We know that climate change is driving hotter and drier summers, and making fire seasons worse, and this is impacting on mountain environments. From the huge fires in Tasmania over the 2018/ 19 summer to repeated wildfire in the Victorian Alps which is changing the nature of ecosystems, fire is increasingly impacting negatively on mountain ecosystems. We also know that we need to expect a ‘highly active’ fire season this summer.
While the impacts on natural systems is obvious, there are also many economic ones, as longer and more dangerous fire seasons see mountain areas closed to tourism and other economic activity.
There is also the threat to the ability of fire fighting services to fight fires wherever they emerge. Traditionally, the various fire services share resources, both between the states and internationally. But as fire seasons become longer, there is more overlap of local fire seasons, and hence it is harder for individual states to release fire fighting equipment and crews to support other areas.
The economic cost of fighting fires also goes up.
And as demands on fire fighting agencies increase, there is the risk that ‘asset management’ (protection of human structures) can override the need to protect sensitive natural environments where there simply aren’t enough resources to fight all the fires.
Recently, 23 emergency services experts from every state and territory have written to the federal government, asking for strategic national firefighting resources to cope with climate change. They have joined together to highlight the risks of worse and more sustained fire seasons to our ability to fight fires in an effective and timely fashion.
This intervention resulted in substantial media reporting (for instance, this piece on the ABC website) which highlighted some of the issues facing emergency services:
- We are seeing a change in the frequency of extreme fire events. We’re also seeing a change in the severity of fire seasons, so the worst fire danger days are getting worse
- Australia is not sufficiently prepared to fight the ‘new normal’ of extreme fire seasons
- Yet the numbers of volunteer firefighters across Australia are in decline: at least 7,000 have left brigades in the past five years
- state bushfire seasons are starting to overlap. This means the system of states and territories lending each other resources is increasingly strained
- a comprehensive national plan is needed to tackle the longer fire seasons of the future
- The national aerial firefighting centre, which two years ago flagged the need for an $11m funding boost, still has not received a decision from the Federal Government
- The Government has not guaranteed funding for the only national body researching the future of bushfires
- The twenty-three emergency services experts who have called on the federal government to consider the threat of climate change in fire planning have not yet received a response.
October 4, 2019 at 5:55 pm
Indeed this a catastrophe unfolding unfolding…. but then I listened to ABC RN money program and I was shocked at the matter of fact discourse on how we must increase immigration because otherwise we cannot fund our what I call business as usual. So we can all continue to spend and consume endlessly. Also zero reference as to what all this spending and population growth is doing as our effects push and push against nature. How our ever increasing or should I say skyrocketing waste…co2 or plastic or others and the other end of consumption the grasping for resources like mining is turning nature into garbage heaps. Not even one word acknowledging that that thinking is having real consequences and in the depths of government in the depths of finance, immigration, industry etc is totally failing to even vaguely acknowledge this let alone even begin to mull over how to add to the reasoning process. It can’t as such be called reasoning it is denial. Systemic denial at the level of people we are collectively paying fortunes for. Where is the duty of care? Where is even common sense?
October 4, 2019 at 6:02 pm
All I can say is if we are paying these people, we should and we must follow through as employer would to pull them up give them three warnings and follow through with pay decreases and ultimately the sack. This is how the accepted system works. We as a community must then amend the position criteria and seek other qualified individuals. The house is on fire and the “fire chiefs” want to ponder on how we should run the house. It is way way way too late to have a quiet word to the so called “fire chiefs”.