A Big Factor in Australian Fires

Both California and Australia restrict action by landowners to protect their property.

The Australian fires bring back sad reminders of the California experience. As with American wildfires, an ounce of prevention could have gone a long way to decrease the destruction.

As explained by Kat Dwyer of PERC, in a recent article in The Hill, an Australian law is making matters worse.

Controlled burns, once routinely used by farmers to reduce fuel around their properties, can now result in fines exceeding $500 per tree removed. Indeed, Liam Sheahan, a resident of Strath Creek in central Victoria, was fined $50,000 for clearing trees and shrubs around the perimeter of his home. He spent an additional $50,000 on legal fees defending his decision. After the Black Saturday bushfires devastated his community, Sheahan’s decision was vindicated as his home was the only one to remain standing.

Even the government’s land managers themselves are performing fewer controlled burns. According to Brian Williams, captain of Kurrajong Heights fire brigade, Australia has been burning less than 1 percent of its bushfire-prone land for the past 20 years. Similarly, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services reported that out of 812 hazard-reduction burns that have been planned since 2016, only 439 have been completed.

It is time to reconsider our public lands policy and lower the hurdles that prevent communities from acting to protect their homes and livelihoods. This is as true in the United States as it is in Australia.

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