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Letter from friend in Australia brings home tragedy of bush fire disaster

Readers' letters | Published:

Chris Smith’s recent letter 'Greenies to blame for fires' prompted me to send a copy to a friend of mine in Australia for his views.

Australia wildfires

His reply included the following:

“Thanks for your concern, just a horrible situation in Australia right now. I believe over 20 people killed (including several volunteer fire fighters) over 2,000 dwellings lost, a billion native animals are estimated to have perished and many people have been evacuated (sometimes more than once).

"Unfortunately some opportunists see it as a convenient time to do some Green bashing, especially as it has been discredited so many times.

"There are many who are in denial about climate change too and so it helps their argument to pin the blame on other factors.

"The truth is it’s a very complex issue with no easy answers. In all probability there have been isolated small pockets of land that people have campaigned to not have disturbed (habitat of endangered species for example), but there is no truth in the many claims that Greens, environmental activists etc have disrupted any significant burn off plans.

"What has been a problem in the last couple of years is that the climate has been very dry and often wind, which has severely limited the opportunities for controlled burns.

"Compounding that is federal government budget cutbacks to the parks department leading to staff cutbacks and less people available to undertake burn offs or fight fires.

"Many bush tracks and firebreaks have been gated shut by parks to prevent people getting in with four-wheel drives and causing damage.

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"In the past many of these tracks have been kept open by four-wheel drive enthusiasts who always keep a chainsaw in their toolbox – so access has become an issue in places.

"Wet winters aren’t always the answer either as this stimulates growth and build up of grasses and flammable understory.

"There are many large areas of Australian high country that used to be grazed by cattle during the warmer summer months, but when these areas came under the control of parks there was a conflict of interest and the cattle were booted out, leading to more build up of understory!

"More people living in Australia now and more people building in areas vulnerable to fire and difficult to access in times of bush fires (high density of trees and only one way in and out).”

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I hope your readers will be convinced that the content of Chris Smith’s letter does a huge injustice to a tragic situation.

Colin Muddiman, Madeley

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