Concern that the box ticking bureaucracy of Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV) hampered bushfire response has been questioned in State Parliament.
It follows after it was revealed the Gippsland fire spotting towers were left without crews for a week at the end of September amid an early onset of hot weather and high fire danger conditions.
During this period, the region experienced several dangerous bushfires including those at Briagolong, Walhalla, and Loch Sport.
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Public Land Use and The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath took the Allan Labor Government to task over its failure to staff fire towers.
“Apparent inconsistencies in policy have emerged, whereby experienced staff are being denied access to the towers until they complete first aid training in some areas and not in others.
“During periods of high fire danger, when regional fuel loads are dangerously high, it is unacceptable that red tape actually puts locals at great risk.”
Playing a vital role in early detection, Victoria has 70 fire towers operated under State Government control and approximately 18 servicing Gippsland.
Ms Bath said fire lookout observers act as Victoria’s smoke detectors and locals are justifiably concerned at Labor’s lack of bushfire readiness.
“Managing the fire risk in Gippsland must be prioritised by this Labor Government – the lives of regional Victorians and protection of our natural environment should not be neglected.
“Fire towers on public land remain a necessary early warning system for bushfire response in the Gippsland region.
“During the Briagolong bushfire, the towers were left uncrewed even though environmental triggers, including hot temperatures and high winds pointed to the need to staff them.
“The Briagolong blaze took many days to control and tragically claimed one home and burnt out 5000 hectares.
“It is essential smoke lookout towers are properly resourced during the fire season.
“I have called on the Minister for Environment to ensure towers remain properly staffed for the long fire season ahead.”