Friday, February 13, 2009

Life or lifestyle, warns fire chief after Victoria bushfires

The Australian: Russell Rees, chief officer of Victoria's Country Fire Authority, yesterday said firefighters could no longer guarantee saving the lives of those who chose to surround themselves with vegetation despite the obvious fire risks. His warnings came as it emerged that Victoria had ignored repeated demands to reduce bushfire hazards and crack down on "tree-changer" housing estates in the years leading up to Saturday's deadly fires, which are believed to have killed more than 200 people and left 7000 homeless.

The state was berated by the federal government in 2007 for ignoring some of the findings of two national bushfire inquiries held after the 2003 Canberra blaze. As shattered communities prepare to rebuild from the ashes, the Australasian Fire Authorities Council yesterday called for more controls over housing development in bushland on the urban fringe.

The CFA's Mr Rees told The Weekend Australian that firefighters were on the "receiving end" of the tree-change trend in which people choose to escape urban living for a bush lifestyle amid dense vegetation on the fringes of major cities. "We've got to choose," he said. 'If we choose to live in this way, then who do we blame? My fear is that people will say the fire service failed (last Saturday) and I will go to my grave saying we fought our guts out….”…

Little Desert, Victoria, Australia, shot by Mussklprozz, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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