Friday, October 25, 2013

More Spring bushfire stats help put out ABC's alarmism

ABC continue the mistaken meme that the current Sydney Bushfires are unprecedented (see reply from ABC news to our query below). One reason this might be the case is that official sources of bushfire information provide incorrect data.

For instance if you look up the 1951-2 fire season, one of the worst on record, on the governments's AUSTRALIAN EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT KNOWLEDGE HUB it provides the following:


From November 1951 to January 1952, there were 11 reported deaths when approximately 5000 fires burned 4.5 million hectares of western New South Wales. Fires were estimated to have cost £6 million at the time. November saw 371,000 hectares of cypress pine forest and bush burned in the Pilliga area, and 266,000 hectares of grass-land burnt in the Dubbo / Forbes district. In January 1952, 330,000 hectares were burned out at Mangoplah near Wagga Wagga. Two people died and 10,000 hectares were burnt in the Australian Capital Territory with fires bearing down on the urban areas of Canberra.

Note the start date of 1 November.
AEM provide a list of sources for this summary that includes the following article from the Canberra Times: The Canberra Times, 20 May 1952, ‘NSW £ 6 ½ million in six months’. This contains the following information:

"Bushfires caused at least £6,500,000 damage in New South Wales between October, 1951 and March, 1952, the State Bushfire Committee has reported to the State Government"

We have requested AEM correct the error in their dating.

UPDATE: AEM advise the text corrected:
Thanks for your email. We have corrected the copy, which now states that the fires began in October 1951.

A quick response, something ABC could learn from.

Also of note is this entry for 1968:


During the period 15 October until 3 December, a bushfire damaged the Blue Mountain region. Winds recorded up to 100 km per hour, intensified the fire front. Due to an unusually dry spring, conditions allowed the fire to burn for approximately four weeks. Widespread damage was caused to infrastructure, houses and buildings. A total of 1,500,000 ha were burnt and 14 people died.
Other areas affected included; Valley Heights, Warrimoo, Blaxland and Emu Plains. The damage bill was estimated at approximately £1,500,000.
It is quite clear that the recent fires are not "unprecedented". It is embarrassing that a News organisation the size of the ABC is unable to undertake its own research on this.

Reply from ABC re Lateline misinformation received 24/10/2013:

Thank you for your recent email and research. Emma Alberici's question was based on comments in the Australian newspaper and elsewhere attributed to Mr Phil Koperberg. The Lateline program has not been able to find any record of the comments being disputed by Mr Koperberg.

Here are his comments from that newspaper, dated October 19, 2013:

The unusually early fires that swept through NSW over the past two days would have proved too fast for any warning system, according to former Rural Fire Services commissioner Phil Koperberg.
The former NSW environment minister and current chairman of the State Emergency Management Committee was yesterday appointed Blue Mountains Emergency Recovery Co-ordinator.

He said there had been worse bushfire disasters in the Blue Mountains - in 1952, 1957 and 1968 - but what was unprecedented was it happening in October.

"It's not the worst, but it is the earliest. We have never had this in October," Mr Koperberg said. "This is a feature of slowly evolving climate. We have always had fires, but not of this nature, and not at this time of year, and not accompanied by the record-breaking heat we've had."

Here is Emma Alberici's question on Lateline:  "Now, the former Rural Fire Service Commissioner Phil Koperberg says the fire in the Blue Mountains isn't the worst we've seen, but it's certainly the first time bushfires of this magnitude have happened in October. Why has the season started so early this year?"

The ABC believes Ms Alberici's question was an accurate reflection of the former Commissioner's comments.

While the material you have provided in your complaint points to a number of serious past fires, it does not seem to clearly establish that this latest one was not the worst, taking into account the factors Koperberg listed.

Again, thank you for your feedback.

Yours sincerely,

Adam Doyle
ABC News


  1. Laurie Strachan, SpringwoodOctober 29, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    They didn't have a fleet of water-bombing choppers in 1951 nor did they have the kind of instant communications that have proved so effective in saving lives. If we hadn't had them this time, this would have been a catastrophe. So it doesn't seem wrong to describe this as unprecedented. The point really is - does climate change mean that these kinds of conditions will recur more often and we will have fires like these again and again?

  2. Your link is broken for the ABC Charter, should be able to get to the the charter from either of the following links.
    The charter is under Act 6.
    About the ABC. online 4th November 2013

    Link to Australian Government ComLaw. online 4th November 2013.

  3. Good work "Jimmy" (Hend). And good to see some more posting from you!


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