In Victoria, the frequency of ‘mega’ fires (those greater than 100,000 hectares) has grown significantly over the past century.
- 19th century – 2 mega fires
- first half of 20th Century – 4 mega fires
- 2nd half of 20th century – 7 mega fires
- In the first 20 years of the 21st century – at least 8 mega fires
This is in spite of the huge advances we have made in fire fighting technology over the past 50 years.
While some people claim the increase in fires is because of a lack of fuel reduction burning, other factors are at play:
- widespread logging has increased the flammability of our forests, and
- there is a link between climate change and fire frequency and intensity.
Check these stories for some examples: Global perspective in The Conversation, a senior United Nations climate change official says there is ”absolutely” a link between climate change and bushfires, report from The Climate Council.
Unless the world takes immediate action to radically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, bushfires will become an ever greater threat to life and landscape in Victoria.
We can’t solve the problem of climate change on our own, but Victoria must play it’s part. In 2020 this means:
- ensuring there is a funded plan for a rapid transition away from coal and our current reliance on oil and gas, and to 100% renewables, based on a diversification of the Latrobe Valley economy.
- banning all new fossil fuel projects in the state – coal, oil and gas – including offshore gas
- re-designing our cities to be climate friendly, and ready for the impacts of climate change
- investing in public transport, and shifting the balance away from roads
- immediately stopping all logging of remaining old growth forests, ensuring a rapid transition of logging operations out of native forests, and protecting remaining forests to allow them to store carbon
- developing an energy efficiency program for all existing houses and buildings
1851: 6 February “Black Thursday” (5 million hectares)
1898: 1 February “Red Tuesday” (260,000 hectares)
1914: (>100,000 hectares )
1932: (206, 000 hectares)
1938-39: December – January “Black Friday” (2 million hectares)
1944: January – February (1 million hectares)
1952: Benalla fire (100,000 hectares)
1965: Gippsland (300,000 hectares)
1969: state-wide (250,000 hectares)
1977: Western District (103,000 hectares)
1980: Sunset Country and the Big Desert (119,000 hectares)
1983: 16 February “Ash Wednesday” (510,000 hectares)
1985: Central VIC and Alps (>102,000 hectares)
2002: December, Big Desert Fire (181,000 hectares)
2003: January – March “2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires” (1.3 million hectares)
2005/06: Western and Central Victoria (160,000 hectares)
2006/07: 1 December – 6 February “Eastern Victoria Great Divide bushfires” (1.2 -1.3 million hectares)
2009: 7 February “Black Saturday” (450,000 hectares)
2012/13: Aberfeldy-Donnellys Creek, Harrietville, Chepstowe, and Grampians fires. (>190,000 hectares)
[I don’t have definitive figures for fires from 2013/14 – 2017/18 – so the figure of 8 mega fires is a conservative number]
2018/19: major fires in 2018 and 2019: Bunyip state forest and the VIC Alps (at least 100, 000 ha). Major fires included: Bunyip (15,600 ha), Rosedale-West Boundary (12,100 ha), Nunnett-Timbarra River (22,700 ha), Thomson-Jordan Dive (6,400 ha in Melbourne’s drinking water catchments), Walhalla-Stony Creek (8,700 ha), The Dargo Complex (114,000 ha), Mayford-Tuckalong Spur (14,000 ha).
2019/20: major wildfires, many triggered by lightning, burnt out alpine areas, the Upper Murray Valley and enormous sections of East Gippsland. ( >1.2 million hectares of Victoria burnt).