Fire and the law

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Friday, June 3, 2011 - 4:13am

Last month, with the support of the Bushfire CRC, I had the chance to travel to San Diego to take part in the 5th Annual Wildland Fire Litigation conference to share insights into Australian law and to learn about the conduct of post-fire litigation in the United States.  The conference has a unique format.  The organisers realised that there was a reasonably small cohort of lawyers conducting fire cases so it aims to bring lawyers from all sides to the table to learn from each other and to work together to actually limit the issues that are disputed before the court.  Consistent with this approach we heard from lawyers from all sides of litigation (claimants, defendants, insurers, government agencies etc) as well as forensic experts on how to collect and interpret fire ground evidence.

As part of the Bushfire CRC research on mainstreaming emergency management across law and policy, I gave a paper on the ‘state of play’ of bushfire litigation in Australia and identified some issues that may explain why we have much less post fire litigation than our American colleagues.   I was also able to represent the Bushfire CRC at the sponsor’s hall and there was significant interest in the CRC research program, and collecting copies of Fire Australia.

Research into the state of fire litigation has also caught the attention of Bushfire CRC end users and I have had the chance to brief the executive of the NSW Rural Fire Service on the research findings and will give a further presentation at the NSW Rural Fire Service Association annual conference in Coffs Harbour in June, and at the AFAC/Bushfire CRC conference in Sydney in August.

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