Firefighters, who worked through the night, patrol containment lines in the early hours of Friday morning. Photo supplied by QFES.
Firefighters, who worked through the night, patrol containment lines in the early hours of Friday morning. Photo supplied by QFES.

FILTHY WITH FUEL: Gympie firey slams lack of control burns

A 79-YEAR-OLD rural firefighter who spent 15 hours fighting the Black Snake fire this week week and will spend another eight hours tonight has described the state-controlled sections of the range as “filthy with fuel” and hit out at the “failure” to conduct control burns in national parks and state forest.

Chatsworth rural firey David Flower has been a volunteer firefighter for almost 64 years and believes strongly that state land should be regularly control burned, back burned and even grazed.

In recent weeks he has helped battle fires at Upper Kandanga, Black Snake and Torbanlea; tonight he will head back to the Black Snake fire front to put in an all-nighter.

He is concerned at the amount of fuel that has built up in many parts of the Black Snake range, which should have been controlled through planned burns or grazing.

“That area has not been (control burnt) for 100 years,” he said. There are great tracts of land throughout the Gympie region that rural fireys know have not been control burnt in three decades and are full of the noxious giant rats tail.

“It has not been burnt out in cool weather. It makes it very hard for the fireys. It is filthy with fuel,” he said of Black Snake.

“We have got to be able to backburn into the fires but I know it has got to be done by knowledgable people.”

A TEAM: Rural firefighters who successfully worked on containment lines to control the bushfire at Black Snake on Wednesday night.
A TEAM: Rural firefighters who successfully worked on containment lines to control the bushfire at Black Snake on Wednesday night.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife manages 13 million hectares of land – 14 per cent of Queensland’s bushfire-prone land.

An Environment and Science Department spokesman said yesterday that since January this year, there had been 296 planned burns in protected areas, covering more than a million hectares.

Firefighters, who worked through the night, patrol containment lines in the early hours of Friday morning. Photo supplied by QFES.
Firefighters, who worked through the night, patrol containment lines in the early hours of Friday morning. Photo supplied by QFES.

“This is the most hectares treated by planned burns in six years,” he said.

“Managing fire on Queensland’s diverse protected areas and forest estate is a complex challenge, and the department takes its obligations very seriously.”

The land known as Black Snake was acquired by the Queensland Government and gazetted as part of Oakview National Park in December 2018, when it transitioned to QPWS to manage.

“Unfortunately, over the short period of time the land has been a national park under QPWS management, conditions have largely been unfavourable for planned burning operations,” the spokesman said.

Mr Flower said instead of waiting for more favourable conditions to control burn, the QPWS should have “made the opportunity” to just get it done during winter.

He said fire authorities needed to take a “very serious look at re-introducing back burning - by experienced fireys - as a highly effective method of bushfire control”.

Firies on the front line near Widgee, earlier in the week. The fire is now contained on the eastern side, but winds and roaring temperatures could make the salutation worse for today.
Firies on the front line near Widgee, earlier in the week. The fire is now contained on the eastern side, but winds and roaring temperatures could make the salutation worse for today.

“Whether planned burns were conducted on the property prior to QPWS assuming responsibility for it as part of the national park is not a matter that QPWS could influence.

“A fence was installed around a dam on the land to assist with the management of feral deer.

“The gate operates as a deer trap but has no lock on it. The open gate allows the deer and native animals to access the dam, however it closes when deer hit a trip wire.

“Fire management is a high priority for QPWS and bushfire safety is a primary consideration where urban and rural communities adjoin our parks and forests.

“QPWS is extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication of fire volunteers across Queensland.”

The bushfire burning near Widgee on Wednesday night, when fire crews worked tirelessly through the night to put in containment lines.
The bushfire burning near Widgee on Wednesday night, when fire crews worked tirelessly through the night to put in containment lines.

The fire currently burning in Oakview National Park is suspected to have been started by a lightning strike on November 8, 2019, and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services have been responsible for resourcing the fire – including organising volunteer requirements such as meals – since November 10.

QPWS reviews the proposed priorities for planned burn locations each year in preparation for the upcoming bushfire season.

Conditions are also monitored throughout the season to determine if additional planned burns are required.

COURAGEOUS EFFORT: Fireys worked all night backburning at Upper Thorneside Rd near Widgee.
COURAGEOUS EFFORT: Fireys worked all night backburning at Upper Thorneside Rd near Widgee.

Further information on fire management can be found at parks.des.qld.gov.au/managing/fire_management.html

Planned burning for conservation purposes is undertaken in accordance with the department’s bioregional planned burn guidelines developed for specific regional ecosystems:

https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/managing/planned-burn-guidelines.html

Managing Queensland’s bushfire risk is a shared responsibility, and QPWS places a very high emphasis on collaboration with other agencies, communities and neighbours. QPWS works in conjunction with neighbours and lessees to encourage a landscape-scale approach to fire management through Area Fire Management Groups and the department’s Good Neighbour Policy.

Gympie Times


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