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1/1/2002... Fire reduction burn offs useless: Daily Telegraph

Daily Telegraph  01 January 2002

Fire reduction 'burn-offs' useless


BUSHLAND around Sydney and the Blue Mountains ravaged by fire during the past week had been the subject of hazard reduction burns as recently as three months ago, it was revealed yesterday.

The hazard reduction programs, however, proved useless in preventing the fires that began that began on Christmas Day. The evidence has raised further questions about hazard reduction in the wake of claims that the National Parks and Wildlife Service had been scaling back fire hazard management.

The NPWS yesterday released figures showing that hazard reduction burning in the Blue Mountains, Warragamba and Royal National Park has been conducted over the past two years and up to last September.

Rural Fire Services Commissioner Phil Koperberg also defended the hazard reduction program and claimed individuals needed to take more responsibility for their homes.

Upper House MP Malcolm Jones, from the Outdoor Recreation party, claimed the NPWS had reduced hazard reduction burning from 47,816ha in 1993-4 to 8302 in 1997-98.

During this period, he said, the national park estate had increased by 50 per cent.

'Conditions in 1999-2000 will create an abundance of fuel loads on the ground . . . unless efforts are increased . . . the horror firestorms of 1994 will revisit us,'he said in June.

But Mr Koperberg said 600,000ha of NSW had been burned under hazard reduction in the past year.

The reason the figures were less than in the early '90s was because broadacre burns where vast tracts of land were simply set alight was no longer an acceptable practice.

'Most Sydney people want to live on the urban-bushland interface because of this amenity,' said Mr Koperberg.

'If we keep burning this amenity then people will live in a perpetual state of burnt country.

'I have to say, to be frank, the responsibility of fire protection does not rest solely with the agencies, individuals have a responsibility.

'Heavens above, you have to look at where you build your house.

'If someone had told me there would be a fire at such and such a street on December 25, I would have been down there with a box of matches
(for hazard reduction).

'But we can't tell you where the fires are going to be tomorrow.'

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