Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Greenies surfing over bushfire facts

Wildfire is natural, cyclical and regenerative. Australian flora has adapted to survive bushfire and some indigenous species thrive on it. However, the ferocity of recent fires that scorched the country is shocking. The recovery will be painfully slow for those directly affected. Communities will be rebuilt or left behind as people seek safer ground. As city folk return to work, they will forget. But for people in disaster zones, the fires will stalk them by day and haunt them by night until they burn out or the rain comes.

Amid the terror of the season’s fire disaster, people are grieving for what is lost, angry about what they cannot control and afraid of what might come. Green-left politicians are using the fear for political gain. The green-left media is drumming up conspiracy theories that blame conservatives for the weather, the fires, dry earth, scorching wind, death, destruction and doomsday scenarios of some hypothetical future dystopia.

My present favourite is a Guardian article on the fire tragedy that leads with: “Australia is built on lies, so why would we be surprised about lies about climate change?”

As a first-generation immigrant, I have seen a fair share of Australian bushfires. I was a kid growing up in Adelaide when the Ash Wednesday bushfires took 75 lives. On Black Saturday in 2009, I was closer to the tragedy.

Victorians woke up to winds so hellish they broke the backs of saplings, stripped the air of moisture and seared our skin. When the first fire sirens went off in the morning and fire trucks roared down the street, I was doing the weekly shopping. People stopped, looked at each other and said it wasn’t going to be good. But we had no idea what was coming. By late afternoon, we were bunkered down. By early evening, I was glued to ABC radio.

Neighbours were preparing to leave. I was urged by friends to evacuate after my suburb was included in warnings issued by the Country Fire Authority. For some it was too late and many left only after hearing reports that people were dead in Kinglake, about 55km northeast of Melbourne, and that the fires had reached nearby St Andrews. I fled for the city as the fire developed into a storm that threw embers kilometres ahead of the front.

The shock of Black Saturday was a strange thing. I thought I was perfectly fine until feeling a sudden urge to stop on the Eastern Freeway into the city. I pulled over, walked to the side of the road and was violently ill. When I arrived at my friends’ house in North Fitzroy, they poured a whisky and sat me down. They said I was in shock, but I reassured them it was not the case. After settling my pet and opening my suitcase, I realised they were probably right. The contents of the case were absurd and I had no memory of packing them only a few hours earlier. I had taken nothing of financial value or practical utility. Instead, what lay before me was a half-empty suitcase with a pair of socks, books and a clock radio laid out on the base. All I could do was laugh. It was simply bizarre.

When I returned home the following week, the hills were like a wasteland. My suburb had been saved by a wind change. But in the surrounding areas, people were stricken with grief. The usually friendly towns were laid low and an uneasy quiet hung in the air. People walked the streets saying little and staring into the middle distance. Some were looking for missing loved ones or pets. Everyone knew someone who died. The atmosphere had an ashen quality, as though a grey veil had settled to protect the present from the past.

Amid the panic and tragedy of devastating wildfires, what we needed most was immediate relief in the form of care, reassurance and simple kindness from friends, family and employers. The communities directly affected needed swift aid and financial support. Everyone needed something a little different. But what we didn’t need was cheap politicking.

The Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have taken the higher ground in recent days by agreeing that a royal commission into the fires is a sound idea. The bipartisan approach is constructive and should produce useful recommendations if the terms of reference are set well. The green-left is looting low-hanging fruit by making political capital out of the national disaster. The major parties should leave the scavengers to their ghoulish feast and concentrate on the question of what caused the major fires and how to mitigate risks in the future.

The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission unearthed the causes of the fire and the institutional failures that enabled it to spread without adequate warning to communities at risk. Yet despite recommendations on regular backburning to reduce fuel load, some areas between St Andrews and Kinglake appeared to be overgrown when I last drove through the area in 2018.

A central challenge of any future royal commission will be to create an enforceability mechanism to ensure fuel load is kept at a minimum while conserving the natural environment in fire risk areas. As Rachel Baxendale reported on Friday, the Victorian government has not undertaken fire reduction measures consistent with the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. The state Labor Party that encourages activism and blames natural disasters on climate change is neglecting its basic duty to keep Victorians safe.

The government does not control the weather. It cannot stand guard at every home while fires rage. It will never be responsible for every inch of land in the country because Australians believe in private property and the responsibility home ownership entails.

Politicians who use climate change to divert attention from their failure to enact bushfire prevention plans should talk less and do more to help communities in need. Reducing fuel load is something state and local governments can do as a matter of routine. It may not make for lively conversation with cosmopolites but it will save lives.


I Cheered When the Bushfire Came

By Geoff Walker, the former deputy captain of Lemon Tree Passage volunteer fire brigade

With the eastern seaboard currently ravaged by bushfires, what sort of an idiot would actually cheer when one worked its way down the peninsular where he lived? I did, and there were a lot of others who did the same.

To understand why, we must go back over more than a year when a winter bushfire got going to the west of the town. It did for us what the volunteer firies couldn’t: it got rid of the ground fuel with minimal canopy scorch. No lives or property were lost. Had this ‘good’ bushfire not happened, the peninsular would have been obliterated this summer when a firestorm with winds gusting to 100kph came our way.

No fire fuel meant that it burned and went out. Simple as that. Today, as thousands of Australians confront the bushfire threat, we on the Tilligerry peninsula are safe. With only one year of fuel build-up we have little to worry about.

When bushfire management passed from local control to government bureaucracies, the political influence of the green movement virtually stopped the off-season burnoffs. This traditional practice dated back to the black man and his firestick management of the landscape. The European settlers adopted it, as did farmers and local grassroots volunteer firefighters.

In researching my bushfire book White Overall Days, I found that our local brigade averaged some 15 burnoffs per year in the decade of the 1970s; nine in the ’80s, a mere two or three in the ’90s and similar numbers ever since.

The reason for this dramatic fall-off in burnoffs was the complex web of rules and procedures dumped on the local captains to comply with before they could do anything. They simply gave up. It was all too hard.

It was NSW Premier Bob Carr who proclaimed vast areas of the state of NSW as national parks. The problem was that they were not fire-managed and have now been devastated by uncontrollable firestorms. Lives and property have been lost as they roared out of the forests into adjoining farmland and rural communities.

Several things have emerged from the current crisis. Green zealots are blaming coal mining and climate change for the fires. They refuse to concede that the green-leaning management policies caused the fires in the first place by ensuring catastrophic fuel build-up. On the other hand, the vast number of ordinary, sensible people now realize that cool burning delivers a far better environmental outcome than raging wildfires. From what I hear, even some of the self-serving bureaucrats are starting to talk mitigation rather than reactive suppression.

To continue down the current pathway of reactive firefighting means more of the same. There will always be bushfires. They are  an integral part of the Australian environment. We either manage them by controlled burning or suffer the consequences.

It was early December when I wrote this piece and the height of the bushfire season had not yet engulfed so much of Australia, from Perth to Penrith. With dire weather predictions, what it would be like a month or two down the track did not bear thinking about.

Now we know.


Bushfires: Exhausted fireys welcome ‘hotshot cavalry’

An elite team of American forest firefighters has joined the battle in Victoria’s alpine region, venturing into the wilderness of Mount Buffalo to fight the mega-blaze.

In the US they’re called “hotshot crews”, teams of 20 specialist firefighters who march in by foot or are flown in to remote locations by helicopter to contain outbreaks of fires that are inaccessible to regular crews.

The 24 firefighters come from all over the US, and they are equipped with chainsaws, mattocks and blowers.

Leonard Dimaculangan, 41, works as the captain for the Texas Canyon Hotshots. In Victoria, he’s the crew boss for the team at Mount Buffalo.

He said he and his crew knew the horrors of bushfire season only too well and were honoured to be chosen to help out in Australia.   “It’s tragic. We know what it feels like back home and being able to lend a hand here, it’s an honour to come,” he said.

Mr Dimaculangan’s home base is at the Angeles National Forest in southern California.

“All this country is beautiful,” he said. “It’s very similar to things back home like Georgia, Florida, where the moisture level is still high but it will still rip and burn, which can be devastating.”

After dangerous conditions eased slightly at the weekend, sustained waterbombing quelled some of the fires, slowing the spread of the blaze and opening the land to containment work by the US hotshot crew.

On Monday the team marched in formation with their heavy gear across a charred valley to scout out the landscape and find where they could undertake vital containment work to stop the blaze.

The bush of Mount Buffalo is parched but the biggest risk is the volatility of the eucalyptus trees, which Mr Dimaculangan said could throw embers 40km away.

While some Australian forest firefighters are qualified to undertake this arduous work, the Americans must be able to hike 4.8km in less than 45 minutes while carrying 20kg. They also have additional specialisations in operating their heavy equipment.

Justine Gude is working the chainsaw on this mission. She said she usually didn’t accept any work after November but felt compelled to travel to Australia to help. “You look at these terrible stories and everyone wants to know what they can do to help,” she said.

“Not everyone’s in the position where they can help, and fortunately I’m in that unique position where I actually can help, so I jumped at the opportunity.”

In Victoria, four men have died as a result of the fires and 340 residential properties and 532 non-residential structures have been destroyed or significantly affected.

While the Country Fire Authority battles to save towns and properties, Forest Fire Management Victoria firefighters are the ones working to stop the spread of fires in dense bushland.

FFMV firefighter Julian Atherstone, 49, said the Americans ­arrived just in time to support the weary crew assigned to Mount Buffalo. “It’s great to have these guys over here because they just provide an enthusiasm and a dynamic to the effort, which is what we need, particularly in this situation where we’re under-resourced,” he said. “It was only a couple of days ago there were only four of us.”

In the US, forest firefighters can be sent away on missions for up to 21 days before they get a chance for a break. Eduardo Valle, 30, will miss his wife and two-year-old daughter who he left behind in Los Angeles but said he was honoured to be chosen among the thousands who applied to come to Australia. “She’s two years old so she doesn’t know,” he said. “I’ll FaceTime her at night and talk to her and she’s just smiling.”

Mr Valle is staying in the town of Bright with the other US firefighters. He said helping people was just part of the job.  “We’re anxious to work,” he said. “It's part of our job to help whoever’s in need.”


Clock ticking on TikTok fears

CYBER safety experts are warning parents to beware of the popular app TikTok, as teenagers twist its songs and videos to bully others, and paedophiles prowl it for "sexy" videos posted by young users.

TikTok is aimed at children aged 13 and over, and, with changes to the way "Likes" are now viewed on Instagram, it has become a go-to app. But experts say it has also become a platform for bullying, accounting for one-third of the views on the Federal Governments eSafety guide page.

More than 10 per cent of the cyber-bullying complaints about TikTok involved impersonation accounts, which are then used to post distressing comments and pictures. But it is not just bullying, with cyber cop Susan McLean warning TikTok is "another avenue for predators to find potential victims".

Federal Minister for Cyber Safety Paul Fletcher said the Government was also concerned about how the personal data of Australians, including children, was being captured, analysed and shared by social media services and digital platforms. Chinese-owned TikTok is being looked at by the US and UK governments.

Mr Fletcher said draft legislation that would require the technology industry to do more to protect Australians' data and privacy would be released shortly for public comment. He added that social media and technology companies must be held accountable for the role they play in data collection and cyber bullying.

"Behaviour that is 'unacceptable offline should not be tolerated or enabled online," Mr Fletcher said. "The predator element is very real, and there have been lots of reports about the flagging of paedophile accounts of TikTok, and they remain there, they are not removed. They do not actively work to fix this problem," he said. "What seems innocent to you is very attractive to a paedophile."

Teacher and parenting expert Michelle Mitchell agreed a huge part of the problem was young teens and tweens posting "sexy" videos — without knowing who was watching them. She also said there were many examples of older men "reaching out" to teens and tweens.

"Some claim to be going through a breakdown or a terminal illness, or it's their last day before going to prison," she said

A TikTok spokeswoman said the platform was "a place for safe and positive experiences". She said it did not disclose user figures.

From the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" of Dec. 29th

 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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