Australian Bush Patrols
A proposal for volunteer bush patrols to give early warning of bushfire,
while aiming to restrict opportunities for arson and also reporting
on evidence of crime left in bushland.
Considering the cost in property and lives lost to bushfires in Australia
and the hundreds of millions spent on fire fighting and prevention, there
would seem to be worthwhile benefits in a system of volunteer bush patrols
which could be administered through Shire Councils.
Although fires can be started by lightning strikes many are either deliberately
lit or spread from maybe the burning of a car in bush or other inappropriate
use of fire too near bush. Media reports over years have mentioned children
as initiators of urban bush fires.
Hundreds of thousands of Australians already engage in a variety of
volunteer activities in Australia so there would seem to be a framework in
place through which to engage people.
Extracts from fax sent to FESA (Perth WA Govt. Fire Authority)
in Jan 2002 ....to which there was no reply...
Volunteers should register their interest in taking part in patrols and
would be on a central list along with their various contact details, phone,
fax, message, mobile, email et and time in the morning they could be contacted
and if people are going to be away ideally they could advise dates.
Everyone should be given copies of a purpose generated A4
gridded map of their area showing roads, named tracks etc and a copy
should be marked showing the time and route of the days patrol and be kept
with any notes as a daily record which may be collected. Volunteers should
also be given a kit of useful briefing information to guide their patrolling
Ideally, people patrolling should carry various useful items of gear if
they have them, map on clip board with pen, notebook, mobile phone(charged),
pocket compass, hand held GPS, camera, whistle.
The various patrol areas could be given names to facilitate communication
and the various patrol units could also have names or numbers, for example
a husband and wife may not always go out together but might share an ID, close
neighbours could also share a patroller ID.
The likelihood of high risk days is usually known in the morning from weather
forecasting and existing fire activity; this information might come to the
co-ordinator from FESA. On a day of expected risk, by 8
am the co-ordinator should already be in the process of knowing who
is available for patrolling and can probably suggest a start time.
Obviously patrols should call in any sightings they wish including say motor
bike or other vehicle sounds or sightings. They could make quick notes of
their calls and of course the co-ordinator would be logging calls.
It might be possible to get useful observations passed on to co-ordinators
from local people routinely making flights from Jandakot.
It would be helpful if there was a report compiled for of dated and
timed fires occurrences over the previous several years, perhaps related to
weather conditions, school holiday or not, etc. There may be patterns
in fire occurrences & locations and it seems obvious to have these data
collated. We should find out early on who is holding statistics for past fires.
Helpful publicity could be generated for local papers and people living
near bush who are not in Friends Groups should be our natural allies and
it may be worth trying letterbox drops targeted at them or some cold calling.
We may have some members such as people living on bush margins, or
in elevated vantage points who are located so advantageously that they could
be part of the patrol network at their normal locations.
This entire concept could be useful at any level of uptake, from one or
two people who just contact one another on bad fire days and go out and call
one another from time to time, right up to a scheme where many patrols are
A weekly report should be collated from diaries in the fire danger season
and circulated to members. This could incorporate local news items and help
raise consciousness and may lead to news items too.
There may be points we can learn from the Neighbourhood Watch organization.
And obviously any patrolling should be known to local police and they should
have the co-ordinators contact numbers. It is obvious that regular observers
moving in urban bush may be some deterrent to crime.
ABC web site reports into Jan 2003 Canberra fires, some great reading there
IPA report "When will we ever learn?, " is featured now on their front page,
with other reports into bush fires.
will we ever learn?, "
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