Appeasement: The Root Cause of the Australian Mega-Fires

Reposted from The Savvy Street

By Vinay Kolhatkar

I still remember 1994. My wife and I drove through the Royal National Park in Sydney’s south, several weeks after bushfires (or wildfires as they are known in the U.S.) had ravaged its heritage-listed insides. The 16,000 hectare park, the second oldest in the world, boasts of coastal walks, uniquely Australian flora and fauna, cycling tracks, bushwalks, and even seasonal whale watching. We had enjoyed its offerings often enough.

But, on this drive, all we could see was masses of tree trunks in long eerie lines, black as coal. Occasionally, there were a few worn, twiggy branches—mostly charred, but always without leafage. A force of nature, evocative of a Stephen King horror story, had blown off the entire canopy. For miles on end, we drove on and watched for a single green leaf, a fox, or even a wombat sighting … but all life had been erased from this pristine landscape.

The aftermath of a serious bushfire, up close, is chilling to the naked eye.

It befits us to ask—is a mega bushfire preventable?

To better understand this, I recall communicating with Roger Underwood, Chairman of the Bushfire Front, Inc., which advocates better management of fire, especially on forested lands, to reduce the impact and severity of bushfire damage.

I recall the sentiment Underwood expressed—that the science is simple enough that any schoolchild could understand it. So, are government officials dumber than a fifth-grader?

Here’s the gist what Mr. Underwood says:

That any fire requires three elements to get it started:

1) Ignition

2) Oxygen

3) Fuel

Once a fire ignites, it requires oxygen and fuel to continue burning. It’s neither possible nor desirable to remove oxygen from the air to prevent a fire starting. And the forests are the fuel. So what about ignition?

Lightning is one cause. But, as the politically left-leaning Sydney Morning Herald tells us:

There are, on average, 62,000 fires in Australia every year. Only a very small number strike far from populated areas and satellite studies tell us that lightning is responsible for only 13 percent. Not so the current fires threatening to engulf Queensland and NSW. There were no lightning strikes on most of the days when the fires first started in September [2019]. Although there have been since, these fires—joining up to create a new form of mega-fire—are almost all man-made.

A 2015 satellite analysis of 113,000 fires from 1997-2009 confirmed what we had known for some time—40 percent of fires are deliberately lit, another 47 percent accidental. This generally matches previous data published a decade earlier that about half of all fires were suspected or deliberate arson, and 37 percent accidental. Combined, they reach the same conclusion: 87 percent are man-made.

Many of the arsonists and the reckless are children. Yet, many are adults aged between 30 and 60, predominantly male.

It’s impossible to reduce the number of sociopaths in a society to absolute zero. And even one sociopath can ignite several fires in proximate locations that can join up into a single crown fire.

How? Because, the fuel—the forest canopy, runs for miles as a single, unbroken circuit.

And it is governments who are, by stealth, opposing the significant breaking of these fire circuits.

The fuel loads pile up waiting for a hot summer ignition. This Australian fire season was preceded by years of drought: the fuel was plenty, it was dry, it was unbroken—making the disaster inevitable—the arsonist’s power had been multiplied tenfold by those entrusted to protect us.

In 2017, Newsweek admitted that ISIS celebrated the wildfires in California, and that ISIS “supporters suggested laying gasoline-filled bottles in the woods to inflict further damage” in their newsletter. Why are we making it easier for terrorists to create inextinguishable fires?

As Underwood not so gently reminds us:

Plane-load after plane-load of water or retardant powder is dropped onto raging fires, making not one iota of difference. Water bombers do have a tactical role to play in bushfire control: they can “hold” a small fire under relatively mild conditions until firefighters arrive on the ground, or they can saturate a burning house. But they do not and they cannot put out a fierce forest fire, or even hinder its progress.

Water bombing on forests does make for good television clips, however. But those who entrust their safety to our high authorities in Canberra would do well to recall Canberra 2003.

The state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation admitted:

On January 18, 2003, four bushfires that had been burning in [the] mountains for more than a week combined and roared into Canberra’s south-western suburbs.

It was a massive bushfire that created its own weather, with cyclone-strength winds and fire tornados. In every sense, a firestorm. When the fires hit the suburbs, they took the public—and the authorities—almost entirely by surprise. Four residents died in a hopeless battle to protect their homes or escape the flames.

Hundreds more people were injured—some critically. They suffered horrendous burns, smoke inhalation, broken limbs, and exhaustion.

There had been no official order to evacuate their homes.

It was, in essence, every man and woman for themselves.

All it took was … the winds shifted, suddenly, and fires burning in the mountains cascaded down at ferocious speed into the suburbs at the base. In the next ten hours, four people died, over 490 were injured, and 470 homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

People in high bushfire-risk areas say that they would simply evacuate when warned, and collect insurance, if necessary, on a burned-down house. No wonder Roger Underwood despairs upon hearing such sentiments:

First, evacuation is inherently dangerous, especially when it is last-minute and in the face of an intense, fast-moving fire. Roads will be blocked by fallen trees and powerlines; vehicles trying to get out will encounter fire appliances and emergency vehicles trying to get in. Roads in bushfire-prone areas tend to be narrow and lined with dense, flammable bush. A single accident or break-down leads to traffic gridlock.

People dying in cars while attempting to evacuate is a feature of most Australian bushfire disasters.

A second fallacy is that post-fire life will be a simple matter of collecting the insurance and rebuilding the house. However, insurance companies are not always easy to deal with. For example, a friend of mine lost his beloved shed and workshop in a bushfire and his insurance company demanded he produce receipts for each lost tool and item of equipment, down to the merest screwdriver, before they would pay up. I have also heard of insurance companies declining to reinsure properties in high-risk bushfire areas, or substantially upping the premiums the second time around.

And we have not even considered items of sentimental value such as old family photos, and that building permits, required again, may not be forthcoming, from the very authorities whose negligence of scientific facts made the bushfire burn your home in the first place.

The Glaringly Obvious Solution

After every major bushfire, there are inquiries, funded by the State. And the conclusions are exactly the same.

CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is Australia’s national, state-owned science agency. In 2015, CSIRO bushfire scientist David Packham had warned that “forest fuel levels [in the state of Victoria] had climbed to their most dangerous level in thousands of years,” a situation he attributed to “misguided green ideology” and which presented “an increasing threat to human life, water supplies, property and the forest environment.” Packham recommended the tripling of the fuel-reduction burning target. But in fact, even the minimum target agreed by both major political parties was not met, only a quarter of it was done (less than a tenth of what was actually required).

This Royal Commission inquiry was held after the “Black Saturday” fires in Victoria on February 7, 2009, killed 173 people, hospitalized over 800 others, destroyed 2133 houses and burnt hundreds of thousands of hectares.

Said Underwood of the alarming parallel with today’s situation:

NSW has been in the grip of a terrible drought for years. On top of this the amount of fuel reduction burning in national parks and forests in NSW and Victoria has significantly declined and the majority of their forests are long-unburnt and carrying massive fuel loads. The combination of drought and heavy fuels has been at the root of every major bushfire crisis in the history of Australia.

And that …

The idea that fuel reduction burning destroys the ecosystem has never been demonstrated. The Australian bush has been shaped and adapted to fire for around 60,000 years and an occasional light, creeping fire has as much impact on the bush as do the ocean tides on seaweeds and fish.

Listen to Roger Underwood, Prime Minister.

As Viv Forbes, a pastoralist, adds:

Graziers need to protect herds and flocks, homesteads, haystacks, yards, fences and neighbours, as well as maintain grasslands by killing woody weeds and encouraging new grass. So their fire management was refined. They soon learned to pick the right season, day, time of day, place, wind and weather ­before lighting a fire.

Today we have replaced decentralised fire management with government-nurtured firestorms. First governments created fire hazards called national parks, where fire sticks, matches, graziers and foresters were locked out and access roads were abandoned or padlocked. And green-loving urbanites built houses beside them and planted trees in their yards. The open forests and grasslands were invaded by eucalypt ­regrowth, woody weeds, tangled undergrowth, dry grass, logs, dead leaves, twigs, bark and litter — all perfect fuel for a wildfire holocaust.

These tinderboxes of forest fuel became magnets for arsonists, or were lit by windblown embers or lightning. With high winds, high temperatures and heavy fuel loads some fires will race through the treetops of oil-rich eucalypt forests.

Meanwhile, outspoken researcher Jennifer Marohasy set the temperature record straight:

The word unprecedented is applied to almost every bad thing that happens at the moment, as though particular events could not have been predicted, and have never happened before at such a scale or intensity. This is creating so much anxiety, because it follows logically that we are living in uncertain time: that there really is a climate emergency.

The historical evidence, however, indicates fires have burnt very large areas before, and it has been hotter.

Why Are the Authorities Derelict?

One government backbencher, MP Craig Kelly, could take it no more. On January 6, he appeared on Great Britain First, and spoke truth to power, pointing the finger at the real villain: the buildup of record fuel loads and arson, and later calling his critics on Facebook “lefty trolls” who were “brainwashed.” Media host Piers Morgan blasted Kelly’s candor as “absolutely disgraceful.” British meteorologist Laura Tobin awarded Kelly a medal of valor … well, she called him a “climate denier,” which amounts to the same thing.

Soon after, even many conservative MPs quickly distanced themselves from Mr. Kelly.

What is at work here is that the climate racket hasn’t just taken over the media. Heads of state, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and U.S. President Donald Trump, are so wary of the racket’s power over the citizenry, that hardly anyone confronts it head-on.

Climate racketeers saw in the latest bushfire crisis of lost firefighter and civilian lives, plus the ravaged wildlife, forests, and property, an opportunity to score points for “climate change.” They blamed Scott Morrison for not doing enough; Australia is the only country relying on carryover credits to meet its Paris 2030 target.

Which brings us to a most unfortunate conclusion:

That we cannot trust our elected officials to use well-known science to reduce the risk of wildfires either by giving up their monopoly authority over all “managed fuel reduction and back burning,” or by privatizing forest management, or otherwise by managing the fuel load down themselves.

Because they are afraid of the green lobby’s effect on votes. This fear doesn’t make moral, or even political sense, as was argued in the Open Letter to Scott Morrison.

It’s true that fuel reduction is a state, not federal, responsibility. But that fact simply needs to be restated alongside the truth that Craig Kelly voiced.

Instead, Scott Morrison and his deputy, Josh Frydenberg, first trembled, then capitulated, in the face of the media onslaught. Frydenberg appeased the climate lobby by conceding that “climate change” was causing hotter, drier summers, implicitly buying into a significant human cause of the planet’s surface temperatures. Then Morrison caved in by promising to do “more” to combat “climate,” splitting his party with his weasel words in the process.

Mr. Morrison, would you rather the wrath of the media, or the “wrath of Nature” upon the people? Are you willing to let volunteer firefighters die and have some civilians in the bush ruined financially, because you can’t muster the courage to confront the anti-science greens?

If the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Brexit “surprise” taught us anything, it’s this:

The age where mainstream media manufactured public consent, has gone. Perhaps that insight hasn’t dawned on the Australian Prime Minister yet.

And take a look at Craig Kelly’s rising popularity, Mr. Morrison. It may help you to grow a pair.

Vinay Kolhatkar

Sydney, Australia

Published on The Savvy Street on January 14, 2020 under the title ‘The Reason “Green Ideology” Can Light Catastrophic Fires in Australia

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David blackall
January 17, 2020 2:18 pm

Recently I wrote this which agrees with the idea that arsonists light fires and the difficulties in dealing with the overwhelming denial by those who prefer the illogical narrative of climate change to reasonable assertion and reality. I referred to the Victoria Royal Commission of 1939 bushfires which is evidence of the failure for any logic or learning: the fuel burden was the problem then and remains so today.

Reply to  David blackall
January 17, 2020 5:58 pm

I remember hearing about the fuel load problem as a kid in the 80s. None of this is new. It’s just unpopular because Green.

Reply to  Matthew
January 18, 2020 4:31 pm

It is not just a “fuel load problem” but the king of all fuel loads. Most people unfamiliar with Australia would relate that forest to those they are familiar with as in the U.S. but that comparison is not even close. I think that the differences should be regularly emphasized to show how Eucalypt fires are VERY special. And apparently not even those in California have learned this lesson.
“Most species of Eucalyptus are native to Australia, and every state and territory has representative species. About three-quarters of Australian forests are eucalypt forests. Wildfire is a feature of the Australian landscape and many eucalypt species are adapted to fire, and resprout after fire or have seeds which survive fire.
Eucalyptus oil is highly flammable; ignited trees have been known to explode.[29][30] Bushfires can travel easily through the oil-rich air of the tree crowns.[31][32] Eucalypts obtain long-term fire survivability from their ability to regenerate from epicormic buds situated deep within their thick bark, or from lignotubers,[33] or by producing serotinous fruits.[34]
In seasonally dry climates oaks are often fire-resistant, particularly in open grasslands, as a grass fire is insufficient to ignite the scattered trees. In contrast, a eucalyptus forest tends to promote fire because of the volatile and highly combustible oils produced by the leaves, as well as the production of large amounts of litter high in phenolics, preventing its breakdown by fungi and thus accumulating as large amounts of dry, combustible fuel.Consequently, dense eucalypt plantings may be subject to catastrophic firestorms. In fact, almost thirty years before the Oakland firestorm of 1991, a study of eucalyptus in the area warned that the litter beneath the trees builds up very rapidly and should be regularly monitored and removed.[35] It has been estimated that 70% of the energy released through the combustion of vegetation in the Oakland fire was due to eucalyptus.”

barbara cronin
Reply to  David blackall
January 25, 2020 7:26 pm

You have started with a gossip and conspiracy theory then scoured the internet for supporting evidence, conveniently ignoring conflicting and qualified voices. A narrow and minded account that will serve only to entrench existing misinformation that has the potential to set back any efforts to actually progress our understanding of bushfires and global warming. Coal industry propaganda on a grand scale.

January 17, 2020 2:30 pm

The point that the Sydney Morning Herald and many other commentators is missing completely is that whilst the chance of a lightning strike igniting a fire is low compared to other known causes, if there is a large fuel load the chance of it becoming a catastrophic event is extremely high. Quinny would agree.

Reply to  kalsel3294
January 18, 2020 5:11 am

storm here 2 weeks back after the heat we had 4 fires start in under n hr from lightning, withing 15k of my town
this area has a high ironstone content and is a magnet for lightning;-(
those fires relit days later

this week 2 a bit further away
one in a bluegum plntation and one at a scenic spot
no lightning and NOT very hot or windy
benefit of doubt some idiot tourist may have stopped with a hot exhaust and been stupid enough to park over long dry grass…but?
it would have been reported if that was the case, and its not.
we are one of the few areas that managed to produce decent crops and hay this yr
if that was ruined then a lot of misery follows as we are feeding many burnt out/droughted areas

Andy Espersen
January 17, 2020 2:44 pm

Vinay Kolhatkar remembers his drive through a devastated forest area in 1994 – no sign of life for miles. I personally remember a walk in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne in September 1962, only 8 months after an out-of control bushfire destroyed hundreds of homes and killed many. All was lush and brimming with life, insects humming in the sun, we could easily walk for miles, never impeded by undergrowth, long grasses and dead branches, young plants welling out of the ground. This was Australia at its healthiest best, namely the spring time following a devastating bushfire. Many parts of this mighty continent’s whole ecology has been shaped by, is dependent on, regular burn-offs

Reply to  Andy Espersen
January 17, 2020 10:34 pm

The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires included a small outbreak at Ferntree Gully.
It was only stopped by the luck that a helicopter heading to the airport for refuelling could be diverted and scored a direct hit.
Anyone who knows this location would be aware of the catastrophic outcome if this fire got into the highly populated poorly accessed Dandenong Ranges.

Reply to  Andy Espersen
January 18, 2020 12:44 am

Excellent point, Andy. The Royal did bounce back very strong after a year or two. And that was after a hellish uncontrolled fire, so shows you how well it would be if more regular, managed burnoffs did take place.

Paul Seward
Reply to  Andy Espersen
January 18, 2020 9:29 am

What does the Royal National Park look like today?

Reply to  Andy Espersen
January 18, 2020 10:12 pm


“Recovery” depends very much on the intensity of the fire.
I have been in bush land in which the soil had been completely sterilised to a depth of 10cm. While some plant species responded by reseeding, the species mix was not the same as that preceding the fires. Two and a half years later, the bird community was still slow in recovering, probably due to the similarly slow build-up of insect and plant foods, while native mammals were almost completely absent.

The bush recovers very quickly from mild burns. But not all fires are equal.

Andy Espersen
Reply to  PeterW
January 19, 2020 9:05 am

“The bush recovers very qui9ckly from mild burns”. That, of course, makes controlled burn-offs crucial – in the Australian context.

January 17, 2020 2:47 pm

There is a magazine, Fine Homebuilding, which has done an exemplary job of analyzing the outcome of natural disasters vis a vis the construction of houses that survived, or did not survive, such disasters. Here’s a link to an article which describes fire resistant construction details for houses. They have also done articles on fire resistant landscaping.

If I lived in a forest fire area, my house would be constructed much differently and I would not have the magnificent trees that overhang the roof and keep the house cooler in the summer. The other thing which, as far as I can tell, is bunkers. If you can’t fight the fire, and you can’t escape, you should have shelter available.

People aren’t helpless if they think ahead. /rant

Reply to  commieBob
January 17, 2020 5:57 pm

I have said the same thing about houses built in tornado zones, hurricane zones, and flood zones. Why wouldn’t you build according to the conditions? But then, no one listens to me…

Reply to  Matthew
January 18, 2020 4:22 am

It’s spotty. Unsurprisingly, the Florida building code pays a lot of attention to hurricane resistant construction. link Also, unsurprisingly, Canadian building codes pay a lot of attention to snow loads.

What appals me is that folks who live in fire prone woodlands don’t seem to take that into account when they build their houses.

January 17, 2020 2:49 pm

Thank you for a sensible well reasoned post…facts not green fiction.

When will they ever learn…how many lives will it take?

Reply to  Alastair Brickell
January 18, 2020 12:42 am

Thank you, Alastair.

“When will they ever learn…how many lives will it take?” This is the $64,000 question.

Ron Long
January 17, 2020 2:53 pm

Vinay, great report and a style of telling it like it is that I like. This issue of arsonists is a deadly wild card that is, it seems to me, to be partly nutjobs and partly environmentalists on a mission (go ahead and combine them if you like). I am currently on vacation in the coastal area of Valpariso in Chile, and the dry underbrush and giant eucalyptus trees is an alarming sight. Nearby, on Christmas eve, one of the above N/E’s set a fire that destroyed 230 homes here, which was supposed to make a point of some sort. Looks like the standard fire prevention equipment should now include a shotgun.

Reply to  Ron Long
January 18, 2020 12:40 am

Thank you, Ron.

John Tillman
Reply to  Ron Long
January 18, 2020 5:34 am

Valparaiso’s famous New Year’s fireworks display was scarcely visible from atop Playa Ancha hill, which overlooks the port from which the explosives are launched, due to the pall of smoke from the fires.

The coast in Region V is very windy. The hills around Valpo and Viña frequently burn, sometimes destructively. It’s not just vegetation but uncollected rubbish which fuels the fires. Even before the recent mass protests, trash burning in the streets was a common form of demonstration.

My wife and I last year were surrounded by smoke and tear gas near Plaza Sotomayor.

But at least the local supermarket has reopened for good, with improved security defenses.

Hope you enjoy your stay. We used to live in Concon.

January 17, 2020 3:01 pm

The word “unprecedented” has overtaken sections of the media, one could say the use of the word “unprecedented” is unprecedented. It points to the standard of reporting these days, very poor.

January 17, 2020 3:02 pm

Well written, Vinay Kolhatkar.

Reply to  u.k.(us)
January 18, 2020 12:40 am

Thank you, U.K.

January 17, 2020 3:04 pm

9 years ago, the Gillard-Greens govt. introduced a ‘carbon tax’ and blamed QLD floods on coal. They lost the next election in a landslide to Tony Abbott who promised to ‘axe the tax’. He did. No Australian election has been won by the side threatening the most Climate Action (Gillard herself promised there would be ‘no carbon tax under a govt. I lead’ prior to the 2010 election). I don’t know if Morrison realises it but the Australian electorate has not swallowed the Klimate Kool-aid. Neither, I believe, has the American electorate.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  snikdad
January 17, 2020 5:52 pm

She also introduced a temporary 0.5% increase in the MediCare levy which everyone, nationwide, pays and still is AFAIK.

Reply to  snikdad
January 18, 2020 4:24 am

Totally true, snikdad, the Australian electorate has not swallowed the “Klimate Kool-aid.” We tried to tell him, see:

Clay Sanborn
January 17, 2020 3:08 pm

The illogical liberal solution to Australian arson fires is to ban matches. You know, match control.

January 17, 2020 3:23 pm

“A child of five would understand this.
Send someone to fetch a child of five (for the government).”-
Groucho Marx (with minor addition).

January 17, 2020 3:25 pm

I to have memories of horrific bushfires. After the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires my father took my to Cockatoo. It was not the rows of burnt trees the shocked me, but the burned out cars in the Main Street.
I don’t remember the horror of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires because I headed the warnings and took my family away.
I think it’s important to break the bushfire event into stages and look at the critical issues.
Before ignition (months to years)- fuel loads building up over years, rainfall history, planning legislation, population expansion, status of infrastructure , education, authorities preparedness etc.
Just before ignition & ignition (ignition to days) – current weather, status of infrastructure, authorities preparedness, decision making of individuals .
During fire – fuel loads, current weather, actions of authorities, decision making of individuals.
My friend cleared around his house, prepared it well, heard all the warnings, watched the updates but then saw the the fire come over the hill ( the Murrindindi Fire started by a faulty power line). He and his family had seconds to get to the car – they survived but lost their farm. They prepared well, followed all the advice but made the wrong decision.
I guess I’m trying to say that the total fire event must be considered not just what made it start.
It’s disgusting to hear that the fire event and all it’s damage is caused by climate change.
Likewise we can’t just blame lack of fuel reduction. While it is a major contributor to the total fire event.

Dave N
January 17, 2020 3:25 pm

Thus a demonstration that the Royal Commissions into these scenarios were ineffective.

Collectively, government and environmentalists are responsible for the magnitude of these disasters. On the environmentalists side: their audacity to pressure governments into endangering people’s lives by demanding less clearing and back burning, and on the governments side: the lack of “balls” to stand up to them and put the safety of the population, fauna and flora first.

January 17, 2020 3:40 pm

Once a fire ignites, it requires oxygen and fuel to continue burning. It’s neither possible nor desirable to remove oxygen from the air to prevent a fire starting. And the forests are the fuel. So what about ignition?

Lesson 1 in the fire department is the fire triangle: fuel, oxygen, temperature. Take one side of this triangle away and the fire stops.
So take away the fuel and there won’t be a bush fire.

Reply to  Hans Erren
January 17, 2020 4:31 pm

Hans Erren

Do I remember right? Aren’t you ‘Klimaathype’ ?

Don’t you live in the Netherlands, this vast country yearly devastated by extraordinary huge bush fires?

And you come here around, and play the experienced teacher?


Reply to  Bindidon
January 18, 2020 6:22 am

Are you actually going to argue that only people who live in countries that suffer from wildfires can understand what causes them?

Are you really that desperate to shout down the opposition?

Reply to  Hans Erren
January 17, 2020 9:53 pm

Permanent drought needed. No water means nothing grows. Nothing grows means no fuel.

Alternative solution: remove all oxygen from the atmosphere.

January 17, 2020 3:40 pm

Thinning brush and forests is important, but nothing can prevent or stop a bushfire whipped into an inferno by high winds. Let’s not forget that. The only solution for humans is to not live near forests, or create a very large buffer zone with no brush or trees in your yard, unrealistic for many who can’t afford a large plot of land. “Global warming”…er…”climate change” has nothing to do with it.

Reply to  stinkerp
January 17, 2020 4:22 pm

Good comment

Reply to  stinkerp
January 17, 2020 5:13 pm

True! And living between 80′ eucalyptus trees that explode due to the flammable oil contained within is indeed, a bad idea!

Reply to  stinkerp
January 17, 2020 10:47 pm

If you live in a bushfire prone municipality in Victoria you are now allowed to clear trees 10m from your house and vegetation 50m from you house.
BUT if you house is only 5m from a municipal park, the council will refuse to clear the boundary.
Statistically, the majority of bushfire fatalities are from properties immediately adjoins government parks/reserves/forests.
Not the key to reduce fires but the key to reduce the loss of life will be the the increased fuel reduction immediately surrounding peri urban areas. The fire may start in the forest but it will loose potential fuel prior to reaching the towns.

Reply to  stinkerp
January 18, 2020 10:19 pm

Lousy comment.

The best way to stop a bushfire on a bad day is to get it out before the bad day comes.

As the article pointed out, the Canberra fires of 2003 had been burning for EIGHT DAYS under relatively mild conditions. The same lightning storm lit over a dozen other fires that were extinguished before the blow-up day arrived. Those extinguished fires killed no-one and destroyed no homes.

It was only those fires that continued burning because it was judged “too difficult” to extinguish them, that caused the loss of life and property.

Fuel management is NOT about stopping every fire in its tracks, regardless of conditions. It is about making it far easier to control or defend against fires, particularly during the more benign periods between the arrival of strong winds associated with weather fronts.

January 17, 2020 3:56 pm

“would you rather the wrath of the media, or the “wrath of Nature” upon the people?”

The people in the bush are the little people who don’t matter. On the other hand, the wrath of the media could end his career. He’s protecting what is most important to him.

John MacDonald
January 17, 2020 4:05 pm

Vinay, thanks for a good article. No matter how often it is said, the truth that fuel plus negligence is a disastrous combination never seems to sink in.

Here in the Sierra foothills of California, we face the same danger every year. Yet people lose homes and lives. Our Governor is making promises about fuel reduction…remains to be seen if he’ll actually spent the money, or effectively.
I just finished 5 days of brush pile burning, the yearly chore to remove dead fall, windfall and newly identified hazard brush. Always a rake. Shovel and water hose at the ready.
I recently added a metal roof to an outbuilding. Gives some peace of mind until we can afford to re-skin with cement board siding.
More close-in trees must fall soon. Such is rural life.

Reply to  John MacDonald
January 18, 2020 12:46 am

Thank you, John.

January 17, 2020 4:20 pm

If the law is against common sense, and the government doesn’t do it’s job, I just wonder, wouldn’t it be sensible to play arsonist during the wetter season to remove the fuel load?
Take care 😉

January 17, 2020 4:47 pm

Many thanks to Vinay Kolhatkar. This post is extremely well done. I will read it to my grandchildren.

Bob Tisdale

Reply to  Bob Tisdale
January 17, 2020 4:48 pm

PS: And thank you, Charles, for cross-posting it here at WUWT.


Reply to  Bob Tisdale
January 18, 2020 12:48 am

Many thanks, Bob.

January 17, 2020 4:47 pm

Superb article…well done. But don’t expect the Australian ABC or Sydney Morning Herald, (imagine The Guardian) ever pick it up…I almost doubt The Australian or Sky News would these days. The so-called LNP government ‘Science Minister’ has spoken…the debate is over, cataclysmic AGW/CC is upon us…act without thinking and do it now! This is scary stuff…critical thought and assessment are not possible. And by the way, it’s pouring rain in most of central and eastern New South Wales now and has been now for a day and a half…with more to come over the next two days. That’s AGW/CC-related too you know…droughts and floods. How small-minded.

Reply to  Fred
January 17, 2020 7:15 pm

” … This is scary stuff…critical thought and assessment are not possible. …”

It’s called … BAD GOVERNMENT.

Reply to  WXcycles
January 18, 2020 2:32 am

Is there any other kind of Government these days?

Reply to  Oldseadog
January 18, 2020 6:23 am

That government is best, which governs least.
Thomas Jefferson

Reply to  Fred
January 18, 2020 4:26 am

Thank you, Fred.

Al Miller
January 17, 2020 4:51 pm

Thanks for telling the truth, no matter how much some don’t want to hear it…

Reply to  Al Miller
January 18, 2020 12:46 am

Thank you, Al.

January 17, 2020 4:54 pm

Solution is private property

and punishment

Caning, whippings, branding, Tarring and feathering.

Ulric Lyons
January 17, 2020 4:55 pm

“This Australian fire season was preceded by years of drought: the fuel was plenty,”

No it wasn’t, there were a number of NWS floods in the cooler seasons since early 2017, that boosts the undergrowth which adds to the fuel load in summer, just like in California were it got well soaked early 2017. Remember the satellite photos of California greening in 2016? The 1974-75 Australian bushfire season was so huge because it was so wet for the previous two years.
For Eastern Australia, the ideal scenario for more bushfires is a one-two of positive Antarctic Oscillation (SAM) conditions in the cool season which makes it wetter in the east, followed by negative SAM in the summer which reduces summer rainfall in the east. CO2 is innocent, it cannot exacerbate extremes of both negative and positive SAM.

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Robert B
Reply to  Ulric Lyons
January 18, 2020 2:53 am

Something that doesn’t get repeated enough. Only a few months of drought dries the fuel enough to burn ferociously.

Reply to  Robert B
January 18, 2020 3:34 am

In western WI we typically see fires in the spring. They can start usually after a 2 week dry period. I always wondered why that happened.

Reply to  Ulric Lyons
January 18, 2020 3:16 am

To Uric Lyons I agree with your analysis but would add to it the drought making drying Indian Ocean Dipole(IOD) in positive mode whereby easterly winds push warm water in the ocean westwards to the shores of Africa where it caused big precipitation resulting in floods.
The cooler waters from the deep well up near Australia in the absence of the warmer waters now over in the west. Those cooler waters have low evaporation rates hence resulting in low precipitation causing drought and drying out of the forest floor fuel loads which readily ignite from either lightning or mostly human action
In 2019 -2020 there was an unusual coincidence of both the IOD and the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) which added to the drying and heat load, and it must be said also higher temperatures of about an extra 1.5 c from higher global temperatures on all ready high ambient temperature regime.

But the green left media here ( Age,Sydney Morning Herald , Guardian and the National radio and TV organisation the ABC) never once mention the IOD or the SAM, which interestingly enough and correctly so the Age’s ‘Environment writer described as “the main climate drivers of Australia ”
The Age editorial of a week later in calling for action on climate change ignored both their own internal environment expert and the Bureau of Meteorology, which had released videos clearly explaining the roles of these cyclical oceanic weather systems which largely drive the variable climate of Australia which regularly suffers drought plus fires or floods.

Reply to  Ulric Lyons
January 18, 2020 4:29 am

Correct, Ulric, since mid 2017 so that phrase “years of” can be misread. I have amended it to “severe drought;” indeed one of the very worst ones.

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  Vinay Kolhatkar
January 18, 2020 12:11 pm

Certainly a positive IOD, and El Nino conditions, are strong drivers of southern Australian drought, but can they give both positive SAM in winter and negative SAM in late spring and summer? I very much doubt it. I would argue that daily-weekly scale anomalies in the annular modes are strongly solar driven. SAM doesn’t exactly follow the Arctic Oscillation, but the negative period through Oct-Nov 2019 is common. February could be interesting.

January 17, 2020 4:57 pm

If climate change is a huge part of the problem, then the appropriate response is making fuel reduction a priority.

Addressing climate change – whatever Australia does in that regard won’t change a bloody thing for a century. So they must manage the problem for the time being.

Reply to  Geo
January 17, 2020 6:31 pm

One of the problems here in Australia is that National Park funding is being reduced year on year. It is these departments that carry out regular controlled burning in parks. Probably one of their biggest tasks.

However I doubt that increased park burning will reduce economic loss by much. Most loss is forestry plantations, pasture, fences, houses, infrastructure, etc.

In my area (SE Australia), 40 years ago, burning of private native forest area was somewhat encouraged. But I don’t think I have seen a private controlled forest fire since then. The forestry and parks departments carry out burns from time to time on government land. Maybe with extra funding from our government, (?) forestry, parks or our Rural Fire Service could assist private native forest owners with controlled burns.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  robl
January 18, 2020 4:46 am

Forty years ago I wrote a long, invited alternative plan of management for an area soon to be declared Kakadu National Park. A feature of my plan – my plan was essentially ignored – was that parks attract people and people are a park’ s worst enemy. I stressed the huge area of the park would never be managed well because its budget needs would be too high. I said that there would be increased numbers of accidental human caused fires that could not be controlled well.
So the chooks are coming home to roost. There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.
Geoff S.

Peter D
January 17, 2020 5:09 pm

Thank you for this.
I doubt this could be printed in Australia, in any newspaper, even the so called conservative press.
There will be commissions of inquiry, the MSM is demanding a circus and retribution. The same findings will be made as the last time, and the time before that etc, and none of the recommendations will be enacted, just like before.
In 10 to 15 years, we will see the big fires of this year repeated, with loss of houses and deaths, just like the last time, and the time before that.
Australia used to call itself the Clever Country, but evidence suggests it’s not. Evidence suggests not only that we can’t learn, but that we don’t want to.

Reply to  Peter D
January 17, 2020 7:27 pm

“… There will be commissions of inquiry, the MSM is demanding a circus and retribution. The same findings will be made as the last time, and the time before that etc, and none of the recommendations will be enacted, just like before. … ”

You’d think so, except this time they’ve got religion, they’ll invoke rising CO2 doom.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Peter D
January 17, 2020 8:26 pm

“Australia used to call itself the Clever Country,”

IIRC, it called itself the Lucky Country; but now it has declined to being the Lackey Country.

January 17, 2020 5:29 pm

We need some KPI’s for all authorities to be held accountable for what they are in charge of .
Having reduced fuel accumulation of forest floors is just one example .
The people that set targets need to be accountable, the people administering or achieving those targets need to be accountable .
Private sector ; cya later Joe .
Public sector : climate change or blame shame .

Mark Broderick
January 17, 2020 5:31 pm

JANUARY 16TH, 2020
“Climate Expert Shreds Claims Made By Ocasio-Cortez, Thunberg In Congressional Testimony”

“Michael D. Shellenberger, President of Environmental Progress, ripped the far-left extremist rhetoric parroted by fringe activist Greta Thunberg and socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) during his testimony in front of the House Committee On Science, Space, and Technology on the science of climate change”

January 17, 2020 5:36 pm

Just have to comment. Great article Vinay Kolhatkar – couldn’t agree more.
I have read this article directly after penning a reply/commentary on a newsletter I receive, where one ‘member’ sort of said the same thing and then the attacks started of him and his “junk climate BS’.
Sorry, but simple logic such as in your article simply goes over peoples heads – and it make you wonder how and why, this is.
Its SO bloody infuriating, and the issue won’t get any better until good (and simple) logic is followed to address the problem as best we mere mortals, can achieve.

Reply to  DBH
January 18, 2020 4:30 am

Thank you, D&H

January 17, 2020 6:17 pm

For what it’s worth, I grew up in the bush in South East Queensland 40 years ago, with bushfires a regular occurance and it was up to us and our neighbours to protect the houses. Several things worked to keep things under-control

1 – The fires were regular, approximately every couple of years, so there was not a huge build-up of fuel load
2 – We always had a decent clearance around the house, generally a min of 30 meters at the closest point to the bush, with some points significantly more.
4. No trees or foliage against the house
3 – Kept the gutters clean of leaves
3 – We had asbestos cladding and roof. Not a current usable strategy, but a house made of material that does not easily burn, will not easily burn

Reply to  diggs
January 17, 2020 6:35 pm

I replied to another comment but my comment is more appropriate here.

One of the problems here in Australia is that National Park funding is being reduced year on year. It is these departments that carry out regular controlled burning in parks. Probably one of their biggest tasks.

However I doubt that increased park burning will reduce economic loss by much. Most loss is forestry plantations, pasture, fences, houses, infrastructure, etc.

In my area (SE Australia), 40 years ago, burning of private native forest area was somewhat encouraged. But I don’t think I have seen a private controlled forest fire since then. The forestry and parks departments carry out burns from time to time on government land. Maybe with extra funding from our government, (?) forestry, parks or our Rural Fire Service could assist private native forest owners with controlled burns.

Reply to  robl
January 18, 2020 10:31 pm

Every land manager has a responsibility to prevent fire on their land from impacting others….. but managers of public land suffer no consequences from public land fires escaping.

Private land offers something more than just fuel management…. ACCESS.
Access and incentive are important, because they cause fires to be extinguished early. As the MacLeod inquiry into the Canberra fires found, those fires had been permitted to burn for 8 days, during milder conditions, before a bad day blew them up into the firestorm that killed 4 people and destroyed 500 homes. Over a dozen fires started by the same lightning front on private land were controlled while small and killed nobody.

Fires are not permitted to keep burning on private land because grass and trees are economically important, so foresters and farmers don’t delay in putting them out. Forests and farms require good, open access tracks that facilitate a rapid response by firefighting personnel and equipment. Public land has few such tracks and many have been closed and made impassable.

All fires are not equal. The greatest damage is usually done by those fires permitted to get big, so when they impact on populated areas, they do so over such a broad front that we simply cannot get enough resources in place. Letting fires burn is not a safe option.

Reply to  diggs
January 17, 2020 7:44 pm

I have read that there are TWO forms of asbestos: white asbestos and blue asbestos. ONE of these is extremely hazardous and caused all the notorious health problems. The other is almost benign. So fire-prone areas like yours should investigate this, and if that is right, then get regulations changed appropriately.

Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
January 18, 2020 5:22 am

if you have ANY viisible external asbestos and you have a fire in Vic at least..
the firebrigade will NOT put it out
a home in the next town was allowed to burn the only control was to stop it going to neighbours
because of asbestos risk
so then?
the remains with powdery asbestos sheeting was allowed to sit all taped off as a hazard for MONTHS!
the highest risk was all that period of time to all around whenever any breeze lifted it
but thats OHS for you

Steve Keohane
Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
January 18, 2020 9:29 am

That used to be one of my father’s favorite rants, ‘that only one of the two types of asbestos is harmful’. I’m reminded of the same on some of the home remodeling shows where they run into floor tile or siding with asbestos, the whole site is tented in and a HazMat team removes the materials. I have always wondered why a discernment test of asbestos type isn’t done.

January 17, 2020 7:03 pm

“Heads of state, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison … ”

Morrison has by now 100% forgotten he was elected and still has his job today solely because the people in Queensland totally rejected the insane climate-change and anti coal agenda of Labor and Greens, just 9 months ago.

Now Scott thinks it’s OK to be a Greens-lite PM and talk nonsense about climate change and humans CO2 being the cause of bushfires, and expect that to work in QLD at the next election.

What we’ve of course found is that electing another greened-up Lib/Nats rendering is scarcely any better than voting greens in the first place. You still get a bunch of mostly dishonest opportunistic fools talking nonsense about CO2 hysteria and climate change due bad humans either way.

It’s the essence of spineless pandering idiocy.

Voting for a blocking Party is the only option remaining at this point, Pauline Hanson’s “One Nation” is the only potential blocking Party left to vote for.

Better the Devil we don’t know than these Devils that we do know, at this point.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  WXcycles
January 17, 2020 7:26 pm

He’s caving to media pressure, because GOSH SHOCK HORROR a federal PM took a holiday when it is the responsibility of state/territory leaders to manage state/territory issues like bushfires in bushfire zones and seasons. Once winter arrives we’ll get floods. And the cycle starts again.

Reply to  WXcycles
January 18, 2020 4:31 am

Very true, WX, hard to believe Morrison’s the same man who once gave the “coal is good” speech in Parliament.

January 18, 2020 2:32 am

A very timely and accurate article. Just one quibble: Scott Morrison is not head of state, he’s head of government. Our head of state is either the queen or the governor-general, depending on how you view it. Commentators get confused by the unusual situation in the US, where the president is both head of state AND head of government.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  rubberduck
January 18, 2020 8:22 pm

She is head of state in name only, that role is delegated to the Governor General. I think the Queen relinquished her power over Australia in 1986 IIRC.

Excavator Man
January 18, 2020 4:15 am

I live in southern England. My late father, who also lived in this part of the UK, was inordinately proud of his Australian bottle brush hedge. This hedge would shed vast amounts of leaves and other combustibles, and the prunings would also burn fiercely in a bonfire. My father also noted that the seed pods would only shed their seeds if they were charred or cooked in an oven, and then he could grow seedlings.

Well, he also had a ‘flame weeder’. You can imagine what happened when he used it!

After my father died, and I took over maintenance of the garden, I discovered that the mass of detritus also stuck itself to the ground and was a struggle to clear.

Now if that one species is at all typical, it has evolved to burn.

January 18, 2020 4:33 am

You are correct from a technical pont of view, rubberduck.

January 18, 2020 9:19 am

Metal Roofs are a thing, an important thing.

Build with them. Metal Roof, Metal Siding, Metal Window Awnings, and Metal Clad Doors.

Michael Jankowski
January 18, 2020 9:49 am

‘…But in fact, even the minimum target agreed by both major political parties was not met…”

The Green Party opposed and opposes ANY minimum target. Yet they and their defenders (e.g., Nick Stokes) pretend they have been all-in for support of controlled burns.

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
January 18, 2020 3:25 pm

“The Green Party opposed and opposes ANY minimum target.”

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 18, 2020 10:35 pm

Not nonsense.

The detail in Greens policy makes it clear that they strongly oppose all burning which THEY define as “non-essential”…. and their definition of “essential” is so limited as to constitute a practical ban over the vast majority of public land.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  PeterW
January 19, 2020 12:41 am

Another Stokes open mouth change foot post.

Reply to  PeterW
January 19, 2020 1:49 am

“The detail in Greens policy…”
Quote it!

Craig Rogers
January 18, 2020 11:44 am

No there are 4 things that fires need
1) Ignition

2) Oxygen

3) Fuel

4] 190 Humans were caught starting fires there.

Eco Nazies?

Herb Alist
January 18, 2020 2:28 pm

Currently CO2 level in the atmosphere measured at Mauna Loa for December 2019 is 412 ppm. Since the increase in atmospheric CO2 is believed to have perturbed the global energy balance with a steady delta T slope for the last 15 years as evidenced by increased atmosphere temperature and ocean heat content then the question arises as where the equilibrium point for change would reside if levels of CO2 were to remain constant at today’s level. So what can Australia do to effect any change at all to CO2 the root cause?

January 18, 2020 4:52 pm

Thank you to all readers who posted detailed, insightful, and/or complimentary comments.

The key argument here, as you all know, is that Mother Nature’s effects are more controllable than our politicians, who quickly forget who elected them and why, and begin to behave like the mainstream, left media is a boss to be feared. The “climate racket” is worldwide. And, from the centre right, or even the centre left, it can never be appeased fully (it’s the Far Left’s racket). Nothing short of confronting it head-on will change matters.

Feel free to see the related:

January 19, 2020 4:06 am

The follow on question from the above analyses is what should be the direction of public policy for Australia
The way I see it is that Australia cannot control the large scale weather systems in the four oceans surrounding our island continent Nor can we do anything much to affect global warming from whatever the cause.
So our principal policy stance should be one of Adaptation to the variable and warming climate which brings regular drying droughts and floods to Australia.
Such a policy was initiated by certain large business groups and developed in 2012, but has been shelved by successive governments.
Its principal elements included:-
Building infrastructure such a flood containing levees ,and dams, and improving resilience of properties to cyclones and floods.
Bush fire resilience programs including land clearing and regular back burning as well as under
-grounding electricity wires plus firefighting training equipping and community education and warning programs plus more emergency response planning.
Needing resolution is the fact that while the Federal government is seen by the community as having a central leadership role the fact is under the constitution fire and emergency services are under jurisdiction of the states so the Feds can legally only get involved if asked to by the state affected by fire or flood
Another key pillar identified was improved land use planning and tightened building codes plus disallowing building in high risk areas eg on ridges or among dense forests plus improvements are needed in insurance cover.

January 19, 2020 8:07 am

So what do the bushfires add to Australia’s carbon footprint? Could we use the “doomers'” arguments against them and point out that wildfires produce CO2, so forest management should be used to reduce CO2 emissions?

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