Media releases


8 January 2020

Bushfire should be treated in the same way as a disease pandemic – Prevention is better than cure. 

Prevention is better than dealing with the aftermath of a pandemic or a fire disaster. The Federal Royal Commission into the fires of last summer and the Victorian Inspector General inquiry make no recommendations for additional fuel reduction burning as a preventative measure to minimise the risk of bushfire. 

Whilst the Howitt Society commends government for accepting the recommendations from the inquires we call on both Federal and State government to recognise the important role of fuel reduction burning as a preventative measure to reduce the impact of the fire on communities and the environment stated Garry Squires Secretary of the Howitt Society

There is a good analogy  between how we manage fire and how  we manage disease Mr Squires added

A disease starts small and incubates over time until suddenly it breaks out and becomes an unstoppable epidemic which kills or severely disables people and ties up medical resources as we have seen with the COVID -19 epidemic.

A killer bushfire is the same  – it starts with a single spark but if that spark falls onto the right fuel under severe weather conditions it becomes a mega fire which kills people and destroys assets.

However in the case of both disease and bushfire it is possible to forestall the inevitable tragic outcome.  In the case of a disease like COVID -19 there is a two pronged health attack.  Firstly there is a public health program to deal with the current situation – washing hands, social distancing, masks,  contact tracing, isolation of clusters  etc.  This is a short term process.  Secondly there is the longer term vaccination program where the bulk of the community are inoculated with a mild dose of the disease allowing them to build up herd  immunity and ensure that any future impact on the community is milder.

With fire there can be a similar two pronged attack.  The first, which is similar to the public health program,  is to make out environment and the community more bushfire resilient and better able to deal with fire clusters when they occur. So we have public education programs, more aerial resources, leave early orders, emergency warnings   etc.  However if we do nothing else it will be like fighting COVI-19 without a vaccine where  there will always be the possibility of another pandemic .  The second stage in the fire situation is a   “vaccination  program” where the bush is inoculated with a mild dose of fire .  This builds up immunity in the bush so it is better able to resist the impact of wildfire and allows fires to be more easily controlled

In the case of a public health program if we did not work towards a vaccine then more and more medical personnel and infra structure would be required to deal with future pandemics. In the case of the forest if there is no inoculation with fire through cool burning then more and more firefighters and equipment will be required to deal with the inevitable future megafires

The report from the two key inquiries into the bushfires of last summer focus on the first but give no indication of a program to inoculate larger proportions of the forest with controlled fire

The options are clear, prevention is better than dealing with the aftermath of a disaster.  The best preventative measure that can be taken to minimise the impact of a fire epidemic is to reduce fuels over large areas.  No fuel equals no fire, reduced fuel equals a less intense fire.  Whilst fuel reduction preventative works will not necessarily stop all fires they will ensure that the wildfire does less damage to the environment and is easier, safer and cheaper to control.

The government must take the lead. By not implementing a realistic fuel reduction program the government is abrogating its responsibility to protect the environment and the community,” Mr Squires concluded.

Further information : Garry Squires, Secretary, The Howitt Society 0419588210


8 January 2020

Fuel Management – an important part of the integrated strategy the future

The Howitt Society emphatically rejects the assertion by the CFA Chief Officer that fuel reduction burns are a ’load of emotional rubbish’. “Reality in the bush shows the opposite even under these extreme fire conditions” said Secretary Garry Squires.

It is simple science – if the fuel load is halved the fire intensity is reduced by a factor of 4, if the fuel load is reduced to a quarter then the fire intensity is reduced by a factor of 16.  No fuel equals no fire, reduced fuel equals a substantial reduction in fire intensity. 
Fuel reduction burns usually do not halt a fire but they do greatly reduce the intensity. In the Orbost and Bruthen areas during the past weeks there have been numerous examples where autumn 2019 fuel reduction burns have stopped the run of a fire and other examples where recent fuel reduction has reduced the intensity such that crews could easily control the fire.
Planned burning is really the only broad area option to lessen the impact of these high intensity large area fires. More trucks and aircraft can do little to stop these fires whilst they are so intense.

We cannot allow the devastation caused by wildfire over the past 15 years to continue. It has been too persistent, to pervasive. It is obvious we must adapt, not down the road, but now. There will be nothing left worth saving if we sit back and wait for climate change abatement policies to save the our landscapes.

Governments and agencies, their reputations on the line, will inevitably become defensive and resist when held accountable for a demanding burning program. The problem for this fire season extends beyond governments, to all political actors … and that includes media. We are in this together. We will only get out of it together.

“We have to seriously question our management of livelihood and property, native flora and fauna, clean water production, carbon storage and simply the bush as we know it”, according to Society President Geoff Burrowes.
“Above all, our fortitude and heart is being tested. We cannot walk away from this problem saying it is too risky, too difficult and maybe the bush doesn’t count anyway. This is un-Australian.”

The Howitt Society is a group of experienced land and fire managers and acknowledged bushmen who are concerned for the health and safety of the Australian bush and in particular fire management.   

Attributable quotes

“No fuel equals no fire, reduced fuel equals a substantial reduction in fire intensity.  – Garry Squires

“Our fortitude and heart is being tested. We cannot walk away from this problem saying it is too risky, too difficult and maybe the bush doesn’t count anyway. This is un-Australian.”– Geoff Burrowes

Further information : Howitt Society President Geoff Burrowes 0408 371571 or Secretary Garry Squires 0417 588210


20 December 2019

A Bushfire Summit should focus on Fuel Management

There has been much in the media recently claiming that climate change is the cause of the large fires around Australia at present.

“Hiding behind climate change is not a strategy to address the increasing number and intensity of fires across Australia” said Howitt Society President Geoff Burrowes.
“Even if all burning of fossil fuels was stopped across the world tomorrow climate change is not going to shift into reverse.”
“In reality genuine climate change reversal strategies are years away from being internationally adopted, and decades away from beginning to impact fire regimes.  So we need to adapt our fuel management strategies to deal with warmer and drier conditions as they are today”, Mr Burrowes added. 

“The Howitt Society supports the call from the Emergency leaders for Climate Action for an Emergency Bushfire Summit after the current fire season, however the focus of that forum needs to be on reducing the fuel loads in our forested areas” the Howitt Society Secretary Garry Squires said.
“Whilst the climate is becoming warmer and drier it is not this that is making the fires more intense and more difficult to control but rather the unprecedented amount of fuel that land managers have allowed to accumulate.”
“There are three factors that allow fires to burn – an ignition source, oxygen and fuel. The only one we are able to influence is the amount of fuel available when ignition does occur, whether it be lightning, an arsonist, a campfire or any other source. We know that as fuel availability doubles, fire burns four times more intensely and so there are great benefits in reducing fuel loads” said Mr Squires.
“We also know that fuels can be reduced over large areas using existing and familiar technologies. All that is required is policy change at a government level and appropriate funding. A well funded, well led, state-wide, even nation-wide fuel mitigation campaign would be an effective first step in protecting Australian lives and property and the bush itself from the grip of a warmer and drier climate” 

The Howitt Society is a group of experienced land and fire managers and acknowledged bushmen who are concerned for the health and safety of the Australian bush and in particular fire management.   

Attributable quotes

“A well funded, well led, state-wide, even nation-wide fuel mitigation campaign would be an effective first step in protecting Australian lives and property and the bush itself from the grip of a warmer and drier climate”  – Garry Squires

“Hiding behind climate change is not a strategy to address the increasing number and intensity of fires across Australia” – Geoff Burrowes

Further information : Howitt Society President Geoff Burrowes 0408 371571 or Secretary Garry Squires 0417 588210


19 December 2019

Bushfires and Climate Change

There has been much in the media recently claiming that climate change is the cause of the large fires around Australia at present. Hiding behind climate change is not a strategy to address the increasing number and intensity of fires across Australia according to Howitt Society President Geoff Burrowes. The Howitt Society is a group of experienced land and fire managers and acknowledged bushmen who are concerned for the health and safety of the Australian bush and in particular fire management.   

Even if all burning of fossil fuels was stopped across the world tomorrow climate change is not going to shift into reverse. In reality genuine climate change reversal strategies are years away from being internationally adopted, and decades away from beginning to impact fire regimes.  So we need to adapt our fuel management strategies to deal with warmer and drier conditions as they are today, said Mr Burrowes. 

The Howitt Society supports the call from the Emergency leaders for Climate Action for an Emergency Bushfire Summit after the current fire season.  However the focus of that forum needs to be on reducing the fuel loads in our forested areas according to Howitt Society Secretary Garry Squires.  Whilst the climate is becoming warmer and drier it is not this that is making the fires more intense and more difficult to control but rather the unprecedented amount of fuel that land managers have allowed to accumulate.

There are three factors that allow fires to burn – an ignition source, oxygen and fuel. The only one we are able to influence is the amount of fuel available when ignition does occur, whether it be lightning, an arsonist, a campfire or any other source. We know that as fuel availability doubles, fire burns four times more intensely and so there are great benefits in reducing fuel loads said Mr Squires.  We also know that fuels can be reduced over large areas using existing and familiar technologies. All that is required is policy change at a government level and appropriate funding.

A well funded, well led, state-wide, even nation-wide fuel mitigation campaign would be an effective first step in protecting Australian lives and property and the bush itself from the grip of a warmer and drier climate 

Further information : Howitt Society President Geoff Burrowes 0408 371571 or Secretary Garry Squires 0417 588210