FIRE REGULATIONS (updated 8/5/05)

The AAS treatment of fire regulations demonstrates systemically poor implementation of the AAS project.

In the AAS River Rafting, AAS 4WDriving, and AAS Bushwalking (final draft) released in 2003 we find…

Where fires are permitted:

  • Fires should only be lit in a properly constructed fireplace or pit maximum 30 cm deep and 1 metre wide.”

This AAS version of the fire regulations is incorrect and incomplete. Victorian Fire Regulations require a pit that is a minimum of 30 cm deep. You might think that this is a minor point, but it is wrong and a pit less than 30cm deep is illegal, if you are inclined to have a fire in the wild. Further, the AAS version fails to mention the requirements in relation to maximum wind speed and minimum distance from a log or stump for a campfire.

Is this a simple oversight? Duncan Brookes informed the project managers in writing in February 2004, Department of Sport and Recreation by telephone in March and the Minister for Sport and Recreation in writing in April 2004. During the same period the ORC was frequently advised that to repeat laws and regulations in the AAS was both pointless because they apply regardless of the AAS, and hazardous given the likelihood of getting them wrong.

You might still think that it is niggardly to complain, but remember that the project managers and the sponsoring department have made grand claims about the order that AAS will bring to the world, to our legal liabilities, and so forth. Not only did the ORC fail to correct this error right through the 2004 fire season, the same incorrect statements were included in the AAS Surfing Sessions and Trail Bike Touring released in August 2004;.

So much for duty of care; so much for welcoming feedback; so much for each AAS being, as the ORC claims:

“Agreed as reasonable and appropriate by the specialists for each activity.

Reviewed by a wide cross section of activity participants online

Reviewed by the ORC Committee.

Reviewed by the AAS Steering Committee (which includes those Government Departments responsible for the fire regulations).

Reviewed by the AAS solicitor.”

It is unfortunate that the AAS could not even get existing regulations correct.

What else is wrong with all this?

It demonstrates poor understanding of the minimal impact concept. To be fair, ORC did give in on fire regulations by the time of AAS – Bushwalking Draft 4, but again this was only after dogged lobbying by VicWalk, and only for bushwalking. It returned to the flawed, incorrect and illegal version of the fire regulations in the AAS released in August 2004.

The ORC claimed on the AAS website, that the first key issue that the AAS project would satisfy was the benchmarking of consistent, sustainable environmental practices. In the updated (Sept 04) ORC/AAS website, this aim has been quietly dropped.

The point made by VicWalk was that inclusion of this “version” of the fire regulations in the standards encourages practices which conflict with the minimal impact message. The minimal impact message is one that VicWalk and others have put huge effort into for decades.

The above information was put into the public domain on this website in October 2004, in another unsuccessful attempt to encourage the ORC to correct their published AAS fire regulation information by the onset of the 2005 fire season.

Instead, the Snorkelling AAS released in February 2005 repeated, yet again, the now standard AAS/ORC version of the fire regulations that is both incorrect and illegal.

The Canoeing AAS was released at the same time. Its campfire section contradicts other AAS – so much for the AAS being the environmental benchmark. This latest effort comprehensively ignores and contravenes the camp fire regulations.

For example, this version says “no pit” and “no ring of stones”. This is admirably consistent with minimal impact principles, but is in conflict with fire regulations. Then it tells the reader, a Victorian canoeist, to contact the New South Wales Rural Fire Service for total fire ban information!

Let's be clear. Adventure Victoria has no position one way or the other about whether campfires are good per se. But the fire section of these documents illustrates some of the problems with the AAS project. Once again, what we see here is evidence that the endorsees of these documents – from government departments down to tour operators – have not actually read the documents they have endorsed.

It is hard not to conclude that the ORC, while being aware of the repeated errors in their published camp fire information, would rather ignore a safety problem than address it, simply because it has been highlighted by Adventure Victoria.

We have written to Minister Thwaites, responsible for the Department of Sustainability and Environment, and Parks Victoria, and both represented on the AAS Steering Committee. It will be interesting to see if this Minister can get the ORC to fix its mistakes.

Orginally published October 2004

Updated May 2005