Fire risk

Increasing the number of prescribed burns may be one arrow in the quiver of bushfire prevention but it will never be the panacea some people would like it to be.
Burning-off sections of low vegetation might temper the intensity of a bushfire to some degree, but when fires ignite under conditions like those last December, they are almost impossible to stop.
While the Cudlee Creek fire started in bushland, it also devastated thousands of hectares of farmland and vineyards – land which cannot be made safer by burn-offs.
The Government’s commitment to increase burn-offs by 50% may go some way to making SA safer, but the reality is people who choose to live in the Hills also choose to live with the threat of bushfire.
While more burn-offs may lessen the risk of disaster it must be remembered that prescribed burns are extremely labor intensive and heavily reliant on particular weather conditions.
In the lead up to last year’s fire season, the Department of Environment and Water had planned 50 burn-offs across the Hills.
Of those, only 31 were actually completed – 62%.
Experts warn the window for prescribed burns is likely to shrink as the climate changes – further increasing the pressure on firefighters to achieve the Government’s higher target.
It is also worth remembering that more cold burns increase the potential to inconvenience the community and damage vulnerable industries – such as the wine industry – which is sensitive to smoke taint.
The Government’s promise to upgrade equipment and resources for emergency services is also welcome news and will certainly go a long way to protect the men and women who place themselves in danger to protect their communities when fire does break out.
But the harsh reality is that on some days bushfires will be uncontrollable.
That is not to say mitigation strategies should not be implemented, but more burn-offs will not change the fact that bushfire safety largely rests with individuals themselves.
Communities must remain vigilant and it is beholden on everyone – whether living in a township, farming area or bushland – to make themselves aware of the dangers and how to respond to them.
As we face longer and harsher bushfire seasons, it is vital that bushfire action plans are in place in every Hills household and followed when risk increases.
There may not be a silver bullet to stop disasters like December’s fire from unfolding again.
But everyone has a part to play in ensuring that when they do, the region is well placed to survive and recover.