Warning system saved lives: TFS

TASMANIA'S Fire Service says improved warnings and the response from those threatened by bushfires that started a week ago was the major reason that no lives were lost during the state's worst bushfires since 1967.

TFS chief officer Mike Brown said new types of warnings and improved methods of distributing them were the major difference between Tasmania's bushfire crisis compared to the Black Saturday fires that devastated Victoria in 2009, claiming 173 lives.

``The fact that so far we've had no confirmed loss of life does distinguish these fires from so many of the tragedies that Australia has experienced in the past,'' Mr Brown said.

``The protection of life in the face of such catastrophic conditions is a very significant achievement.'' 

He said milder conditions had given the TFS its first chance to take stock since the fires broke out last Friday, destroying 170 properties and about 100,000 hectares of land.

Mr Brown said last Friday was the first time the new approach to major bushfires adopted in response to Black Saturday had been really tested and it had withstood the demand.

He said the brave efforts of police and State Emergency Service officers who doorknocked people as the fire was approaching them, also saved lives.

However, Mr Brown warned that the danger was far from over.

``There is no room at all for complacency. Our historic fire records and fire patterns show that we're only just getting into the fire danger period and we face a critical period for the next eight to 12 weeks. We cannot afford to relax.''

More than 130,000 Bushfire Survival Booklets have been distributed today in the state's three newspapers.

In response to complaints from locals about a lack of fuel reduction burns, Mr Brown said that would be the subject of an inquiry already announced by the state government.

``We've got to understand large areas of these fires were on private property and I've got to reinforce that if you own the land, you own the fuel, you own the risk.''

Police and Emergency Management Minister David O'Byrne praised the courageous efforts of police and firefighters and other volunteers who had responded to the crisis.

He said the state had carried out strategic fuel reduction burns and the issue would be examined once the fire danger had passed.

``People's emotions are raw, people are very sensitive about friends and family who have been caught up in this incident,'' Mr O'Byrne said.

``It is too early to start pointing fingers about preparation or otherwise.''


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