Anzacs unite to fight fire menace


Can't help it, but it always warms the cockles of my heart to see New Zealand firefighters going off to help with Australian bushfires.

Probably the wrong expression to use, but it's a practical application of the Anzac spirit. And given the danger they are heading into, parts of firefighting are probably not too dissimilar from war - a front, an enemy, advance and retreat. A veteran Kiwi firefighter heading over had been asked what advice he was giving a younger mate heading out, and it was stay hydrated and listen carefully to what the locals say.

Because their fire risk meter goes all the way past extreme to catastrophic. And while it seems surprising to see Tasmania at the epicentre of fire fighting efforts in recent days, they have the same conditions as anywhere else in Australia - a perfect storm of lots of fuel, searing heat and wind.

A couple of relative wet years has seen vegetation practically lush in Australia which for the lucky country, means ample material to burn. It's a natural event.

And while Australia is the world's most bushfire-prone country, some scientists argue climate change is adding to its vulnerability.

It is so prone to fire that one wonders why anyone would live in the Australia bush - it's about as sensible as living on the flood plain of a New Zealand river. But the call of the bush is strong - a Cooma, New South Wales family who lost nearly everything in a fire on Tuesday have a Terminator-like persistence: "we'll be back" they said.

On a much, much smaller scale, Wanganui has had its own flare-ups with a couple of rural fires for the Fire Service to contend with.

It's a time to be cautious and even those with permits need to think again about striking that match. As deputy principal rural fire officer Richard Terry points out, just because a fire is permitted, if it gets away you are still liable for the costs.

It's no get-out-of-jail-free card.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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