‘We were left exposed’: Hero firey hits out at RFS hazard reduction plan

‘We were left exposed’: Hero firey hits out at RFS hazard reduction plan. By Ben Graham.

Everyone you speak to in Balmoral knows Brendan O’Connor’s name.

The Rural Fire Service captain has been hailed as a hero in the tiny NSW Southern Highlands town after he headed an odds-defying effort to save 120 of the community’s 140 homes when many believed the town had been wiped off the map. …

Despite all this, he told news.com.au he feels he has now been “blacklisted” by the RFS for criticising the organisation’s hazard reduction plan — which he claims left the village and its surrounding towns “exposed” to the Green Wattle Creek fire – and taking matters into his own hands.

“The burn plan they had was very flawed and it was going to leave our village exposed to the fire,” he said.

“I had challenged that, but was told that they’re the experts because the RFS paid staff do all the computer programming to work out where should be burned.”

He said no hazard reduction burns had been done in the area surrounding Balmoral since 2001 — meaning there was 18 years of fuel growing on the ground.

“It was a time bomb waiting to go off,” he said. …

When the fire hit, Mr O’Connor — a veteran of the Black Saturday fires in Victoria — said he had never seen anything like it in his 21 years as a firefighter.

He described the scenes as “hell on earth” as flames soared more than 200m above the treetops and embers the size of footballs began to rain down on Balmoral.

“The problem was the fuel load was already back there to allow a fire to travel through it,” he said. …

Now, as Balmoral picks up the pieces he says “people are angry” about the hazard reduction situation.

And, Mr O’Connor says he feels like he’s been “black-listed” for raising concerns

Computer modeling trumps people on the ground and local knowledge. Computer models also say that increasing carbon dioxide is causing the world to dangerously overheat. Computer modeling … it’s progress. Got to do as the computer says.

But who programs the computer? And who pays them?