ABC: Locals in the Tasmanian fishing village of Dunalley say the fire which ravaged their community would not have been so ferocious if hazard reduction burns had been carried out before the summer.
A total of 126 properties were destroyed or damaged in the Dunalley fire, and a photo (above) given to the ABC yesterday and taken from a fire-fighting helicopter shows a giant fireball bearing down on the town at the height of the inferno.
One resident who still has a home is oyster farmer Justin Gock.
"I believe that if you've got people living in areas where there's substantial forests, there should be significant management plans in place to control situations like this," he said.
"Because if these areas were back-burned like they used to and the infrastructure was in place, fair chance it might not have happened."
Tony Disipio, who lost his house in the blaze, is critical about the lack of preventative burns around Dunalley.
"Well 25 years ago they used to burn off regularly around the hills, it was like a winter thing, a winter exercise," he said.
"And I noticed over the years that there was just less and less of it."
Farmer Sandy Gray has also noticed that preventative burns have been declining in recent times.
"In the old days, they used to go around and just quietly do a few, especially on the northern, north-western sides of the townships like Dunalley. It's a pity they don't still do it," he said.
The State Government and Fire Service are promising to review their policies on controlled burns, but with fire warnings still current for parts of the state, they say they will wait until the current crisis is over.
The Tasmanian Fire Service's Deputy Chief Officer, Gavin Freeman, says there has been no reduction in preventative burn-offs near Dunalley.
"I don't believe there has been less done. You can always look back with a bit of hindsight and say yes, we could do more perhaps," he said.
"But until we get these fires under control and are able to look back and do a proper analysis of where the fires have burnt to and what they burnt through - and bear in mind, under catastrophic conditions - we don't really know whether that field reduction burning would be a benefit or not."
The fire service may do some burn-offs, but the responsibility for preparing for a bushfire lies with the land owner.
At Dunalley it appears most of the bushland the fire tore through is privately owned.
The Tasmanian Minister for Emergency Management, David O'Byrne, says public land accounts for 20 per cent of the area affected by the fire.
"Fuel reduction and that sort of management is a joint responsibility between government, in terms of our land and in the parks land, but also in the private land that is around Tasmania," he said.
"It's important we have a community conversation around this. Now is not the time for that conversation, we need to get these fires under control.
"Once we can assess the impact of the fuel loads around... we can have a discussion on the basis of fact and reality as opposed to people's pretty raw emotions at the moment."
By Felicity Ogilvie
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