Too Many Bushfires: What Can We Do?

At Action Sheds Australia, we do our best to make sure that every shed we provide to our Perth area customers is safe, and able to withstand anything the Australian climate throws at it other than a direct hit from a tornado. We make our sheds out of BlueScope Steel, and our ShedSafe certification guarantees that we provide the safest possible shed for your money.

However, even our sheds can’t withstand a direct hit from a bushfire. Consequently, we feel that education is the best way to help diminish the spate of bushfires that has affected us in the 2012-13 bushfire season.

Western Australian Bushfires peaked in 1961, from 20-24 January in Dwellingup, and 11-15 February around Kalamunda in the Darling Scarp. Karridale and Dwellingup sustained major damage, as did a lot of smaller settlements in the area. Luckily, nobody was killed.

The 1961 bushfires caused a Royal Commission to recommend controlled burning in the south-west, and fires would decrease as a result. For a little over 20 years, bushfires were relatively quiet, due to a fuel reduction program, in which areas most susceptible to bushfires were subjected to controlled, low-intensity burns.

Fuel reduction was also carried out on private lands by volunteers and by the Bush Fire Board, keeping rural areas safe, until the FESA, now the DFES, took over the program.

We want to make it clear that we have nothing but respect for the work of the DFES, and the DEC. We know that they have budgets to work under, and that they have their own mandate. We are guessing that they don’t have enough funding or manpower to do as much as they would like to.

However, that does not change a simple fact that is graphically illustrated on a website called Bush Fire Front. The simple fact is that, the amount of land burned by dangerous bushfires is inversely proportional to the amount of land that undergoes controlled, low-intensity fuel reduction burns.

FESA is focused mainly on suppressing and managing fires, while the numbers say that fuel management is much more effective. As fuel management programs have gone down, bushfires have gone up.

There is no way to deny the numbers or the pattern. Fuel reduction burn areas gone down from around 450,000 hectares on DEC land in the middle 1960’s to approximately 100,000 in 2011. As reduction areas started to decline in the 1980’s, bushfires began to increase.

The bottom line is that the fuel is going to burn anyway. Weather is becoming hotter and drier, making bushfires even more likely. The fuel can either be removed by controlled burns, or we can wait for it to damage our property and put our lives at risk in large, uncontrolled bushfires.

Fast-forward to the current bushfire season, from winter of last year through autumn of this year. We have counted 15 bushfires in WA alone that are large enough to warrant attention, with more “minor” fires.

The first bushfire in the Perth area was on 26th January at the Shire of Gingin, in the wheatbelt. Over 50 firefighters were able to keep damage to homes and sheds at a minimum, and “only” 65 hectares of bushland were burned.

To the south-west, Busselton and Harvey also saw bushfires. On 5th February, 800 hectares of land burned near Boddington. On 13th February, 1,700 hectares would burn near Bridgetown. 1,232 hectares would burn near Kin Kin.

Closer to home, 2,000 hectares of bushland would burn near Bindoon from a fire started by lightning. On 26th February, a bushfire threatened property in Upper Swan, causing evacuations and burning 150 hectares of bushland. Two days later, Shady Hills in Bullsbrook saw a bushfire that burned 1,500 hectares of bushland.

Tasmania has gotten the worst of it this season, with many simultaneous major fires in both January and February. Many are attributing the severity of the fires to insufficient management of fuel.

While we at Action Sheds Australia respect the efforts of the DEC and DFES, we must respectfully submit that more resources need to be allocated to manage the fuel that allows bushfires to rage out of control in the first place, instead of managing the fires that result from not managing the fuel.

At this point, we in WA and Perth can say, “At least we’re not Tasmania.” But what if it’s Perth and WA that becomes a disaster area next season? A simple shift in the wind can turn a “harmless” bushfire in which only bushland is burned into a catastrophic event that claims lives and property.

If you agree, make your voice heard. It could save your life someday.