Fire expert acknowledged in Australia Day honours

Ballarat fire expert Gary Morgan, the man responsible for bringing the first orange air crane to Australia, says serious bushfires will never be stopped by aircraft alone. The long-time Alfredton resident – was made a member of the general division of the order of Australia (AM) – has called on government to invest more money into planned burning, maintaining fire access roads and protecting biodiversity before big blazes break out.

Mr Morgan, who was chief fire officer of what is now DELWP when he inspected an air crane in Canada in the 1990s, said Victoria needed to invest more in land management as the state was one of the most fire prone regions in the world.

“We know we’ve got a climate where you get low humidity, high temperatures and very strong winds and nothing will stop those big fires – not even these huge air tankers,” he said. “If all we focus on is putting out fires, then we’re going to spend more and more money every year.

“We’re going to have bigger and bigger air tankers and we’re going to have more destruction, more lives lost. But we need to turn that around, we need to get the land to the state where we’ll be able to have fires and not have that detrimental effect.”

When most Victorians think of bushfires they think of CFA crews fighting them, or “red stuff on the red stuff”, but the work DELWP does through managing land helps prevent emergencies before they make media headlines.

Mr Morgan now chairs the Forest Fire Management Committee at the Institute of Foresters of Australia. He was awarded on Australia Day as a nod to his service to the community through emergency response organisations and his research into forest and fire management.

“Not often people in land management get such recognition, so I see it as part of all the good people who worked with me over a long time, both landholders on private land and on public land,” he said.

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