Australian wildfire litigation

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TitleAustralian wildfire litigation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsEburn, M, Dovers, S
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
AbstractLegal liability is an issue that concerns volunteer firefighters and may affect the ability of fire managers to perform their tasks. There are calls to guarantee firefighters will not be personally liable for actions undertaken in good faith. This paper reviews post-wildfire litigation in Australia and claims for compensation made against the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. Although the data are incomplete and likely to underestimate the actual claims history, analysis of the available data does show that the number of claims for compensation is small given the very large number of fires and hazard reduction burns across Australia. There is no evidence of extensive post-fire litigation or of fire agencies or firefighters being held liable for actions taken in the course of firefighting The evidence does not support assertions that there is an ‘increasing flood’ of legal claims arising from firefighting. Post-fire litigation is compared with other proceeding such as Royal Commissions and coronial inquiries. It is argued that it is not liability, but the lengthy post-event inquiry process and the risk of personal criticism that should be the concern of fire managers and firefighters.
Refereed DesignationRefereed