Breaking news from ANU. Don’t build where the fires are

By 7 January, 2014 16

The Australian National University is doing a fine line in the bleeding obvious today announcing findings that not building houses in bushland will reduce the chances of them burning down:

ANU researchers say Australians should avoid building homes in bushland, in order to reduce the risk of homes being destroyed by fires.

“House losses and unnecessary deaths will continue to increase in Australia if we keep building homes in bushfire-prone areas,” Dr Gibbons says.

With the bushfire season well underway, Dr Gibbons and Associate Professor Geoff Cary, from the Fenner School of Environment and Society, have released their views on the homes most likely at risk of being destroyed by fire this season.

Most house losses during bushfires in Australia have occurred within 100 metres of bushland – and virtually all losses within 700 metres of bushland—so their results are most relevant for people living in these areas.

It does make one wonder however, how many houses in Canberra are further than 700 metres from bushland?

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16 Responses to Breaking news from ANU. Don’t build where the fires are
#1
c_c™5:11 pm, 07 Jan 14

Why people don’t care what academics have to say.

#2
IrishPete6:51 pm, 07 Jan 14

I think JB is being a little unfair.

There are useful statements in there, like hazard reduction not being as effective as clearing.

Since the attitude in Oz these days seems to be “build where I want then insist the authorities keep my house safe”, the more useful expert research like this will be. As one of the volunteer firefighters who has to deal with the consequences of this, I have a distinct interest. As someone involved in planning decisions too.

My brigade gets requests to do HRs on people’s properties, because we are volunteers and therefore free.

Clearing 40m in each direction means (I think, if I understand them correctly) an 80m by 80m cleared zone, 6400 square metres. To do that for every house, there won’t be much bushland left. Really that means that even rural houses should be built in clusters, but they aren’t, they are built as standalone in isolation. 6400 square metres cleared for each house. Wow.

IP

#3
p17:31 pm, 07 Jan 14

I think IP is on the money by singling out the line about th e use of HR burning. It is all well and good to reduce what hazards you can, if a fire comes on a catastrophic day and you have scrub to your back fence, it will be pretty bloody hard to stop. There is less than one firetruck per dwelling in this (and every other) town.

#4
HiddenDragon11:05 pm, 07 Jan 14

“It does make one wonder however, how many houses in Canberra are further than 700 metres from bushland?” – I think that’s what’s known as an inconvenient truth.

#5
Roundhead899:47 am, 08 Jan 14

Wow, silly season at the University of East Bumcrack is taking its toll. Counting the days until O Week…

#6
Postalgeek11:01 am, 08 Jan 14

And yet the bleeding obvious has to be restated every season.

Deforestation isn’t the only option. Eucalypts aren’t the only trees in Australia. Buffer zones with fire resistant vegetation will maintain green corridors. The sanctity of Australian natives was abandoned when the block was bulldozed to make way for the house and road.

Then there’s the whole preparation thing/tanks/pumps/sprinkler systems and brushfire plans.

#7
IrishPete8:37 pm, 08 Jan 14

There is a bit more detail in their Conversation article https://theconversation.com/which-homes-will-survive-this-bushfire-season-20072

IP

#8
IrishPete8:44 pm, 08 Jan 14

HiddenDragon said :

“It does make one wonder however, how many houses in Canberra are further than 700 metres from bushland?” – I think that’s what’s known as an inconvenient truth.

No, it’s just the bleeding obvious. Residences in city centres are not likely at risk from bushfire. I presume what they are trying to indicate is, how far from bushland to you have to be to be relaxed. And they seem to be saying that’s 700m. That’s useful information to know, if someone approaches you in a panic on a Catastrophic Fire Danger day, as happens to me when I am dressed yellow.

IP

#9
Instant Mash1:03 pm, 09 Jan 14

And a resounding ‘Duh!’ was heard throughout the city…

#10
c_c™1:37 pm, 09 Jan 14

Instant Mash said :

And a resounding ‘Duh!’ was heard throughout the city…

Pretty much sums it up. You are not going to get people to sterilise their surrounds and live away from the bush, particularly in Canberra. And even if you did, two of the biggest dangers that became apparent during the 2003 fires was not the location of houses, but the location of critical public infrastructure. You had the potable water catchment severely damaged and you very nearly had the chlorine tanks at the LMWCQC go up. Both of these are located in bushfire prone areas and can’t reasonably be moved.

So it’s redundant to research this, much like it’s redundant to put Kj on fast food boards or smoking warnings on cigarettes. The money would be better spent on wild area fire management research and technical research into building and infrastructure design.

#11
MrBigEars4:49 pm, 09 Jan 14

c_c™ said :

Instant Mash said :

And a resounding ‘Duh!’ was heard throughout the city…

Pretty much sums it up. You are not going to get people to sterilise their surrounds and live away from the bush, particularly in Canberra. And even if you did, two of the biggest dangers that became apparent during the 2003 fires was not the location of houses, but the location of critical public infrastructure. You had the potable water catchment severely damaged and you very nearly had the chlorine tanks at the LMWCQC go up. Both of these are located in bushfire prone areas and can’t reasonably be moved.

So it’s redundant to research this, much like it’s redundant to put Kj on fast food boards or smoking warnings on cigarettes. The money would be better spent on wild area fire management research and technical research into building and infrastructure design.

It’s not redundant when fat neck-beards on the internet will say “do you have scientific evidence published in a peer reviewed journal that relying solely on HR burning isn’t effective?” and even more pertinent when a lawyer in a court asks “what evidence is there that people shouldn’t rely solely on HR burning to protect houses in bushfire areas?”. But I’m sure the aggregated wisdom of other fat neck-beards on the internet will be sufficient.

#12
wycx9:48 pm, 09 Jan 14

Insurance premium implications?

#13
HiddenDragon12:38 am, 10 Jan 14

wycx said :

Insurance premium implications?

I would think so – particularly if we persist with tree protection rules which prevent householders from acting upon Government (and other, such as this, from the ANU) advice to reduce the fuel load close to their homes. This is the “inconvenient truth” I had in mind at #4.

#14
Nylex_Clock10:01 am, 10 Jan 14

HiddenDragon said :

wycx said :

Insurance premium implications?

I would think so – particularly if we persist with tree protection rules which prevent householders from acting upon Government (and other, such as this, from the ANU) advice to reduce the fuel load close to their homes. This is the “inconvenient truth” I had in mind at #4.

Like the idiots in charge of the National Park who have periodically tried to ban the lighting of fires in the Park in order to ensure the fuel load builds up unhindered.

I think they need to take a step back and think about this in a more holistic way: thousands of years of human vandalism created Australia’s fire-prone Eucalyptus forests. Could it be time for humans to now set this right?
Could we not have a new policy which would,
a/ encourage and facilitate removal of Eucalypts, wherever present
and
b/ ensure that any future replanting be done using only the less fire-prone species of plants which formed the pre-Eucalyptus Australian habitats before humans came here and $#@%ed it all up?

#15
housebound10:04 am, 10 Jan 14

Old joke from my days in rural land management: definition of a greeny – someone who already has their bushblock.

More seriously, does anyone seriously believe that hazard reduction is enough in itself? All it does is slow the firefront down enough to give the fire fighters a chance, and you need all the other measures as well if you are serious about protecting property. Or just build somewhere sensible.

#16
Pork Hunt10:18 am, 10 Jan 14

Nylex_Clock said :

HiddenDragon said :

wycx said :

Insurance premium implications?

I would think so – particularly if we persist with tree protection rules which prevent householders from acting upon Government (and other, such as this, from the ANU) advice to reduce the fuel load close to their homes. This is the “inconvenient truth” I had in mind at #4.

Like the idiots in charge of the National Park who have periodically tried to ban the lighting of fires in the Park in order to ensure the fuel load builds up unhindered.

I think they need to take a step back and think about this in a more holistic way: thousands of years of human vandalism created Australia’s fire-prone Eucalyptus forests. Could it be time for humans to now set this right?
Could we not have a new policy which would,
a/ encourage and facilitate removal of Eucalypts, wherever present
and
b/ ensure that any future replanting be done using only the less fire-prone species of plants which formed the pre-Eucalyptus Australian habitats before humans came here and $#@%ed it all up?

Not all eucalypts are fond of fire. Been up to Cabramurra and seen the millions of dead trees?

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