Public forum in the Grampians - Stawell community updated on bushfire research

View of audience at Stawell forum

Road signMore than 60 residents, land owners and fire and land management staff have heard an update on the latest bushfire research at Stawell in western Victoria.

The Bushfire CRC hosted a community forum at the historic Stawell Entertainment Centre on 28 August 2007. The Federal Member for Wannon, The Hon David Hawker, and the Mayor of the Northern Grampians Shire, Cr Robyn Smith, were invited to speak about the importance of ongoing bushfire research in the region.

Community forum: Gary Morgan, left, Acting CEO of the Bushfire CRC, shared the podium with Cr Robyn Smith and The Hon David Hawker.

 Gary Morgan, left, Acting CEO of the Bushfire CRC, shared the podium with Cr Robyn Smith and The Hon David HawkerStawell and the adjacent Grampians region have experienced severe bushfires in recent years with the fires of January 2006 still vivid in people’s memories and in evidence in the vegetation of the area. More than 50,000 hectares of farmland was burnt with the loss of more than 50 houses.

Mr Hawker said he was impressed with the research scope of the Bushfire CRC and supported the need for its ongoing work.

“Bushfire preparedness must be something we not only do for the bad years, it’s something we must do all year, every year,” he told the forum. “The Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre is looking at ways to improve the way we prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies such as those disastrous January fires.”

Bushfire CRC researchers at the forum spoke about their research and how it directly related to the region.

Dr Kevin Tolhurst, from the University of Melbourne, talked about the lessons that were being learnt from the 2006 fires in the Grampians. Using fire maps and other data Dr Tolhurst examined the way the fires moved across various types of topography and vegetation under fluctuating weather conditions. He discussed how better land management practices could help play a role in averting a repeat of the fires.

Dr Jim McLennan, from La Trobe University, presented early results from surveys of new volunteer fire fighters from the western district. The surveys are helping fire agencies better understand what motivates people to become volunteers and, conversely, what discourages others from making the commitment.

Dr David Nichols, from the Country Fire Authority, showed how his studies into the fitness of fire fighters found that some fire fighting tasks had the physiological demands of high level sport. Dr Nichols and his colleagues have been working with recruits and the CFA Fiskville training centre and with the local brigade in nearby Greendale.

Dr Matt Plucinski, from ENSIS Bushfire Research, has studied the effectiveness of using aerial suppression to fight bushfires. He presented his findings from data collected at bushfires all around Australia and including several of the 2006 Grampians fires.

Bushfire CRC CEO Gary MorganJim McLennan