THE only hazard reduction debate we've heard this summer has been the one pushed by politicians - mainly National MPs - about the need for more hazard reduction to deal with bushfires.
It's the argument that academics, fire experts and some of the country's most senior fire commissioners, including NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, have downplayed or dismissed for being too simplistic, lacking an evidence base and too ideologically aligned to politicians who deny the consequences of a warming planet.
Then there's the other hazard reduction issue - the one we don't hear much about - involving careless and reckless landowners who light fires for land clearing and hazard reduction, sometimes with the intention of letting those fires run into nearby forests or national parks to "reduce fuel loads".
Every year before the bush fire season starts in NSW there's a jump in "escaped" fires started by landowners to avoid having to get a permit during the fire season. There's a significant jump when those "escaped" fires are lit on dry and windy days, forcing the RFS to turn out hundreds of volunteers to deal with fires in July and August each year that could, and should, have been avoided.
"Escaped fires pose a very real and potentially deadly threat to the public, especially if that escaped burn takes hold and fire authorities are not notified," Mr Fitzsimmons said in August, 2018 while issuing a warning about 48 illegal fires over two days in the Hunter, Sydney and Central Tablelands.
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics provided figures to the Newcastle Herald of a decade's convictions for hazard reduction fire offences, covering fires lit for land clearing without permits, authority or giving notice to neighbours.
There were 16 convictions in total over that 10-year period, as the number of escaped fires reported to emergency services rose from 338 and 371 in 2010 and 2011, to 1097 in 2012, to 1514 in 2015 and 2565 the following year, until it topped 3000 reports by 2018.
It's not unreasonable to ask if the hazard reduction "debate" that's hogged the headlines is the one put forward to hide the hazard reduction debate we should be having.