The Bay Islands residents have been identified as being ‘vulnerable’ and having a ‘low level of personal and community resilience in relation to wildfire and other emergency events’.
And given that the islands and SE Queensland are currently experiencing one of the driest periods for some time, a catastrophic summer fire period could be in the offering.
The stringent analysis has come by way of the recently released Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Training and Emergency Management Unit’s independent review of the level of fire preparedness of council and private land within the Redland City Council area.
It was commissioned by Redland City Council Mayor Karen Williams in response to significant wildfire events that occurred on Macleay and Russell Islands in 2016.
The review evaluated the level of vulnerability to wildfire, with specific regard to the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, and analysed council’s current maintenance plan to ensure it is scheduled for maximum benefit for the entire council area.
The review involved data analysis, field inspections and visual assessments, and community consultation activities with island residents and organisations, which included meetings, interviews, email correspondence and an online survey.
In assessing the vulnerability of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands to wildfire, the review identified the following points of concern:
1. There is a significant level of illegal dumping of household, green and commercial waste on Russell and Macleay Islands that could potentially contribute to unpredictable fire intensity and safety hazards for emergency services personnel.
2. There are high to extreme levels of fuel loading in many areas of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, particularly on Russell Island, often in excess of 15 tonnes per hectare.
3. There are a number of cases of private land-owners hoarding high levels of household, commercial and other waste, including green waste, tyres, oils, vehicles, building materials and other waste products. Some commercial operators are storing waste on privately owned land rather using Council’s waste transfer stations.
4. Southern Moreton Bay Island residents have been observed as generally having a low level of personal and community resilience in relation to wildfire and other emergency events, particularly in the central and south-western areas of Russell Island. This is due to factors such as geographic isolation, an ageing population, poor preparation of properties, a limited of understanding of actions to take before and during an emergency, and communication challenges on the islands.
5. RFS personnel on the islands are available to respond a single crew 24 hours a day, seven days per week, however, there is limited capacity to guarantee any additional crewing on a second vehicle during working hours as many volunteers work on the mainland.
6. Russell Island currently faces a significant risk posed by a single evacuation route. This is due to multiple factors, such as distance of travel, significant population on the southern end of the island, and significant wildfire risk that runs across the evacuation route.
Redland City Council has already implemented some of the findings in the report.
Cr Mark Edwards told The Friendly Bay Islander that there are 27 recommendations in the report and all of them will be addressed by council.
“However, there are some contradictions involving council Local Laws, and these will have to changed to allow some of the implementations.
“Council has resolved that priority will be given to personal property and safety.
“Local laws will be addressed as soon as possible by a full meeting of council,” the councillor said.
The full Fire Report can be seen at: The Redland City Council – Fire Management Plan Review Report 2017 [PDF 15.8MB