Aftermath of bushfires in Tasmania's central plateau in January 2016: scorched earth for as far as the eye can see. Photo: Dan Broun

By Michael Slezak
3 February 2016

(Guardian) – A national inquiry into the fires devastating world heritage forests in Tasmania is urgently needed, say conservationists and academics. The call comes as experts say fires like those could be the new normal.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has called for the public inquiry as dozens of fires continue to ravage the world heritage forests and look set to burn for days or weeks to come.

“We need to ask whether or not Parks and Wildlife have adequate resources to implement a policy of actively fighting … remote area fires, especially in sensitive alpine areas,” said Jess Abrahams, an ACF campaigner.

He said fire services did an exceptional job but an inquiry was needed to look into the policies that should exist around fighting fires in remote areas and the resources that would be needed to implement them.

David Bowman from the University of Tasmania agreed an inquiry was required.

“It’s critical,” he told Guardian Australia. He said it was important that it not seek to lay blame on anyone because the current situation was “unprecedented” and could not have been predicted.

When asked whether there would be an inquiry the Tasmanian premier, Will Hodgman, told reporters yesterday there would be “an assessment” with peer reviews done by experts from interstate.

Dozens of fires were still burning inside the world heritage forests in Tasmania, according to the Tasmanian Fire Service.

Bowman said they could continue to burn for 10 or 20 more days and were likely to be made worse by dry and warm conditions that are forecast as a high-pressure system moves through Tasmania. […]

“You’d have to bulldoze strips in the soil but it’s a world heritage area,” Bowman said. “If there was something simple that could be done, it would be done.” […]

“I’m almost certain this is the new normal,” Bowman said. [more]

Call for urgent inquiry into world heritage forest fires in Tasmania

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