Opinion: Fire risk price to pay bush living

Billy KerrSouth Western Times

When you live out in a rural subdivision which butts up against a national forest there is always the prospect of having to contend with bushfires, especially at this time of the year.

The rules surrounding what you can and cannot do on your block changes a bit and this year was no different.

We are quite fortunate in that we have a proactive council and an even more proactive and realistic fire control officer and shire rangers who know their patch of turf and offer quality and practical advice.

In fact, when I applied to the council for permission to have well maintained lawn up to my boundaries in lieu of bare earth firebreaks, the ranger hand delivered my exemption on a weekend.

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Now that is what I call good service.

The council was also an integral part of a community gathering at which we were able to access quality and up-to-date advice on what the fire conditions were likely to be this summer and what our options were in the event of fire conditions becoming catastrophic.

There are not a lot of options left when that occurs and while I am one of those people that will stay and defend his property, I also have an exit strategy that will be enacted.

The problem we have is not that we aren’t prepared for such an occurrence but the fact that we live next to a forest that has not been burnt for over 40 years.

In fact, when I was applying for my exemption to have bare earth fire breaks on my property I was told that if the forest went up in flames, under the right conditions a firebreak even a kilometre wide would not stop that fire ‘spotting’ several kilometres ahead of the main fire front.

That is a sobering thought indeed but the authorities seem quite reluctant to do a controlled burn in this particular forest and when the same department was asked if we as land owners could access the forest to remove some of the wood that was laying on the forest floor, the answer was an emphatic no.

They say that “if you own the fuel you own the fire” and from where I sit there is a lot of fuel in that particular forest that is “owned” by a government department that is not living up to its responsibility to manage its patch of turf like we have to manage our patch of turf, and to be frank that is just not good enough.

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