By ERWIN CHLANDA
A savage bushfire season is imminent after huge La Niña rains, but “arrangements for the mitigation, management and suppression of bushfires” are inadequate.
“There is a loss of fire management knowledge, networks and depth of experience which underpin the success of fire programs,” says the NT Government’s Alice Springs Regional Bushfire Management Plan 2022/23.
It was issued in October last year and is valid until November this year.
“Tools to support fire managers including succession planning and ongoing training in fire management and new and emerging technologies need to be more of a priority for the Alice Springs region.”
A bushfire in February 2019 took 17 days to be fully contained and raged through 1200 square kilometres of the West MacDonnell national park, including several of its prime beauty spots, and much of the Larapinta Trail.
A fire expert said water bombers could have extinguished that blaze in a fraction of the time.
When asked if water bombers would be on stand-by in the local fire season, a spokesman for the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security said: “There are no contracted fixed wing water bombers in Central Australia and Bushfires has no plans to have large air tankers on standby when the fire season starts due to logistical and environmental considerations.”
The report says there is a “reduction in regional fire management capacity as a result of turnover of experienced fire managers and decreased local knowledge and prioritisation of fire management needs in the region due to longer time periods between significant fire events”.
How does Bushfires NT manage these problems? It reduced the official risk rating from High and Extreme to Medium.
Communication with “landholders, government agencies and other stakeholders” is a further problem, according to the report.
Their roles “at a fire event is not always clear, especially when the fire is across multiple tenures”.
When in doubt, check the Act: “Awareness by fire managers and landowners of their statutory responsibilities and duties under the Bushfire Management Act 2016 will assist with clarity,” says the report.
There is “limited experience and skills of fire ground personnel”.
The Regional Committee wants refresher training “due to the larger span of time between major fire events in the region.
“Training in … incident management and its processes would be important for fire managers. External training units [who] prevent injury and respond to wildfire are being rolled out by Bushfires NT to all volunteer brigade members and relevant stakeholders.”
Landowners, pastoralists, and stakeholders should “continue strengthening increased capability across the region by undergoing continued training”.
The Alice Springs Regional Bushfire Management Committee is requesting more resources from Bushfires NT.
IMAGE on top from the report.