Bushfires could have been stopped network 04 August 2003

FIRES that ripped through Canberra on January 18 could have been contained within the first 24 hours if they had been fought correctly, an inquiry found today.
The report of the independent inquiry headed by former Commonwealth Ombudsman Ron McLeod into the fires that killed four people in the national capital and destroyed 506 homes was released today. "The inquiry is of the view that the fires, started by lightning strikes, might have been contained had they been attacked more aggressively in the 24 or so hours after they broke," the report says.
 Mr McLeod said the event was unique in the experience of the residents of Canberra and its surrounds and probably of all the fire-fighters.  He said fires of this kind had never before caused such damage to the region and no house had been lost to bushfire in suburban Canberra since 1952.
 "The inquiry's view is that one of the lessons of the fires is the realisation that very serious and potentially destructive fires that may threaten the city could happen again in the future," he said.
"The Canberra community must not forget this.
 "The fires cannot be simply explained away as an unfortunate, unlucky or one-off event."  [...]
 "There would be little ground for criticism if, despite no effort being spared during those critical first days, the fires had in fact proved unstoppable. Unfortunately, in the inquiry's judgment, this was not the case."

COMMENT: What the McLeod inquiry does not know is that the NSW govt received an offer from TWM two months earlier and that Mr Debus, the NSW Minister for the Environment and Emergency Services, procrastinated for several weeks without acting on the information in his posssession. See below for further details.

Bushfire report due today network 04 August 2003

VOLUNTEER firefighters have called for local experts to be given complete control of bushfires ahead of the release today of a report into the January firestorm which devastated Canberra. They also called for the McLeod Inquiry to
recommend the sacking of Emergency Services Bureau executive director Mike Castle and chief fire control officer Peter Lucas-Smith. The January 18 fires killed four people and destroyed 506 homes.
The inquiry, headed by former Commonwealth Ombudsman Ron McLeod, was tasked to examine the response to fires by the ACT Emergency Services Bureau, including the fire brigade and ambulance service, ACT Policing, Environment ACT and ACT Forests.
 ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has already flagged that the report will identify faults within departments regarding their response to the fires.
Captain of the southern ACT volunteer bushfire brigade Val Jeffery warned Canberra was just as likely to lose another 500 homes this summer if fires were sparked because government bureaucracy had failed to take adequate action over winter. He and former deputy chairman of the ACT Bush Fire Council Michael Lonergan said they believed the McLeod Inquiry would recommend further bureaucracy be implemented within bushfire management. Such a move, they said, would mean firefighters would be in a worse situation than they were in January. Mr Lonergan said bushfire control should be left to experts in the field who knew the local area.
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Last modified: 4 August 2003