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03 January 2020

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Jack

Walrus,

I feel for you! Couple years ago a wildfire burned my home.

Best wishes and keep safe.

different clue

I do not know about the history of eco-politics in Australia as against in America. I know that in America fire-suppression, including the total suppression of traditional "Indian burning" for habitat maintainance, was begun decades before the emergence of any modern greenie movement politics here. And it is the greenies who have begun saying " give Indian burning a second look".

So I can only wonder when fire suppression began in Australia . . . and when greenie politics began . . . and which came first and by how much. And how your Australian greenies feel about the concept of Aboriginal burning.

I have also read that the part of the Blue Mountains which is the national park has traditionally been considered rainy forest if not outright rain forest. If what I read about that is generally correct, then was the Blue Mountains rainy forest ever within the zone and scope of Aboriginal burning?

If it was, then the same theory applies. If it wasn't, then how normal is the dryness in that particular area which has set it up to be such a good fuel bed?

But those are things to think about when safety and leisure return. For now I hope you-all can keep all the smaller fires separated and apart. Because as Australia goes, so goes California. And then the rest of the West.

PavewayIV

August clubs? Unfamiliar with that term, Walrus. Sorry for the hard times down there.

For US readers, scale of burnt/smoke area so far relative to US:
https://twitter.com/simongerman600/status/1213248045019729925

Unfortunately, GFS forecast shows only marginal precipitation until mid-month: (click on VCR-like 'Play' button to animate graphic)
https://www.tropicaltidbits.com/analysis/models/?model=gfs&region=swpac&pkg=apcpn&runtime=2020010318&fh=42

Rick Merlotti

Dayum! Good luck to you, sir, and all your compatriots.

Upstate NY'er

I thought Australia was one big flat hot semi-desert.
Guess not

elaine

Walrus, Be safe & thank you for your work. I just read a story on Summit.News:
"Australian police say arsonists & lightening to blame for brush fires, not climate change." The damage to people, their homes & wildlife is heartbreaking. So much
of the rainforest in S. America is burned intentionally to make way for farming
& development & yet the climate change advocates only laser focus on fossil fuel.

oldman22

My sister lives in Gippsland, she is safe but dealing with smoke. She was incensed by Morrison's actions and statements. Here:

"This (article)tells you more of the background.liam just sent me photos of friend visiting inlaws at mallacoota, showing the next door burning down and trying to fight the fire coming over fence.they are still stuck there with 2 yo and 4 yo, supposed to get out by air but adf cldnt land because of smoke and choppers busy being used to evacuate omeo.
So dont even give any airtime to this bs about the crisis being due to inner city progressives or greenies not allowing burn offs! This is drought due to climate change, temps in 40s and summer only getting under way."

Morrison's government on the bushfires: from attacking climate 'lunatics' to calling in the troops

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/04/morrisons-government-on-the-bushfires-from-attacking-climate-lunatics-to-calling-in-the-troops?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Terry

Controlled burns were a traditional practice where I grew up until the forestry department banned the practice. 20 years later and a 500,000 acre fire they restarted the practice but only under their control.

I still clearly remember the day when a forestry agent assumed a nearby burn was started by my father. He jumped out of his car and started berating my dad. He got quickly grabbed and tossed back into his car and sent on his way. Nowadays they would have returned with a swat team.

Bill Hatch

Walrus, Good luck to you & all Australians in fighting & surviving the fires.

I live in south central SC. Prior to the coming of the English, this area was a hunting ground for the Cherokee who used fire as a hunting aid. We still use controlled burns for forest management in spite of criticism by the "snowflakes".

Several years ago I was in WY. The fir trees in the Big Horn Mountains became infested with pine bark beetles. The lumber companies wanted to harvest the dying trees; but, since they were on federal land, logging was not permitted. A few years later the forest fires started. They were fed by all of the dead trees. Then the government began to pay companies to remove the dead trees to prevent forest fires. The tax payers dollars at work.

Terry

I was reading that the British were the ones that had a total control policy towards fire that was replicated in various countries prior to the the anti-fire people getting involved. Those against fire are a mixed bag of homeowners not liking fires near their land, people worried about animals, misguided environmentalists, and neurotics... and probably those still influenced by the British way.

Vegetius

Would be interesting in talking to a fire behavior analyst or fire ecologist and finding out what the typical natural interval is for that fuel model.

Also, are you running into any melaleuca? Paperbark, same myrtle family as eucalyptus. When it is disturbed it smells like eucalyptus, or maybe Vicks vapor rub, and has a black smoke almost like diesel when you light up shitcans.

different clue

Arson should be stamped out fast, and so hard that wannabe-arsonists are too scared to arsonise.

That said, the question arises . . . arson can start the fire. Or so can a stray spark-ember from a grill. Or a car with a hot muffler parked in muffler-height dry grass. But if a longer-hotter drought than normal has made a bigger area of woody vegetation dryer than normal and hence a better fuel-bed than normal if/when the stray ignition source arrives, that is a problem beyond just the ignition source.

Some of that problem could be pre-mitigated with controlled burns every so often so fuel beds don't develop to oversized amounts to begin with. Fire suppression all over the American West has left forest with huge amounts of fuel ready-to-burn with any spark. Its like a bunch of natural organic H-bombs are just quietly sitting out there in the woods. And climachange is worsening that particular problem by preventing the normal super-deep kill-freeze days which would normally kill the resting bark beetles and/or some of their eggs over the winter. So milder-winter unkilled bark beetle populations have reached plague status in some of the Western forests, leaving several billion dead trees standing in place waiting to burn.

Once the Australians get the fires put out or otherwise controlled and have the time and leisure to think long-range about fire-adaptation, might new designs of fire-proof houses be worth considering? Houses made of rock, cement, concrete, etc.; with zero wood or paper or plastic or any other flammable item of any kind permitted in the construction? Ember-proof steel roofs, etc?
Steel thermal heat-reflective fire-shutters ready to pull down over every window to keep the passing flash of flame-front infra-red heat rays from entering the house through the glass window? Etc.?

And if government mandating for such housing re-design would be considered intrusive, perhaps lenders and insurers might take it upon themselves to quietly privately refuse to lend for non-fireproof houses and refuse to insure non-fireproof houses in the future.

The Beaver

This chap has a lot of satellite images of the fires:
https://twitter.com/weatherdak

Like he said: mind blowing images

Heartbreaking videos last night on the news on France 2

elaine

Come on Walrus log back in, tell us you're ok.

Something To Think About

Not you, by any chance?

https://www.unilad.co.uk/news/aussie-firefighter-tells-pm-scott-morrison-to-go-and-get-fcked/

Johnb

I’ve found both of your posts thoughtful and potentially productive ‘different clue’. Back in the 50’s and 60’s when I was doing winter cool burns as standard practice, as were my neighbours it wasn’t too difficult and if things got away those neighbours would pile in to recover the situation. Our ridge lines had a dry side and a wet side based on orientation and way down in the bottom was leech country, permanently wet. That is no longer the case, as you suggest everywhere is dry and flammable, there are numerous instances where classified rain forest has burnt for the first recorded time. Back when we also had the luxury of a good four months to utilise in hazard reduction. This year we had less than eight weeks of,permit free burning and in my area a total fireban from August. In addition to barely time to scratch the resources needed in manpower and machinery to do a hazard reduction burn over thousands of hectares are simply not there, it is all way beyond the capacity of the volunteer Rural Fire Service sheds never mind the local Bushfire Brigades I first knew. As you suggest a whole new paradigm is needed in both organisation and resourcing we can but hope that there is follow through once this national emergency has passed

Extra

It’s late afternoon as I write this in Canberra. The smoke is still so thick there’s been no sign of the sun all day, just glaring brown haze and intermittent gusts of dense smoke, and fine ash settling everywhere. The wind is picking up again, but at least it’s cooler.

The political battle over the fires has taken off almost as fast as the fires themselves. The Government has finally mobilized some military units and reserves, and as always, they are doing an excellent job. A Navy vessel has been evacuating civilians from beaches in East Gippsland, where they had gathered as a last refuge. Others are being helicoptered to safety.

The Prime Minister’s visits to burnt areas haven’t gone so well. He’s been abused and cold-shouldered because people are well aware that the Government he leads has come very late to the party, and not just because he’s demonstrated all the empathy of a house-brick.

The Government and the anti climate change brigade have gone on the initiative with predictable media management techniques. Prime among these are diverting attention from the central issues and creating uncertainty.

For diverting attention, the Government has frantically whipped up a series of advertisements showing how they’ve responded. These ads haven’t been well received, not just because they are so blatant. The fact that a ‘Donate’ button on an internet advertisement linked to the Liberal Party coffers, not a fire victims’ charity didn’t help either. And credibility wasn’t enhanced with the ‘Australian Army’ image of a shoulder patch that turned out to be a stock image of a Polish uniform with an Australian patch photoshopped on top.

Another tactic from the PM’s media minders has been to spread the idea that most the fires have been deliberately lit, and that a greenie/leftie conspiracy to prevent hazard reduction burns is to blame. That’s why some overseas correspondents will have seen journalists intoning about catching arsonists etc.

Don’t fall for it. Deliberate firelighting certainly goes on, and people get caught, but there’s no evidence that it’s the major factor implied by these journalists. Lightning strikes, accidents (eg electrical transmission faults) and ember spotting are the main culprits.

The basic fact of the situation is that fires don’t behave the way they used to, due to a long-term drying trend (rainfall in southern Australia down by 10 to 20 per cent since 1970) and increased temperatures (new records set yesterday). Fires get into the forest crown earlier, so that ground-level hazard reduction is less effective.

These links are worth a read. The first for some expert commentary, the second gives an idea of what Walrus is doing and what he’s up against.
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/05/explainer-how-effective-is-bushfire-hazard-reduction-on-australias-fires?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

https://www.armidaleexpress.com.au/story/6494023/opinion-we-did-burnoffs-badja-sparks-hits-back/?cs=471

Bobo


Hopefully things are better today, if not, they will in time. I find the NSW Rural Fire Service site to be very informative, no fluff just the straight scoop, something our EMS should emulate here in the USA.
Wishing you a calm day, calm wind and God Speed.

Johnb

Yes Extra, these fires are not behaving the way they used to. In the temperature extremes exacerbated by the heat of the fires eucalyptus oils have been vaporising and generating a flammable layer above the tree crowns which has then ignited in a flash burn that has then ignited the tree crowns and the falling debris has ignited the surface fuel load, the surface fire is lagging behind the crown fire. This is how fire crews have been caught out and found themselves at great risk, the fire has arrived above and beyond them. For these fires arson is a red herring for several reasons, lightening strikes are monitored and where an isolated fire breaks out the coordinates are plotted and an investigation takes place, a householder was prosecuted on the North Coast for burning rubbish that got away. It is normal where fires start from natural causes and strong winds carry the burning embers for isolated fires to start way ahead of the main fire front, we have had burnt leaves arrive on our verandah with the nearest fire kilometres away. We are in a new paradigm and new thinking is needed, the only saving grace is that once this extended fire season is over there will be a short period when this necessary thinking and action can take place.

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