Thursday, April 30, 2009

An instance in Australia where controlled burns actually increase fire risk

Geelong Advertiser (Australia): Professor David Karoly and Dr Kevin Tolhurst last week held a bushfire seminar attended by Apollo Bay resident Simon Pockley. Dr Pockley chairs the Southern Otway Landcare Network and co-chairs the Otway Ranges Climate Action group. He told the echo that while fuel reduction was effective in other areas of Victoria, it would put the Otways at risk.

"The wet rainforest gullies are what protect the Otways," Dr Pockley said. "Over time any burning starts to change the ecology of those gullies so that they cease to be wet rainforest gullies and become effective fuel and no longer protect us. "Increased fuel-reduction burning, as advocated by some sectors of the forest industry and associated lobby groups, will further exacerbate the situation."

Prior to the seminar, Dr Pockley thought burn-offs were necessary. "What the experts are saying is on these extreme days it doesn't matter, it doesn't make any difference," he said. Dr Tolhurst said extreme weather, caused by global warming, was a greater threat than fuel. "Fuel load is not as important a factor as weather," Dr Tolhurst said.

"For example the Lara bushfire on the Geelong Rd crossed open grass paddocks on January 8, 1969 and killed 17 people trapped in their cars." Dr Pockley said experts predicted an increased number of fires in the Otways. "Climate change science is giving us a clear warning that we should expect major fires in the Otway Ranges," he said. "CSIRO predicts that the current rate of climate change will result in four times as many extreme fire danger days like Black Saturday each year by 2050."…

NASA view of 2005 fires in Australia

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