Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why Isn't the Military Being Used to Fight the Fires?

Based on two comments on my last post I decided to see if I could find out why the military wasn't called in to fight the fires. This is what I found:

Victorian bushfires now worst in Australian history

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has told the nation to prepare itself for worse news as the inferno ravaging Victoria became Australia's most deadly on record.

The military has been put on stand-by to provide assistance and most Australians were in shock as the death toll in Victoria climbed to 108, superseding the 1983 Ash Wednesday disaster, which claimed 75 lives.

Mr Rudd promised all Australians would partner in the rebuilding of the Victorian communities razed by the bushfires.

"We've come through bad times before and we'll come through this one," he said.

But he warned people to prepare for more bad news.

"I fear in the days ahead that the news is going to be bad and, I believe, the nation needs to prepare itself as full facts become known," he said.

The prime minister has spent much of Sunday touring fire-ravaged communities and speaking to workers at the state's Country Fire Authority (CFA) headquarters.

With Victorian Premier John Brumby, Mr Rudd announced a joint $10 million emergency relief fund to help victims of the tragedy.

"The Rudd and Brumby governments are working closely together to ensure that the people and emergency workers in Victoria have all the support they require during this difficult time," he said.

The prime minister will head out to fire-affected communities again this morning before he is expected to return to Canberra later in the day for question time in parliament.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is on standby to assist, providing resources and expertise including the deployment of army bulldozers to build fire breaks.

Mr Rudd was in talks with high-level defence specialists this evening, discussing what the military could do to assist in each of the affected communities.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon told AAP a response plan was in place to allow commanders on the ground to do everything possible to deal with requests for assistance.

"We stand ready to help in any way that we can and we will respond positively to any request where we think we can make a positive contribution," he said.

"The most obvious areas will be the deployment of heavy earth-moving equipment to assist with the containment of fires."

Twelve army bulldozers have already been deployed to near Yea in northeast Victoria.

Defence may help with the provision of stretchers and possibly tents to accommodate people who have lost their homes in the fires.

"(And) we do have some expertise in firefighting as well and we'll be providing advice on the ground as well," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

But the minister said there weren't sufficient numbers of ADF personnel with firefighting experience to help battle the bushfires directly.

From Monday, Centrelink will begin making disaster relief payments of $1000 for adults and $400 for children effected by the bushfires.

Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said the money would help people who fled their homes without so much as clothes or a toothbrush.

"There are hundreds of people there, many of them have lost everything and this $1000 is really just to help them get some emergency clothing, a toothbrush. It's really just to provide immediate assistance," she told the Macquarie Radio Network.

Centrelink will offer counselling services from Victorian relief centres and funeral assistance worth up to $5,000 will be available to the families of people who've died in the fires.

The government will consider further assistance, as required.


Berys said...

Thanks for the info Julie but it really supprises me that they do not have Firefighting included in their training ..this is something that IMHO that should be looked at .

Julie said...

totally agree with you Berys. Especially given that bushfires are an issue in pretty much all states every year (although this one is way worse than the "normal" ones).

NotClauswitz said...

May God have mercy on the souls who perished.
I guess the thing is, Soldiers start fires (and break things, lots of breaking things - and exploding them too!), while Firemen put them out - only the Navy really has fire-fighters since a fire on-board a ship or submarine can mean total disaster.

Old NFO said...

All the RAN Navy DOES have firefighting training, albiet on ships... We train our military, especially helo pilots for water dump missions and we also send people out with hand tools to fight on the fire lines in emergencies.

ST said...

Why isn't the Country Fire Service Used to Fight the Wars? To answer Berys's argument, maybe we should train police, ambulance officers, doctors, nurses, accountants, and pretty much everyone else in the country, to fight fires. Would that be practical, or even plausible? I think not. We don't train doctors to fight wars either. The ADF is a limited resource, trained to look after national security. It seems like everybody just sees soldiers as "cannon fodder". Just send in the army! Ba, humbug!