The Australian reports many local townships and homeowners failed to heed warnings concerning defensible space. Despite pleas from local bushfire experts area “greens” designed new housing developments with complete disregard for fire. In fact in some cases homeowners were required to plant trees and vegetation close to their homes.
Their guidance was “trees being the holy green icon” and with that as their view came up with this.
“green groups were pushing for changes to planning laws that included restrictions on the removal of vegetation, “and worse still, the requirement for planting vegetation around and almost over houses, as part of any planning permit to build a house in the shire of Nillumbik, so it gave the appearance from the outside of being a forest”.
This foolishness was designed against reminders of the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 that killed more than 74 people in the region. The fires this month are a stiff reminder that there are consequences for bypassing expert advice or making rules contrary to scientific and historic evidence.
To some extent this question is being played out in court in California. As I posted here the San Diego utility is suing homeowners on the grounds their alleged negligence of defensible space ordinances contributed to the intensity of the Witch and Rice Fires in 2007.
What is often missing in the defensible space debate is the importance of cleared space as it applies to firefighter safety. Firefighters should not be called on to defend individual properties designed to simulate Tarzan’s tree house. People that choose to live directly under trees should expect firefighters to pass by their homes on the way to protect more defensible properties.
This is a good time to initiate discussion on the topic, even as the fires in Victoria still rage. In a couple of months California and Western US states will begin burning. Let the decisions made by (ordinarily well intentioned) green’s in Victoria State serve as a warning here.
UPDATE: Victoria homeowner charged nearly $100,000 dollars for clearing a defensible space around his home, his property survived.