Fuming fireys left blind by state’s crisis maps

 

QUEENSLAND firefighters battling to save properties on the frontlines are being forced to use bushfire maps from the Western Australian Government, claiming the state's own maps are woefully inadequate in a crisis.

The Courier-Mail can reveal firefighters are choosing not to use the Queensland Government's bushfire maps, favouring those created on the other side of the country after being led to fires that did not exist, while significant blazes did not register on the system.

Rural firefighters tasked to serious bushfires southwest of Brisbane told The Courier-Mail they have been left confused by the Queensland Government fire map, which told them there were major bushfires in the area when there wasn't. 

In one case, the Queensland map told firefighters were was a blaze in Boonah, which they say was actually the incident control centre.

Alarmingly, one firefighter said the "biggest fire for smoke" he had seen in his life wasn't even on the map.

A rural firefighter watches on as the bushfire blazes east of the David Low Way at Peregian Beach last month. Photo Lachie Millard
A rural firefighter watches on as the bushfire blazes east of the David Low Way at Peregian Beach last month. Photo Lachie Millard

Earlier this week, a rural firefighter in the Clumber area discovered Western Australia's online bushfire map which featured significantly more information on Queensland's fires. 

The WA map enabled rural firefighters to locate smaller fires along Wilson Road at Clumber which were not featured on the local mapping. 

Without the discovery of the WA map, one rural firefighter said the blaze at Clumber could have been much worse. 

The damning assessment of Queensland's fire maps comes after fire authorities were forced to review the state's bushfire preparedness.

"The biggest fire for smoke that I've ever seen in my life (at Mulgowie) is not even on Rural Fire Brigade's current incidents," one senior rural firefighter said.

"They (my colleagues) watched this whole fire on that (WA) map. Everything's on there for us.

"Their maps are not worth f-----g s--t."

Queensland relies on information from firefighters to contribute to its map, which is updated every 30 minutes, according to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service website.

 

 

WA's mapping is a research collaboration between a company called Landgate and Edith Cowan University.

The state's mapping imagery is generated with the help of satellites, rather than firefighters on the ground.

Landgate also provides other fire monitoring tools aimed at meeting the needs of fire management professionals and fire behaviour scientists, according to the WA Government.

One first officer of a rural station said Queensland's map included an alert for a major bushfire in a street at Boonah, southwest of Brisbane, but the alert on the map was actually just the incident control centre for fire crews.

"There's a little square (icon) at Boonah, at Melbourne Street, Boonah. That's the incident control centre, mate," he said.

"They're terrifying everyone in Boonah."

 

 

 

In a statement, QFES said that it used data from a variety of sources to inform its decision making.

"Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) crews are verbally briefed about fire conditions and the current fire situation prior to responding to incidents. Visual data from several sources, including the data set used by the WA website, is available to incident management teams and firefighters as required," the statement read.

But QFES did not answer why the Queensland map had such little information compared to the WA map.

"QFES publishes all current bushfire community warnings to the current incidents map on the Rural Fire Service website," the statement read.

"Critical bushfire warnings and information is communicated to members of the community through a range of platforms, including social media (Facebook and Twitter), the QFES Newsroom and local media outlets."