Our October speaker was Scott Deller, the Operations Response Coordinator from the Rural Fire Service (RFS). He spoke about the Black Summer Bushfires and its impact. He then outlined the process of carrying out prescribed burns or was we know them, “burning off”. It was quite surprising to hear how much planning they have to go into before RFS can carry out a prescribed burn. However, prescribed burns are very dependent on favourable conditions and often, after RFS staff have spent considerable time preparing for a fire, the weather intervenes with either rain or strong winds and the whole process is cancelled.
One of the other interesting aspects of his presentation was that prescribed burns are good for protecting areas from moderate fires but not from wild hot fires. There is no mechanism for controlling extreme fires and evacuation is then the only strategy available. Scott also stated that protecting wildlife, particularly koalas, is also a high priority when fighting fires. One interesting point he made was that small urban forest patches such as Poulton Park and Oatley Park are too small to become major fire threats
Scott has been with the NSW RFS for 28 years, the last 19 years as a staff member. His area of expertise is bush fire risk reduction, including prescribed burning, with a key consideration mitigating the impact to the environment. He was based in the Sutherland Shire, but has also worked in the Southern Highlands and Macarthur region during his career. Due to his knowledge he has assisted with complex bush fire hazard matters in a range of areas including the Blue Mountains, and assisted various Bush Fire Management Committees with their functions. He moved to his current role in 2021.
Scott’s talk can be viewed on OFF’s YouTube channel. here. Note that the first few minutes of the talk, containing preliminary comments only, were not recorded.