"We've lost two people in my family because you dickheads won't cut trees down…"

I’m no stranger to wildland fires. Longtime readers may recall that my own home had the threat of wildfires here in Chico, California this past summer, as did many Butte County residents who not only were threatened, but lost homes.

View from my home on June 16th, 2008

The recent fires in Australia and the loss of life and property were apparently compounded by a draconian policy that prevented people who lived in the fire threat zones from cutting trees and brush near their properties. We witnessed something equally tragic in Lake Tahoe fire in 2007, owing to similar eco driven government stupidity forcing heavy handed policies there. Residents couldn’t get permits to cut down brush and trees, the result was a firestorm of catastrophic proportions.

A family in Australia saw the threat, decided on civil disobedience, cleared a firebreak, and got fined $50,000. They feel vindicated now, because their house is one of the few in Reedy Creek, Victoria,  still standing, the only one in a two kilometer radius. Good for them.

The quote from the homeowner that is the title of this entry really does say it all. Here’s the story from The Sydney Morning Herald.

Fined for illegal clearing, family now feel vindicated

Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie

February 12, 2009 – 12:03AM

Paul Rovere

After suffering court action that cost the family $100,000, Liam Sheahan believes clearing trees saved his home and his family. Photo: Paul Rovere

They were labelled law breakers, fined $50,000 and left emotionally and financially drained.

But seven years after the Sheahans bulldozed trees to make a fire break — an act that got them dragged before a magistrate and penalised — they feel vindicated. Their house is one of the few in Reedy Creek, Victoria,  still standing.

The Sheahans’ 2004 court battle with the Mitchell Shire Council for illegally clearing trees to guard against fire, as well as their decision to stay at home and battle the weekend blaze, encapsulate two of the biggest issues arising from the bushfire tragedy.

Do Victoria’s native vegetation management policies need a major overhaul? And should families risk injury or death by staying home to fight the fire rather than fleeing?

Anger at government policies stopping residents from cutting down trees and clearing scrub to protect their properties is already apparent. “We’ve lost two people in my family because you dickheads won’t cut trees down,” Warwick Spooner told Nillumbik Mayor Bo Bendtsen at a meeting on Tuesday night.

Although Liam Sheahan’s 2002 decision to disregard planning laws and bulldoze 250 trees on his hilltop property hurt his family financially and emotionally, he believes it helped save them and their home on the weekend.

“The house is safe because we did all that,” he said as he pointed out his kitchen window to the clear ground where tall gum trees once cast a shadow on his house.

“We have got proof right here. We are the only house standing in a two-kilometre area.”

At least seven houses and several sheds on neighbouring properties along Thompson-Spur road in Reedy Creek were destroyed by Saturday night’s blaze.

Saving their home was no easy task. At 2pm on Saturday, Mr Sheahan saw the nearby hills ablaze.

He knew what lay ahead when the predicted south-westerly change came.

The family of four had discussed evacuation but decided their property was defensible, due largely to their decision to clear a fire break. It also helped that Mr Sheahan, his son Rowan and daughter Kirsten were all experienced members of the local CFA.

“We prayed and we worked bloody hard. Our house was lit up eight times by the fire as the front passed,” Mr Sheahan said. “The elements off our TV antenna melted. We lost a Land Rover, two Subarus, a truck and trailer and two sheds.”

Mr Sheahan is still angry about his prosecution, which cost him $100,000 in fines and legal fees. The council’s planning laws allow trees to be cleared only when they are within six metres of a house. Mr Sheahan cleared trees up to 100 metres away from his house.

“The council stood up in court and made us to look like the worst, wanton environmental vandals on the earth. We’ve got thousands of trees on our property. We cleared about 247,” he said.

He said the royal commission on the fires must result in changes to planning laws to allow land owners to clear trees and vegetation that pose a fire risk.

“Both the major parties are pandering to the Greens for preferences and that is what is causing the problem. Common sense isn’t that common these days,” Mr Sheahan said.

Melbourne University bushfire expert Kevin Tolhurst gave evidence to help the Sheahan family in their legal battle with the council.

“Their fight went over nearly two years. The Sheahans were victimised. It wasn’t morally right,” he said yesterday.

Dr Tolhurst told the Seymour Magistrates court that Mr Sheahan’s clearing of the trees had reduced the fire risk to his house from extreme to moderate.

“That their house is still standing is some natural justice for the Sheahans,” he said.

He said council vegetation management rules required re-writing. He also called on the State Government to provide clearer guidelines about when families should stay and defend their property.

Houses in fire-prone areas should be audited by experts to advise owners whether their property is defensible, Dr Tolhurst said.

Mr Sheahan said he wanted others to learn from his experience and offered an invitation for Government ministers to visit his property.

He would also like his convictions overturned and fines repaid.

“It would go a long way to making us feel better about the system. But I don’t think it will happen.”

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/national/fined-for-illegal-clearing-family-now-feel-vindicated-20090212-85bd.html


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Good for Mr. Sheahan. He has undoubtedly had enough of the court system, but wouldn’t if be wonderful if he speerheaded a class action lawsuit against the governments who enacted these idiotic regulations, and against the various greenie organizations who pressure for such laws. Sadly, the greenies can never be called to account for such stupidities – they just disclaim responsibility and move on to the next lunacy, such as global warming apocalypticism. The Australian aborigines had a long tradition of deliberately setting fires. But of course, the green chattering classes addling modern society know better so that traditional knowledge was shelved.


This is only the tip of the iceberg re this story. If you read today’s Australian they (green’s) also banned controlled fire clearing in 2007. Also another Australian put up a recent post at WUWT that his boss had offered various aircraft to water down the fires (before the fires) but the Victorian Government (or greens in parliament refused because “those planes” contributed to too many emissions….There you go… very very sad and very very stupid

Joseph Murphy

I think the best example of wildlife/natural habitat mismanagement state side is Yellowstone. Its a shining display of pure stupidity.

Neil Crafter

Trees seem to be valued higher than human lives and getting permission for the average citizen to remove native vegetation legally is next to impossible here in Australia. So this man did what he believed in and the proof is in the result – will he get a fine refund? Not bloody likely. Good on him.
The evidence is that the standard small cleared zone around houses (around 30m) in the bushfire zones meant nothing to the firestorms, really significant clearance like this man achieved, obviously had a result. Seems fairly obvious.


When Greenshirt political agendas are allowed to override common sense, society is doomed. Today Australia, tomorrow the world.


I posted this on another thread…
How can I upload pictures?


Good for them.
Thing is, we *knew* all this going back all the way to the devestating Yellowstone fires in the 1980s. They were quick to put out any brushfire, and heaven forbid they clear anything lest they destroy the natural beauty. What they learned is fire is natures way of spring cleaning. And when you let all that crap build up and not let nature get rid of it, there will be hell to pay. The resulting fire at Yellowstone was so massive and consuming, the burned trees were still visible when I did a snowmobile tour in 2004.

The natural life-cycle of Eucalyptus trees favour bush fires cleaning out debris that builds up under the trees and these trees survive typical bush fires. Lightening strikes cause regular bush fires within Australia and so makes the environment a perfect habitat for Eucalyptus trees. So the obvious decision is do not build a dwelling surrounded by these trees unless you are also surrounded by a large firebreak. Thus making firebreaks illegal is an extreme act of stupidity.


Australia’s national parks are dense eucalypt forests because that is supposedly “natural”. However it seems that before Europeans arrived the native population kept the country as open woodland with continuous burning (hence the prevalence of fire-friendly eucalypts). Before humans arrived the megafauna kept the country as open woodland (mostly not eucalypts), in the same way that elephants still do in Africa. It would be nice to get back to that, but presumably it would be a lot more expensive than managing with fire [at the moment we don’t manage at all].


Seems we are condemned to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Looking at the news coverage, I couldn’t believe how much “bush” was left around homes in these areas. Allowing thousands of people to build homes in fire interface zones without insisting on some form of fireproofing is simply tempting fate. Sooner or later, all the conditions for a catastrophic fire will occur- it’s just a matter of time. Insisting that people cannot fireproof their residences demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of fire ecology. Unfortunately, effective fire control has lulled the public into believing that forest fires are an unusual phenomena confined to remote areas and linked to global warming. Sorry, it’s mother nature doing her thing as she has for thousands of years. Glad to see one independent thinker do the right thing. Too bad so many others had to pay such a terrible price.

Jack Simmons

The council’s planning laws allow trees to be cleared only when they are within six metres of a house.

I’m assuming many trees were removed by the fires, most of which were more than six metres from any house.
My question is: who or what will be charged with breaking these planning laws?
Mother Nature?
Space Time Continuum?
Pacific Decadal Oscillation?
Anyone producing carbon dioxide?
Don’t polar bears produce carbon dioxide? Or do they get a pass because of cuteness offsets?
Who will represent the defendants?

No clearing beyond six meters? That’s only about 20 feet. Astounding. Our fire people tell us that ignition can take place at a hundred feet from the flames, which is likely an underestimate. Someone has been misleading these poor people intentionally.
I read a couple of personal accounts from AU folks who escaped with their lives that said the local fire council had told them they could defend their homes with garden hoses and buckets of water placed around the perimeter of the house. The garden hoses melted, and the buckets, well, who’s going to stand out there with a tree burning 20 feet away. It can’t be done without protective gear.
The trees they cleared were Eucalyptus. I use extracted Eucalyptus oil for keep the gnats away during the summer, here in CA. Works well for a couple of hours, but it’s hard on the skin and extremely volatile, probably moreso than gasoline. The heat from the burning from these trees must have been very intense.
Bulldozing a ring around your house is a little extreme, but I’d clear a wider swath than 20 feet, and make sure my insurance premiums were paid on time. $100,000 can buy a lot of insurance, and your house can be replaced. You can’t be.

Pamela Gray

We have the same problem here but for opposite reasons. We have rich hippies moving up Lostine Canyon, building fancy log homes amongst tall fir, pine, and tamarack, who REFUSE to cut a firebreak of ANY width. They really like the Earth Muffin mood of a log home in an evergreen forest…that hasn’t been cleaned for decades since the Forestry Department blocked fire wood cutters from keeping the floor clean. Back then, the COUGH “wisdom” was that dead snags, fallen logs, and brush was nature’s way of recycling and fertilizing the rich forest soil. Had they bothered to dig down through said layers of soil, they would see it streaked with charcoal every few years. Some of these Earth muffins have left because apparently the brochure didn’t include having to plow your own driveway three times a day. The rest we figure have a death wish, or at least the desire to have a really big bonfire. You bring hotdogs, I’ll bring beer.


I’m no stranger to this type of event, having lost my house in the 1991 eucalyptus tree-fueled East Bay Hills inferno in N. California. I moved to a new place about 8 miles away, also in the hills. It is now mandated by the city that we clear brush and grass from within 90 feet of the house. I do way more, for obvious reasons relating to my mental health.
Given that the Australian government, as I have read, have called this a mass murder (pointing the finger at the arsonists), will they themselves now step up as accomplices and plead no contest to the lesser charge of manslaughter ?? I doubt it.
Bad science and bad interpretation of data ALWAYS leads to bad things and, in my experience (over 30 years as a professional scientist), having observed this type of “consensus” behavior before, the bad things come out of nowhere – they are totally unpredictable as to source, as with this “mass murder”.
Today we cannot predict how many people will die because of the bogus, no-accountability (YET), pseudoscientists pretending to do important planet-saving science. I’m predicting it will be millions, maybe tens of millions. IMO, individually duped young people are not responsible for this, but we sure as hell know who is. If living with the knowledge that you are the only person in history to get both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize under false pretenses isn’t bad enough, how about adding up your fractional involvement in “mass murder” on a daily basis on top of that ??
Another great article. There should be no doubt why this site was voted the best science blog on the internet.

California (indeed the entire Western Hemisphere) has been home to humanity for at least 13,500 years and probably longer. Human habitation predates Holocene vegetation. The most prevalent tree and plant species today migrated in after the Wisconsin glaciation from 12,000 to 6,000 years ago (depending on the species and location).
During the entirety of human occupation anthropogenic fire on a landscape scale has been the norm. Frequent, seasonal, human-set fires have modified plant communities, and indeed dictated vegetation types in many regions. Prairies, savannas, and forests have been burned on a regular basis since inception following the retreat of the ice sheets.
In the absence of that traditional stewardship over the last 150+ years, not only have fuels accumulated but entire ecosystems have been transformed. Where fires were once light burning and beneficial, they are now catastrophic and deadly to vegetation, wildlife, and resident humans.
Fuels management is not sufficient; restoration to heritage conditions is required. That means removing excess biomass AND prescribed burning in the fall when conditions allow fire control. Without scientific restoration to heritage conditions of fire resiliency, catastrophic fires will continue to plague the West in particular.
Misconceived enviro-legal barriers to landscape restoration engender destruction to natural and human environments. Many towns and cities, as well as rural areas, have suffered such destruction in the last 20 years, including Chico, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Los Alamos, Bend, Ketchum, and numerous others. The largest and most destructive fires in state history have visited CA, OR, WA, ID, CO, and AZ in recent years.
It’s not climate change; it’s the fuels, and restoration stewardship is the antidote.

Tex McGowan

If everyone in Australia cleared all the trees within 30 metres of their houses, there’d hardly be a tree left in the Eastern half of the country. We’ve got exteme drought because over 70% of the trees in Australia have been cleared since the Europeans arrived – clearing more trees ain’t gonna fix the problem.

barbee butts

Pre-meditated murder, clear and simple.
Prison isn’t harsh enough for those politicians.
Call me cynical but I’ll bet they all get re-elected too.

sc ed

Once again, draconian “environmental” legislation leads to the reinforcement of the view that any attempt to legislate an improvement of the balance between civilization/development and natural wilderness is misguided. IMHO the same thing happens with the AGW scare. Legitimate environmental protection causes are damaged by the focus on AGW.


TEX: trees can be re-planted in save places


I live a few hundred meters from the edge of a national park in Victoria. Every fire season I slash the paddock between me and the park in the hope the bare ground will stop or slow a fire before it gets to my house.
I’ve lived here for over ten years now and the thousands of hectares of park have not had one single cool burn so it is choked with deadfall, bark and leaf litter. The local park administration is too busy chasing gold fossickers and people riding horses or mountain bikes out of the park to bother conducting controlled burns.
Last Saturday temperatures soared to 45C with a northerly wind gusting over 90 kilometres an hour – the park is directly to my north so I was extremely apprehensive as I worked in my home office whilst listening to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s excellent fire commentary.
It’s a bit like the blitz – the radio station broadcasts warnings which start with a siren sound then a voice saying things like “…all residents in the Kinglake area are advised a large wildfire is burning towards the town – those who choose to leave their homes must do so now, those who choose to remain and defend their homes must stay where they are and not leave the area until the fire front has passed…” etc etc etc.
I heard the calls for assistance from people in the midst of the biggest fires as they rang the radio station to tell their stories. “…house gone, wife and daughter burnt to death…”, “…all my sheep are dead, house gone, family killed in car trying to escape…” – it became worse and worse as the afternoon dragged on.
As I worked I kept an ear out for the name of my district amongst the growing list of areas affected by fire and then I heard it “…all residents be advised a large fire is burning across hills to the north and properties in areas to the south are likely to be subject to ember attack…”
I popped outside as I had been doing regularly during the day to see a huge column of smoke had suddenly appeared behind the hills near our property blotting out the northern horizon and the smell of burning beginning to fill the air.
I stood straining against the burning wind for 20 minutes or so watching and waiting – my fire pump was primed and hoses laid out, gutters blocked, air conditioners turned off and I was dressed in heavy cotton work clothes ready to attack spot fires which would have been ignited by burning embers flying in front of the main fire.
Then suddenly the northerly stopped as if someone had shut a door and a period of calm engulfed the valley for a few moments before a new wind storm sprang up from the south – the temperature dropped more than 15 degrees instantly and the large column of smoke was pushed back away from my property.
The danger was over for the moment.
Towns to the east suffered enormous losses with several small communities losing every building and all their infrastructure – no water, gas, sewerage, power or phone lines left – just smouldering heaps of corrugated iron and cars with the glass in their windows melted and congealed on the ground next to them.
When I first moved to Victoria in February 1983 I was pressed into fighting the ‘Ash Wednesday’ fires which occurred in similar weather conditions.
After the main fire roared passed the town my group was defending I saw many dessicated charred people dead in their cars or lying in paddocks where they had tried to run from the fires – it must be a horrible death and this year it has happened again to many more.
After the Ash Wednesday disaster great advances were made in the command and control of emergency services and better equipment was purchased for fire-fighters, but the ‘green malaise’ has afflicted local government and national and state park administration.
No matter how many shiny fire engines are supplied, if state forests continue to be mismanaged and if planning restrictions on clearing bush from near houses are not rescinded it will happen again and again.
It’s cool today, perhaps 18C with a strong south east wind carrying a smoke haze from fires 250 kilometres away – the radio features talk of politics and ‘stimulus packages’ but still I hear regular crosses to reporters in far off valleys describing wild fires and warning residents of towns to be ready to flee.
The forested hills to my north are still primed and ready to burn – the slightest spark is all that is needed and the weather forecast for next week includes temperatures in the high thirties with dry thunderstorms and gusty northerlies.
I’d better keep the pump primed…

Donald Stewart

I write from South Australia. The treatment meted out to the Sheahan family was
not only grossly disproportionate, but also the manifestation of ignorance from little people elected by their own ilk to positions of power far beyond their competence.
The Sheahans are owed a most public and full apology from the same elected members of council. One would suspect this will not be forthcoming, lest it trigger compensation for the family. But perhaps more likely is the complete lack of any good form in that particular class of persons.


The aggrieved victims could launch a class action….

Here is how County of Los Angeles, California, handles firebreaks around buildings.
Note, the default clearing distance is 30 feet. However:
“3. When the fire code official or commissioner finds that because of extra hazardous conditions, a firebreak of only 30 feet around such building, structure, or apiary is not sufficient to provide reasonable fire safety, the person owning, leasing, controlling, operating, or maintaining the building, structure, or apiary shall maintain around or adjacent to any building, structure, or apiary an additional fire protection or firebreak made by removing all brush, flammable vegetation, or combustible growth located from 30 to 100 feet from such building, structure, or apiary, as may be required by the fire code official or commissioner. Grass and other vegetation located more than 30 feet from such building structure, or apiary and less than 18 inches in height above the ground, may be maintained where necessary to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion.
317.2.3 Extra hazard. The governing body finds that in many cases because of extra hazardous situations, a firebreak around buildings, structures, or apiaries of only 30 feet is not sufficient and that a firebreak of 50 feet or more may be necessary. If the fire code official or commissioner finds that because of the location of any building, structure, or apiary and because of other conditions, a 30-foot firebreak around such building, structure, or apiary as required by Section 317.2.2 is not sufficient, the fire code official or commissioner may notify all owners of property affected that they must clear all flammable vegetation and other combustible growth or reduce the amount of fuel content for a distance greater than 30 feet, but not to exceed 200 feet. ”
Title 32 Fire Code, Section 317
This is not legal advice, merely quoting a portion of the freely-available Los Angeles County Code.
However, the Los Angeles County’s approach seems just a bit more common sensical than what the Aussies must endure.
PS: Thank you to all the Australian fire fighters who flew to California to help us with our recent extreme wildfires. Good on ya, mates!
I can only hope that our California fire fighters are there to help you in your time of need. Sadly, I have not read anywhere that any went. Apparently, President Obama on Feb 10th called Prime Minister Rudd to offer US help in the fire fighting effort. Good for him. My question is, why haven’t the US firefighters already landed and begun work?
Roger E. Sowell
Marina del Rey, California

Mike Pickett

I live in Colville, Washington. We have a power plant here that uses chipped wood. All of the wood live cut, and unfit for boards. What in the WORLD keeps us from cutting all the DEADWOOD, here, Schizofornia, Oz, where ever and chipping it for use in power plants. Duh. This stuff was grown from oxygen and carbon right here, now. The consumption of the floor rot, tree falls, beetle kill, root rot, for energy does NOTHING more than release the energy from the sun, and return the carbon to the cycle. Oh, we need some jobs for the unemployed???? Give them chainsaws and axes, and start hauling dead wood to the power plants….
Oh..and end these INCREDIBLE FOREST FIRES. I’m an old man, now. I can remember when farmers in Schizofornia fired the woods in the winter to burn off the chaparral…kept the forest floor accessible to the fauna. I can remember reading (I’m an American Colonial history buff) how shocked Europeans were about how well the eastern forests were “groomed” by controlled fires. The “savages” (yeah right)) were burning and tending the woods so their animal spirits could flourish. Thus the incredible Kain-tuck-ee (a reserved area where all the nations hunted their needs without fear of any inter tribal competition) was drooled over by occidental colonists…money to be made with property, screw the savages.
I’m going to lay a lot of blood on a lot of hands right now, here. And no one gives a shit!!! I lay Columbine blood at the hands of the gun control psychotics. I lay the huge fires of OZ, and the deaths there at the feet of the environmentalist kooks. On it goes…
The environmentalism religion has done the same thing to humanity that was done by the inquisition, the Conquistadors, the Salem Witch psychotics, and A L G O R E.
Oh, should I include the people whose hearts were removed by Incan priests….
This must end.


I think that people are allowed to buy and build in fire trap country because it is not recognized as a guaranteed conflict of interest when land speculators and real estate people are allowed to run for local gov. positions and planning board positions. I spent an morning in the Southern California brushlands with a professional fire ecologist while training to be a Basic Mountaineering Instructor. He used terms such as ‘tons of fuel per year per acre’ and ‘mean time between fires’. He changed how I look at the woods around my place.

David Corcoran

Greens kill. I’ve seen it in Malibu, where people couldn’t clear around their house to save a rare type of rat. The rats and the people burned together.
I’ve seen it in Tahoe where dead trees couldn’t be cleared to save spotted owl habitat. Owls and people burned together.
And now in Australia…
Environmentalism is a grave threat to people and wildlife.


great story PeterW – thank you.
We have all grown up with brooms – to us a dirty floor that hasn’t been swept is untidy.
The aboriginals of Australia grew up with a similar idea that if it wasn’t burnt and cleared, it was untidy.
To them we live in an untidy countryside.

1. Make homes unsafe by forbidding brush cleaning and firebreaks
2. Homes get burned (and hundreds of people too)
3. Step in with money for the survivord
4. Tax people to pay for the assistance money
5. Repeat so as to make the bureaucrat’s empire building ever larger

Lyn roberts

Maybe a class action against the councils is what it will take to make them sit up and take notice and allow back burning to clear the rubbish.
Good luck to Mr Sheehan, he deserves to be refunded his money plus legals.
Some of these gum trees shed huge amounts bark, small branches and leaf litter and it is just to dry to compost.
Back burning does not seem to destroy, days later the seeds are shooting up, and gum trees put out new green shoots, amazing to see how quickly it happens.
Years ago I had a small win against a council, we were told we had to lay a concrete crossing before we could develop a property. I went and saw them and said “the concrete trucks crossing will break that up” their reply thats right, and you will have to repair and relay again. I thought about it, went to the car wreckers yard and got a bunch of old springs, found as much reinforcing as I could lay my hands on and all went in the concrete crossing to help. Later concrete truck drivers were amazed when they drove over and nothing happened, I just smiled. Hope the council in later years had no reason to cut into the crossing with their diamond saws, good luck.

Ian Pringle

Tex McGowan (20:53:17) said “If everyone in Australia cleared all the trees within 30 metres of their houses, there’d hardly be a tree left in the Eastern half of the country. We’ve got exteme drought because over 70% of the trees in Australia have been cleared since the Europeans arrived – clearing more trees ain’t gonna fix the problem.”
I’m sure if you do the math you will find this is surely not the case. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports about 2 million household in Victoria which has an area 0f 227,416 square kilometres. Even if you count the large number of houses in towns and Melbourne city the area of each house cleared to a 30m radius would only total about 7,200km2. This is only 0.3% of the land area of Victoria and I would think a small price to pay for an insurance policy which would go as long way towards protecting homes from future fires of this type.
Tex may also be aware that trees can be replaced by grassland, sports fields and crops. Native vegetation can be preserved in the vast areas of Eastern Australia which do not have human occupants. Residents of country towns and isolated farms should be permitted to protect themselves and should not be hindered by draconian green policies which have pervaded many of Victoria’s local governments.

SoCal fuels management is no great shakes of a worthwhile example. Just last year the Sayre, Marek, and Freeway fires blew out the thick chapparal and burned homes in Santa Maria, Sylmar, and Yorba Linda. The Tea Fire ravaged Montecito.
The year before that the Witch, Poomacha, Harris, Rice, Ranch, Canyon and many other fires burned hills and homes in SoCal.
In 2003 the Cedar Fire in and about San Diego burned 750,000 acres, destroyed 3500 homes, and killed 22 people.
We need to learn a lesson from all those fires. Defensible space must extend to the furthest reaches of the watershed. Dinky fuels breaks don’t do anything. Or worse, they give false confidence, and when the big fire hits, result in fatalities.


Tex McGowan (20:53:17) :
“If everyone in Australia cleared all the trees within 30 metres of their houses, there’d hardly be a tree left in the Eastern half of the country.”
People shouldn’t be given permits to build in these wooded areas unless substantial fire breaks were required. But it looks to me like there is plenty land to plant houses on where cutting massive amounts of trees down isn’t needed.
From Google “Reedy Creek, Victoria” I easily spotted Sheahan’s place, go southeast from where google hits the target to
37^16’36.46’S 145^09′.75’E

David Joss

The largest fire in terms of area burned in Victoria occurred in 1851 in conditions almost exactly the same as the present disaster.
The smoke was blown across Bass Strait to Tasmania and was so dense there that candles were required inside at lunch time.
1851 was less than 20 years after the first white settlers had arrived. But the aboriginal population which had fire-managed the forests for thousands of years had recently (1780s) been decimated by smallpox and then, with the arrival of Europeans, had abandoned their traditional lifestyle.
So over maybe 50 years fuel had been building up in the forests which at that time were more extensive than they are today.
The result was that up to a quarter of the land area of Victoria was incinerated, most of it in a single day according to contemporary writers.
Subsequent major fires were carefully investigated by government-appointed panels of experts who heard evidence from biologists, botanists, firemen and others with first-hand experience.
Most of these inquiries recommended reducing fuel loads and for many years it happened.
However as many have commented above, we have now turned our backs on the accumulated wisdom of Old Australia and embraced the philosophies of the New Age.
We have paid a heavy price but I doubt even the horror of this past week will bring about the reforms needed.
One expert commentator estimated that up to a million birds and animals, the very life-forms our stupid environmental laws are supposed to protect, have perished. Even so the greens, through clever manipulation of the political arena, will probably prevail.
I pray that I am wrong!


Some believe you can source the massive infestation, and resulting devastation of the forests of British Columbia, Alberta, and eventually the Northwestern United states by the bark beetle to the same kind of lunatic environmental controls which encourage the recent spread of wild fires.
It’s interesting that forest practice mismanagement may be the initial cause in both cases, but once the spread begins warm weather aids the spread. So these eco-nuts cause both tragedies, but they can blame global warming.

Ozzie John

Down here in OZ the green movement has completely influenced council decisions and policy for many years. I live next to a national park face fire threat every year being unable to cut any tree down on my property without risk of fine !
In another type of such incident…
Several years ago a man tried for seveal years to get permission to cut down a large gum tree overhanging his house. After several years of refusal by council the tree fell during a storm killing the man and destroying his house, leaving his family in complete grief. The story made news headlines and the council was put under some pressure to explain their policy, but all to no avail as no charge was laid and no change to the policy was made.
You can draw your own conclusions here !
History will repeat again, and again, and again !


“We’ve lost two people in my family because you dickheads won’t cut trees down…”
But what about the trees? The Sheahans killed over 247 trees, a masacre that will live in infamy!
Oh Gaia, forgive us our trespasses against you, for we know not what we do. Except that Sheahan bastard. He probably did it just out of spite. Hate, even.

Jeff B.

Most people have a common sense conservationist orientation that they mistake as environmentalism. This is benevolent. No one wants to see trash accumulating, rivers polluted, smoggy air, etc. But these average folks also see themselves rightly as coexisting with their environment. They want to conserve a forest so they can enjoy it, and that’s where it ends.
But there is a whole class of real environmentalists that are essentially man haters. They believe in rights for trees and animals. They believe that arson for large houses in rural areas is noble. They challenge a property owner’s right to build, by labeling every puddle a wetland. They use force and litigation to stop new power plants, and to destroy existing dams. And they campaign for massive and stifling carbon cap and trade legislation.
These enviroextremists must be stopped. And I agree, any tree hugging legislator in Australia that helped tinder this conflagration, is now a mass murderer.


Most of the people in these communities actually want to live in a more natural environment. It is not as simple as many seem to profess and there are statement made that lack the knowledge necessary to make them.
I am not criticising any one statement and indeed there are many good points made. While the police and authorities investigate and relief organisations do everything possible, it simply is just not the time yet to blame. There are over 1000 homes destroyed. Many more thousands displaced. Over 180 people are dead and this figure will almost certainly rise. 180 dead less than a week ago while still many are missing.
The time now is one of response to the needs of these people, these communities. There will be a time and I am sure it will be soon but for now statements of the Greens are at fault, Bureaucracy have much to answer for, local council have brought this upon… whatever. To me, these arguments lack information, they lack compassion and the lack integrity. It is just not the time yet for this type of public debate.

Cassandra King

We humans have a veritable treasure chest of wisdom carried down through the millenia by our ancestors, widom and knowledge hard won through bitter experience and stuggle is now ignored and derided as useless in this ‘modern age’.
The Australian tragedy could so easily have been avoided had they listened to the native aboriginies and taken lessons from the western USA wildfires, common sense with a respectful view to the generations that came before us is essential and this goldmine of knowledge has been wilfully ignored.
I saw Rudd on TV as he tried to express his thoughts about the people who set the fires calling them mass murderers, it would be far better if he at least acknowledged the role of those who laid the foundations of the disaster that was so very easy to foretell with even the basic minimum of common sense.
Its sadly plain to see that the authorities will be fully engaged in the inevitable coverup and will minimise the terrible role of the greens in this wholly avoidable tragedy, its entirely possible/probable? that lessons will not be learned and the tragedy will repeat itself.

The Science

As unbelievably stupid as environmentalists have sounded so far in this thread, I can top all of it. On the TV News here in New Zealand, they managed to blame the excessive fuel load on global warming. Yeah, I know.
The story went that the extra CO2 in the atmosphere led to much greater plant growth, as plants love extra CO2. So there was a lot more vegetation in the forest because of the extra CO2 and that’s why the fires were so large and hot. It’s all global warming’s fault.
Yes, that’s really what they said. No, I’m not making it up. I really, really, really wish I was making it up, but I’m not. The reporter even said it with a straight face.
It was simply the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

F Rasmin

Tex McGowan (20:53:17) : What absolute rubbish! People outside of Australia might believe what you are saying but some of us bloggers live here in Australia also.The majority of Australians do not live in the bush but on the coast. The nearby oceans have a habit of falling as rain on us coast dwellers thereby dampening the foliage. Even in bad droughts, the coastal areas are never in danger of bushfires such as the ones we have just had.

Alan Wilkinson

Not only the bureaucracy and politicians are guilty but so are the courts that have so devastatingly failed to protect individuals’ rights to live safely on their own land without oppressive and fatal interference from the state.
They deserve utmost condemnation.
We now have the control-freak Victorian bureau-morons declaring the people will not be allowed to rebuild in such a dangerous place as the countryside and any that do will have to spend at least $20,000 more to comply with yet more regulations on building standards.
The usual downward spiral. When regulations suppress common sense disastrously, the political solution is more regulations to save the bureaucratic butt.

Phillip Bratby

In the UK we never have sufficient heat or drought for these types of fire to be a problem. However woodland managment has been practised successfully since at least the middle ages and is a benefit to both people and wildlife. It provides firewood and timber for all sorts of uses and allows continuous regeneration of the woodland which is a benefit to both plants and animals. Fortunately greenies have so far not tried to interfere, although I have seen townies come into the countryside and label the ancient practice of hedge-laying (to create a stock-proof barrier) as environmental vandalism. Unfortunately such ignorance is fairly widespread. Nevertheless I continue to do woodland coppicing and hedge-laying on my property. I just hope that these ancient practices are allowed to continue. The people of times-gone-by who lived intimately with nature knew what they were doing.

Brian Johnson

Oh dear Nancy! You can’t see the wood for the trees……..
Gaia? In Australian terms Gaia should mean,
Give Aboriginee Intelligence Authority
but in reality, Greenie Attitudes Invoke Apocalypse


Well said PeterW.
The story on the Sheahan’s has been one of the lead stories on the TV news in Australia. There is a groundswell of feeling that green policies limiting tree clearing in bushfire prone areas has been a major factor in allowing these huge bushfires to develop.
To readers in the States and elsewhere in the world. If you haven’t seen a bushfire in a Eucalypt forest, you ain’t seen nuthin’. The volatility and sheer explosiveness is incredible.
I can identify with the Sheahan’s to some extent. In October 2006 there was a large fire in the Bathurst Area of NSW (called “Billy’s Fire) that burnt out a huge area of Eucalypt forest. My property was right in the middle of it all and the whole 400 acres of my property was burnt out along with 1000’s of acres. My wife evacuated. I stayed behind to fight the fire and my house survived. I had fires burn up to 5 metres from my home. But I was well prepared with firebreaks, planned roads as firebreaks in the directions of prevailing winds, 50,000 litres of water in metal tanks, underground piping, pressure pumps, firefighting pumps, electric generators, protective clothing, etc.
The polices of the greens in not allowing trees to be cut is criminal. The policies of Councils and National Parks in not performing controlled burns to limit leaf litter and fuel accumulation is also criminal. The Australian Aboriginal people used fire as a method to promote grass growth for Kangaroos etc for thousands of years and the Australian ecosystem has adapted to be an environment that can handle a burn every few years. The green policies have resulted in years of accumulated fuel growth. The result, destructive fires.
The other main issue is that many opportunists in Australia in the media are using these terrible fires in Victoria to promote Climate Change scare messages saying that we can expect more of these kind of events and extreme weather due to climate change. I have told numerous people that I consider it immoral to try and gain Climate Change capital on the backs of all the people who have suffered and died in these fires. But this is what the media is doing. Sure it was hot and windy last Saturday in Victoria, occasionally that happens and Victoria has had a near record hot spell, but there was little talk of Global Warming when late November last year much of SE-Australia had record cold weather (I even had snow) almost unprecedented 4 weeks before Christmas in Aus. Using weather events to promote the cause of Climate Change is happening by some but it’s always one sided.
Unless something happens the owls, bugs, birds and fungus are going to reign supreme in Australia. With the Green’s using Climate Change as a “Cloaking Device” for their policies we have an uphill battle.
My thoughts and prayers to all those in Victoria who are suffering.


RE Tex McGowan, Nancy and James Allison. Im sure that the families of the victims will be very happy with your opinion. You Go tell them that the trees are more important than people. You can always plant another tree a bit further down the road…Perhaps you might like to advocate a similar technique for the dead people!!!. As for Nancy accusing them of “murdering trees”…Get a life for gods sake. On the other hand I support measures that prevent people from building in fire prone areas, and if they do then they do so at their own risk. Planners need to take a more holistic look at what they advocate in their district plans.


If the Sheahans couldn’t clear the trees on their property legally, one wonders why they didn’t just clear out the dead grass, leaves, and so on, which would fuel any fire.


According to CSIRO and now being parroted by politicians the fires are the result of climate change and we need to be prepared for an increasing frequency regime of devasting fires as global warming increases our summer temperatures.


My mistake re Nancy…….Give me a gun, a BIG one
Reply: Uh, sure looks like Nancy was being facetious to me. ~ charles the moderator

Peter Hearnden

I must say if some of the language being used here was used by a ‘greenie’ I suspect a rapid ban would be in order. ‘mass murderer’, sheessh, just think what you are saying some of you! I don’t think anyone is mass murderer for having a view about the management of the environment – be you ‘greenie’ orHummer driver!
I really would like to hear the other side, the, yes, ‘greenie’ view. But, I must say it’s hard to feel able to post offering even the criticism of posts so far I have for fear of a torrent of abuse. So, I suspect, as per usual, all we will get is more of one side hurling insults at ‘greenshirt’ and ‘idiots’ and little enlightening debate about how to live in a tinder dry, extremely flammable environment.