10:33 am

stepbystep wrote:Consider what would happen if the Overland Track was razed...


I suspect the Overland Track has a higher perceived $$$ value than some other areas (or species) so it would likely get greater resources. Is the problem that we cant put a $$$ value on wilderness or particular species (both flora and fauna)? If these things had a greater perceived value would they get more resources?

PS - yep, I agree we could probably forego submarines for a few years
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby north-north-west » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 10:38 am

tastrax wrote:
north-north-west wrote:But, as Mark said, the only way to minimise the danger of these big, hot, fast fires, is to reinstitute the old small, slow, regular, colder season burning regimen. It takes, time, money, effort, understanding and commitment to maintain the program over the long term - none of which we are particularly good at.


This is what I cant get my head around. If the areas are small and it needs to done regularly then the costs would be very, very high. For instance with the Vale of Rasselass would a regime of a total area burn (albeit in patches) be needed on a 5 year rotation. I just cant see anyone funding that given there are hundreds of these types of areas across the WHA (before even thinking about specific species protection fires in special locations that might need a more regular regime).


It was done for thousands of years as an integral part of life. Yes, under modern conditions and requirements the cost would probably be prohibitive, but we aren't even looking at doing it in the most important areas. Proper collation of knowledge about the appropriate burning regimens for various vegetation communities and areas is the first step.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby potato » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 10:40 am

north-north-west wrote: Proper collation of knowledge about the appropriate burning regimens for various vegetation communities and areas is the first step.


I agree but that in itself would cost a fortune.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby tastrax » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 10:52 am

... and to achieve the same outcome (fuel reduction) I cant see the burn prescriptions being any different to the ones currently being used?

http://www.fire.tas.gov.au/userfiles/st ... smania.pdf

2.2.3 has the guidelines for buttongrass
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby trekker76 » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 5:30 pm

Im not part of the regions involved, but wonder, does this need to be fixed? Is it any worse than it was( before say colonisation)?
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby Gadgetgeek » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 5:56 pm

Total fire suppression is pretty directly responsible for all the major fires in north america. The Califonia Camp fire, last years huge fires across norther alberta. As said, once you loose the patchwork, it doesn't matter what you do, the fire will get bigger, and then nothing contains it.

Personally I would prefer wilderness areas managed in such a way that provides for the best diversity, and therefor the most interesting walking. Sure you can have a static trail that never moves, or you have trails that form and evolve, but there is always an area that will be the easiest crossing, or the best lookout. I don't know if the costs are greater or lesser once the system is in place, but I do know that these large fires are more dangerous to fight, take more heavy resources, and move much much faster.
I do think that often wilderness managers are hamstrung by public opinion, and that does need to change. I also think that until the average person takes "evidence based" as a good enough explanation for anything, we will keep losing. So far I'm seeing (not here, but wider public) a lot of head in the sand "we've always done it this way" and " but I deserve to go there"
Charles Lindberg was a horrible human being, but he did get one thing I can agree with. When asked about the possibility of aircraft harming birds he is reported to have said something like "I'd rather be able to watch a bird fly, than to do so myself" So maybe some of the natural areas do need to be left to themselves, but do we have any leaders with the stones to turn down a tourist bus to make that happen? That might be the bigger question.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby CraigVIC » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 5:58 pm

For those that listen to podcasts, Outside Podcast, Science of Survival did a four part series on exactly this issue from the American perspective recently called respectively The Sky Is Burning/ Fighting Fire with Fire/ The Future of Fire/ Burnout

I found it very interesting to hear the debate about controlled burns mirrored there with all the same issues about fuel loads and regeneration and plant profiles etc that came after black Saturday in Victoria.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby north-north-west » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 7:44 pm

Gadgetgeek wrote:Total fire suppression is pretty directly responsible for all the major fires in north america.


Total fire suppression is not the answer in Australiia - there are too many species that need fire to regenerate. It's about safe burning to maximise benefit to the natural ecosystems, which includes the impact on wildlife as well as plant communities.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby tastrax » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 8:16 pm

CraigVIC wrote:For those that listen to podcasts, Outside Podcast, Science of Survival did a four part series on exactly this issue from the American perspective recently called respectively The Sky Is Burning/ Fighting Fire with Fire/ The Future of Fire/ Burnout

I found it very interesting to hear the debate about controlled burns mirrored there with all the same issues about fuel loads and regeneration and plant profiles etc that came after black Saturday in Victoria.


Thanks Craig, I will check em out.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby CraigVIC » Tue 08 Jan, 2019 8:23 pm

The same arguments are made there as here against total suppression.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby Xplora » Wed 09 Jan, 2019 6:05 am

We have a controlled burn planned for the ridgeline immediately north west of us and when I see other burn areas they tend to be positioned to protect assets. Not sure how you can determine where a fire will come from but given the last fire through here was 16 years ago, there is a significant amount of fuel on the ground. Fires on the mountain are always hit hard and fast because of the threat to assets (ski resort) but I would like to see a fire through our place again so we can get to all the weeds that have taken over since the last fire. We were not here then but that fire germinated a huge amount of English Broom which is now out of control. It would do the same again but at least we would have 2 years to throw everything at it.

Fire management is controlled by politicians who respond only after a tragic event and then only to reduce blame.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby potato » Wed 09 Jan, 2019 7:34 am

Xplora wrote:Fire management is controlled by politicians who respond only after a tragic event and then only to reduce blame.


Indeed. But lets not forget the fire bureaucrats who like to keep themselves in a job providing the politicians will one line media grabs... including continuing the belief that any vegetation is fuel and only fuel.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby Gadgetgeek » Fri 11 Jan, 2019 1:23 pm

north-north-west wrote:
Gadgetgeek wrote:Total fire suppression is pretty directly responsible for all the major fires in north america.


Total fire suppression is not the answer in Australiia - there are too many species that need fire to regenerate. It's about safe burning to maximise benefit to the natural ecosystems, which includes the impact on wildlife as well as plant communities.

Northern Canada has several species that need the fire to get a head start, and ensure a diverse forest. Lodge Pole Pine cones can only release the seeds in a fire, so no burn offs, no lodge pole. I don't know if there has been research into it, but I would suspect that fires would have an impact on reducing parasites like ticks, so that might be a natural barrier as well. In Canada warm winters often see more animal deaths than colder as the animals cannot shed the tick load. In Canada its also possible to burn off around peat bogs without the peat burning, if the surface fuel load is low enough. However if the peat starts burning that's a major problem. I don't know if ground fires are well known in Australia, but I'm sure everyone has seen something about coal seam fires. Its very similar.

If someone wants a cabin in the woods, that's their business, but fire is part of the ecosystem, no matter where you live.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby Buddy » Fri 11 Jan, 2019 1:45 pm

Fire suppression through a planned regime of mosaic burning is an excellent idea. Only dedicating 8 men on the ground on the back of multiple lightning strikes in the Gell is a dumb idea. You are witnessing the results of that now. We need to be burning on OUR terms, not Nature's.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby stepbystep » Fri 11 Jan, 2019 2:16 pm

Buddy wrote:Fire suppression through a planned regime of mosaic burning is an excellent idea. Only dedicating 8 men on the ground on the back of multiple lightning strikes in the Gell is a dumb idea. You are witnessing the results of that now. We need to be burning on OUR terms, not Nature's.


And perhaps...(I don't know the how...just hoping) there are methods of landscape modification that work in multi-generational terms that build less combustible country. We are combatting a landscape that was built over a long time to be the way it is. Expand our wet forests perhaps? Create swamplands? I don't know. But some smarter people than me hopefully have some ideas, it'd be great to hear them.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby ghosta » Wed 17 Apr, 2019 1:40 pm

Everyone seems to want to fight against nature and the naturally occuring response it has to whatever is thrown at it!

The Australian landscape adapted to the presence of man thousands of years ago...the result was large scale desertification of huge areas of Australia, the consequential drying out of the continent, and the dominance of fire tolerant eucalypt vegetation which is absolutely dependent on fire for long term survival.

Then came European occupation which simply meant it would all change. "It" incudes all the "natural" ecosystems. The adaptations are driven by climate changes resulting from land clearing, pollution and a changed fire regime. The changes are irreversible.

The campaign to save remnant gondwana origin vegetation communities has already been lost, and all attempts to fight natures repsonse to changed circumstances might delay the inevitable for a short while... for decades perhaps but not for much longer. Attempts to "hit it hard and fast" can never stop nature taking its own course.

Just to illustrate one significant change to the fire regime in Tasmania is that lightning was reported to have started many fires last summer. I am a retired firefighter who spent most of my career in the bushfire field and I know of only one instance where lightning was recognised as starting a fire in Tasmania.

While theoretically an intensive fire management strategy could help maintain the APPEARANCE of the "status quo", it is simply not something the public wants and not something fire management authorities are capable of delivering. Such a strategy would involve management of wildfire and strategic burning. The former was once practiced mainly by Forestry and some early Fire Service personell who steered fires around assets or left fires to burn harmlessly ...practices now totally abandoned and the skills now lost. The latter (burning) will not happen despite state governments making funding available (in no short measure as a response to climate change), public pressures have meant that personell tasked to impliment burning spend their time cowering in offices making excuses why even 5% of the long term targets for burning have not been achieved.

While ever the press reports fires in the bush as having " destroyed" the bush, instead of reporting it as a completly natural event, and while ANY fire in iconic places like the Overland Track is seen a bad and not something to celebrate, significant hazard reduction cannot occur. While that may just mean that nature will follow its predestined course, it also mean that in settled areas significant damage to buildings plantations crops farms etc will certainly not decrease.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby tastrax » Wed 17 Apr, 2019 2:46 pm

ghosta wrote:Just to illustrate one significant change to the fire regime in Tasmania is that lightning was reported to have started many fires last summer. I am a retired firefighter who spent most of my career in the bushfire field and I know of only one instance where lightning was recognised as starting a fire in Tasmania.


Blimey, I only did one season aerial fire spotting for Parks and Wildlife and I can assure you there are hundreds of lightning strikes that cause fires in Tassie, especially in the World Heritage Area in buttongrass . Many were extinguished as the lightning storms were followed by rain but that is the thing that appears to be changing - dry lightning storms and overall drier conditions.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby J M » Thu 18 Apr, 2019 6:13 pm

ghosta wrote:

The Australian landscape adapted to the presence of man thousands of years ago...the result was large scale desertification of huge areas of Australia, the consequential drying out of the continent, and the dominance of fire tolerant eucalypt vegetation which is absolutely dependent on fire for long term survival.


Also - I think there may be just a couple more factors at play explaining why Australia is such a dry continent. It is most definitely not solely due to human occupation/changed fire regimes.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby north-north-west » Thu 25 Apr, 2019 9:05 am

ghosta wrote:The campaign to save remnant gondwana origin vegetation communities has already been lost, and all attempts to fight natures repsonse to changed circumstances might delay the inevitable for a short while... for decades perhaps but not for much longer. Attempts to "hit it hard and fast" can never stop nature taking its own course.


Anthropogenic climate change and habitat destruction are neither natural nor inevitable.

Just to illustrate one significant change to the fire regime in Tasmania is that lightning was reported to have started many fires last summer. I am a retired firefighter who spent most of my career in the bushfire field and I know of only one instance where lightning was recognised as starting a fire in Tasmania.


Lightning often starts fires. The difference is that recent fires have been caused by dry lightning strikes which have been virtually unheard of in Tassie until recently.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby Tortoise » Thu 25 Apr, 2019 10:38 am

ghosta wrote:Just to illustrate one significant change to the fire regime in Tasmania is that lightning was reported to have started many fires last summer. I am a retired firefighter who spent most of my career in the bushfire field and I know of only one instance where lightning was recognised as starting a fire in Tasmania.

A friend witnessed dry lightning strikes start 9 fires in the SW one evening this summer. Flash, bang, plume of smoke x 9. They were safely evacuated.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby north-north-west » Thu 25 Apr, 2019 10:58 am

Tortoise wrote:
ghosta wrote:Just to illustrate one significant change to the fire regime in Tasmania is that lightning was reported to have started many fires last summer. I am a retired firefighter who spent most of my career in the bushfire field and I know of only one instance where lightning was recognised as starting a fire in Tasmania.

A friend witnessed dry lightning strikes start 9 fires in the SW one evening this summer. Flash, bang, plume of smoke x 9. They were safely evacuated.

So did I. That was quite a storm. At least I got to walk out.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby ghosta » Thu 25 Apr, 2019 2:43 pm

north-north-west wrote:
Anthropogenic climate change and habitat destruction are neither natural nor inevitable


I think you may have missed the point...nature will adapt in its own way to changed circumstances, and as the discussion shows, the fire regime has already changed- dry lightning fire being only one of many changes. Human kind is not aiming to reverse these changes, rather the lofty aim is to prevent future catastrophic changes. Efforts to stop nature taking its course in response to changes that have already occured will fail ...tackling the symptom does not fix the problem.
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Re: Hit it hard and fast...

Postby tastrax » Thu 25 Apr, 2019 6:46 pm

ghosta wrote:...nature will adapt in its own way to changed circumstances....


I also think we also need to adapt to change as well. Stop trying to control Mother Nature, learn to live with fire in the environment, spend more on protecting ourselves rather than expecting fire authorities to come and rescue us, design buildings that are better suited to the environment, do our bit to reduce the effects of climate change, take more personal responsibility ...the list goes on
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