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Integrated fire management needed to tame fires

Australia Bushfires report in accord with FAO guidelines

24 August, 2010/Rome - FAO is stressing the importance of integrated fire management following the release of the report on the causes of Australia's 2009 Black Saturday fires. The Select Committee on Agricultural and Related Industries that investigated the incidence of bushfires noted that the fire management voluntary guidelines coordinated by FAO would be a good basis for a common approach to a national bushfire policy.

The report contains 67 recommendations based on the extensive evidence heard by the Commission which was assembled two days after the tragedy took lives of 173 people.

"This broad and diverse panorama of recommendations shows again the importance of integrated fire management," said Pieter van Lierop, FAO Forestry Officer responsible for fire management. "That means not only improving the importance of fire detection systems and suppression techniques but also monitoring, early warning, prevention and preparedness."

Besides recommendations to strengthen suppression of fires the Commission also highlights the importance of the awareness campaigns and that bushfire history should be taught at schools. Prevention through long-term planned burning to reduce fuel levels and removal of vegetation around the houses are also vital issues which contribute to better protection of homes in bushfire-prone areas.

In areas of unacceptable high risks the Commission recommends the introduction of resettlement schemes for homes and developing plans for emergency evacuation. Among other guidelines are replacement of aging power-lines and distribution feeders to avoid electricity-caused fires.

In line with FAO approach

"A similar integrated fire management approach can be found in the Fire Management Voluntary Guidelines, developed by FAO and partners, which was mentioned to be of help to form the basis for sections of a national bushfire policy for Australia, a document which does not exist at the moment, but considered badly needed," van Lierop added. "It is vital to think about the fire prevention throughout a year and not only when the fire season comes to avoid property and environmental damage and reduce the amount of unnecessary deaths."

Before the disastrous Black Saturday fires in Australia in 2009, Greece suffered big wildfires in 2007 which burned 270, 000 ha of forest, olive groves and farmland were destroyed in the fires and 84 people lost their lives , which made it the worst fire season in the past 50 years.

In Russia alone this year due to the unprecedented heat wave with temperatures soaring up to 40ºC and winds of up to 20 metres per second the total area burned has reached more than 14 million hectares, according to the data provided by the Sukachev Institute for Forest in the city of Krasnoyarsk. Forest fires in Russia have already killed more than 50 people this summer.

During the current fire season in the northern hemisphere, many wildfires are taking place in many countries.

Also take also a look at:  http://geonetwork4.fao.org/firemap/

Photo: ©Bushfire CRC
Heavily forested areas around the mountain village of Kinglake in Victoria felt the full force of the Black Saturday bushfires.

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