Saturday, December 15, 2012

Smoke in the Spring Creek, Adare, Vinegar Hill and Ringwood areas - Saturday 15 December

The smoke in the Spring Creek, Adare, Vinegar Hill and Ringwood areas today (Saturday 15 December) is coming from a controlled burn at the Spring Creek jail.  The Gatton Springdale Rural Fire Brigade was in attendance at 10.00am this morning.

There was a fire in the Spring Creek jail land last weekend, though on that occasion some of the Smokspotters lost a lot of time in identifying the location.  This was because:
  • the cross bearings we obtained on the wide front of smoke suggested that it was in either the eastern edge of the Lockyer National Park or in the land owned by the jail;
  • the Queensland Rural Fire Service Current Bushfire Incidents web page showed a permitted burn with fire crews in attendance at the junction of Millers Road and the Gatton-Esk Road (the jail is at the other end of Millers Road).  This was approximately 5 km from where we had identified the fire location (were our bearings wrong?);
  • when we were unable to contact the Grantham Rural Brigade First Officer we contacted the Deputy, who had not been informed any controlled burn in that area (though from our bearings the fire was in, or on the edge of, the Grantham Rural Fire Brigade area);
  • we then spent more time trying to find Smokespotters who could give us a better bearing on the smoke, but without being able to improve the location.
In the end it was decided that the fire was either in the jail land (in which case it was under control) or in the edge of the Lockyer National Park, so a message was left for the QPWS Duty Officer to contact one of the Coordinators. He/she didn't.

It was not until the next morning, when the smoke was still thick in the area, that the source was identified as the jail lands.

Today the Current Bushfire Incidents web page again showed a Permitted Burn at the corner of Millers Road and the Gatton-Esk Road.

The X shows the approximate location as identified by Smokespotter bearings (see image below for a more accurate location), the XX shows the location of the nearest point of the fire to the indicated location.

Here's a picture of the situation this morning (Saturday 15 October) plotted on a Google Earth base - you can click on the image to see a larger version, but unless you open it in a new window you won't be able to see the text at the same time:

The area outlined in yellow is where the fire was burning.  Our bearings (red lines) were within one km of the nearest fire - not bad considering that James W's bearing was taken over a distance of 15km (the other was only 6km) and the smoke was "smeared out" by a northeasterly wind.  The expensive bearing compasses we use are well worth the money.  In fact the projection of James' bearing was right on the fire.  It was my bearing over 6km that was off the mark; I'll blame the wind.

The place pin on the right shows where the Queensland Rural Fire Service's Current Bushfire Incidents map located the permitted burn - over 3km from the nearest point of the burnt area.

I've made efforts in the past to have the Smokespotter Coordinators notified when there is going to be a planned burn on the jail lands because of both their proximity to the Lockyer National Park and the unreliability of the Permitted Burn locations on the Current Bushfire Incidents web page (which means that we waste Smokespotters' time in trying to fix the location of sighted smoke).  Clearly I haven't yet found the key person who will see that this happens, but I'll keep trying.

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