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 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 activities.

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 centrally co-ordinated.

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.


A Wikipedia page on the 2003 Canberra bushfires
    2003 Canberra bushfires

No idea who runs this next site -

IPA report "When will we ever learn?, " is featured now on their front page, with other reports into bush fires.
Download "When will we ever learn?, "

Darren has sent in these 3 links - thanks Darren -

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