More backing for prescribed burns

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
The Torndirrup National Park fire.
Camera IconThe Torndirrup National Park fire.

Proposals to increase prescribed burning has received support in Albany, with Mayor Dennis Wellington among those backing more burn-offs in 2019.

“Prescribed burns are essential,” he said.

Mr Wellington also said the City of Albany might review burning restrictions and consider a new approvals process for future burns in response to the May 2018 fires.

His support for controlled burns follows the release of an Office of Bushfire Risk Management report in December.

The OBRM’s review of the response to the May bushfires, which scorched the Stirling Range and Torndirrup National Parks, proposed increasing prescribed burning to reduce the chance of bushfires in the driest month.

The review consulted 12 groups of first responders, environment organisations and local governments, which included the City of Albany and Mr Wellington.

Mr Wellington said the City had provided information regarding power outages during the May 21-25 emergency, which crippled phone and radio communications.

Albany councillor Robert Sutton, who braved flames during the event to evacuate his sleeping neighbours, said he supported prescribed burning as long as it was timed to not adversely impact flowering plants and nesting wildlife.

“We were very lucky to not lose everything,” he said. “I’m quite happy with prescribed burns.”

Stirling Range farmer Ashton Hood, whose neighbour’s crop was ablaze within minutes of the first sparks, also supported continuing prescribed burns.

He said the most important thing was to be prepared.

“I’m all for (prescribed burns,” he said. “Bushfires have always been a threat.”

The review’s defence of controlled burns followed criticisms by several academics over the procedure.

The Stirling Range National Park fire, which burnt through more than 18,000ha, started from a prescribed burn before winds of more than 100km/h hit the coast.

However, the OBRM report claimed about 7 per cent of bushfires started from prescribed burns and called proposals to end them “foolhardy”.

It said a combination of issues — including uncertainty over weather, poor communication and the driest period in over 100 years — were to blame for the intensity of the fires.

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