Fuel burns needed to fight threat 

THE past week has been a stark reminder of dangers facing many Tasmanians this summer.

The state's firefighters were engaged in excess of 30 fires at one stage, with the seaside fishing village of Musselroe Bay surviving a severe threat.

In the Central Highlands a blaze ran uncontrolled for several days near Arthurs Lake and wiped out nearly 9000 hectares.

It has probably been one of the most dramatic starts to a Tasmanian summer, in terms of fire threat, for more than a decade.

So often the Tasmania Fire Service warns of high fuel loads due to a bountiful spring and this year that threat has been realised.

In many ways Musselroe Bay survived because of fuel reduction burns undertaken in the previous five years.

This has been an accepted part of Tasmanian life and cool burns at the right times significantly reduce the chance of property loss and also act as a natural regenerator for Tasmanian forests where fire is a natural part of the life cycle.

It is worrying when funding issues and complaints about smoke from fuel reduction burns lead to less action in this area.

In 2011-12 there were 27 fuel reduction burns covering 1927 hectares held by the Parks and Wildlife Service.

It had planned to burn 10,000 hectares.

It was clearly established that not undertaking fuel reduction burns in Victoria contributed to the intensity and rapid spread of those catastrophic blazes two years ago.

Forestry Tasmania has also been active in this area but it has been effectively dismantled by the Greens and the level of fire protection will dwindle as budgets get squeezed.

Tasmanians will need to steel themselves for more fires and bigger fires, many of which will burn out of control for days.

While environmentalists are keen to lock up more and more forests, Tasmania will increasingly lose more of those forests to massive fires burning out of control and with reduced capacity to fight these fires because of less machinery on the ground due to the demise of Forestry Tasmania and Gunns.

Most Tasmanian trees and shrubs contain natural oils and they make a deadly combination when combined with fire, wind and heat.

A quick drive into the Central Highlights to see the damage caused by the 9000-hectare fire near Arthurs Lake will help people understand the widespread damage caused by an out-of- control wildfire.

Fanned by strong winds for several days this fire moved rapidly and would have decimated all the wildlife in its path - including many healthy Tasmanian devils that previously survived in colonies in this area.

This area will eventually recover - the Tasmanian bush always does - but it will take a decade.

Fire can be our friend or foe.


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