Measuring smoke plumes from prescribed fires

Guest post by Owen Price (Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires, UOW)

Fire management agencies in southern Australia have increased the amount of prescribed burning in southern Australia in recent years as a strategy to reduce the risk from bushfire. One of the potential downsides of this strategy is an increase in smoke exposure to communities on the urban interface because a larger area is treated than would burn from bushfire. Planners of prescribed fires try to avoid smoke impact by modelling the likely dispersion of smoke and avoiding days when smoke will affect local communities. We know very little about the actual smoke impact from prescribed fires, especially near the fire, and the accuracy of smoke dispersal models.

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Pregnancy, motherhood and firefighting

“When I decided to make this profession my career I cried because at that point in time [early 1980s] every woman who got pregnant or got married left the profession. Then I had to deal personally with accepting that I also was gay. That was a whole other crying moment because it’s like, okay, I chose a profession over what society says you’ve got to have—family.” Continue reading

Unmasking gender privileges: the flipside of inequity

At first thought, many men (and some women) express a belief that gender inequality is an issue of the past that has been overcome by a generational shift within the emergency services. Upon greater reflection this notion usually turns out to be more complex than initially proclaimed. Continue reading

Eyes wide shut: bushfire, gendered norms and everyday life

“Pop-psychology”—this is the term used to define the obsession in public discourse and media with labelling of gender differences as if these differences are biologically set-in-stone. Western society’s captivation by such dichotomy-based definitions has problematic outcomes when, for example, in leadership debates men and women are portrayed as being incapable of getting along because their ways of communicating are too different.

I was witness to this very scenario at a Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference hosted by the NSW Rural Fire Service for 400-odd staff and volunteers in 2011. Continue reading

Why gender matters in emergency management

Gender is a matter of social relations—i.e. social structures with enduring or widespread patterns, rather than an expression of dichotomous biology. Social characteristics, such as gender, cannot be understood in isolation of other social characteristics, such as class, education, disability, age, race and sexuality. As argued by Connell (2010, 6):

‘People construct themselves as masculine or feminine. We claim a place in the gender order – or respond to the place we have been given – by the way we conduct ourselves in everyday life.’

Why is this important in the context of emergency management? It matters for three key reasons. Continue reading

Illuminating wildfire vulnerability through environmental history

The following is a discussion of how environmental history recently has broadened my understanding of wildfire vulnerability. It is based on my reflections from the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) conference in San Francisco, which together with the Association of American Geographers (AAG) conference in Tampa bracketed my recent trip to USA. The purpose of attending both conferences was to share key lessons on gendered dimensions of wildfire vulnerability and resilience as presented in my new book. Yet, the format of my input to each conference was distinctively different. Continue reading

Meeting my book critics at the AAG 2014

Writing my first book was an incredible experience. Empowering when words flowed. Exhilarating when thoughts came together coherently on paper. Frustrating when nothing seemed to make sense – in my head or on paper. Terrifying when writer’s block set in. Mind numbing when faced with the fourth, let alone the four-hundredth round of edits and proofs. Gratifying, exhausting, emotional – sometimes all at once depending on the moment. An experience beyond words really. It was therefore both exciting and terrifying to invite four academic colleagues to provide a public critique of my newly published book Gender and Wildfire: Landscapes of Uncertainty at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Meeting – held this year in Tampa, Florida. The following is a summary of my author-meets-critics session.

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Bushfires: rural residents are the solution, not the problem

Post written by Nicholas Gill

The return of heatwaves and bushfires to the news pages has brought fresh warnings that Australians who live in fire-prone zones still don’t fully understand the risk they are running.

Deadly fires in Victoria’s Grampians and the Perth Hills, and the many other emergencies across other states, have once again brought the dangers into stark relief. Yet we have found evidence that people living near bushland are more aware of the risks and remedies than they are given credit for. Continue reading

Questioning the legality of forced evacuations during the Red October bushfires

In the aftermath of the recent State Mine Fire in the Blue Mountains, my team at UOW revisited interview participants who were initially interviewed mid-2013 on their preparedness for bushfire. The State Mine Fire provided a unique opportunity to investigate if their preparations withstood the attack.

During one interview, a participant vented his frustration with police orders to evacuate his property, as he was well-prepared to face the fire. He candidly asked me if legally he had to follow such an order when the ‘Prepare. Act. Survive.‘ policy guides people on how to prepare their property in order to stay and defend it. I promised to get back to him with an answer, as I needed to get my facts straight first. I sought the advice of a barrister and academic colleague at the ANU College of Law, Dr Michael Eburn who specialises in emergency law.

Extent of the NSW State Mine Fire

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Our most clicked posts in 2013

It’s been a busy year here and most AUSCCERites are now taking a well-deserved Christmas break. So for our final blog post of the year we’re revisiting some of our most clicked, read and shared pieces in 2013. Thanks for reading and sharing Conversations with AUSCCER this year and we’ll see you in 2014. Continue reading