EDITORIAL: Fires can't start without a (mainly human) spark

The fires of the past week have brought several things into stark relief – not least of which is how vulnerable we are to Mother’s Nature’s fury.

Extremely dry conditions and the prospect of strong westerly winds are always cause for concern, even if we are still in winter and weeks away from the official “bushfire danger period”.

However, as a local volunteer firefighter astutely pointed out this week, no fire starts without an ignition.

(They weren’t talking in an official capacity or on behalf of their organisation, but points they raised are definitely worth considering as conversation starters and shamelessly shared here.)

It doesn’t matter how much dry grass you have, how much undergrowth has been left to build up, how big a pile of sticks – it won’t burn unless someone or something ignites it.

Lightning strikes are known to start fires, but in the majority of cases, fires have human interaction to blame for their origins.

Directly through deliberate arson, carelessness, inattention, or accidents. Indirectly through broken glass or power lines.

Regardless, the cost to our communities can be dire. 

Consider the Tathra fire of March 2018. Sixty-nine homes destroyed, 30-something caravans and cabins lost, many more damaged, after a fire was sparked by power lines in strong wind.

A repair cost of $70million wouldn’t be entirely unthinkable given the circumstances, not to mention the countless man-hours put in by hundreds in the emergency relief and recovery efforts. How much would it cost to relocate power lines underground?

While not confirmed, the suggestion is the Yankees Gap fire began as a landholder’s burnoff that escaped into nearby national park.

Is further education on the dangers fire poses necessary? Do we not already know?

A burnoff getting out of control demonstrates a lack of preparedness, carelessness, or people taking undue risks to get their rubbish pile cleared away before the “danger period”.

Another talking point made by our firefighter – how about getting landholders to spend a day with their local RFS volunteers as they drop everything else to protect others’ life and property?

How about making that a requirement of applying for a permit to burn?