Bigger, hotter ‘firestorms to become the new normal’ in Australia

Bigger, hotter ‘firestorms to become the new normal’ in Australia

25 November 2016

published by

Australia — MEGAFIRES will become the new normal with the intensity and frequency of deadly disasters increasing as Australia becomes hotter and drier.

And fire crews will struggle to contain the firestorms which will not only claim more lives but destroy ecosystems and property while wreaking havoc and destruction in the process.

The dire prediction, forecast in journal Climatic Change, found the time between such megafires, also called firestorms, is shrinking while the conditions under which they develop are worsening.

In ‘Natural hazards in Australia: Extreme bushfire’, published last month, researchers also warn that by 2070 megafires in Australia are 30 per cent more likely to occur.

Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance spokesman Jim Casey said the reality was this phenomenon was becoming the “new normal” and it was the frightening future the country faced.

Mr Casey said the megafires not only destroyed everything in their path but became so fierce crews could do nothing to stop them.

“Essentially these fires are just so big and so fuel loaded they act more like a storm than a fire,” he told

“With shorter winters and less time to do hazard reduction burning, it creates perfect conditions for fires like this.”

While acknowledging bushfires are and will always be part of the Australian way of life, Mr Casey said megafires were a nightmare for authorities.

“Their real danger is their size, they are unfightable,” he said.

“When fire crews are faced with fire fronts stretching across 50km and it’s 10m high, the only option is to leave.”

Mr Casey, who was a candidate for The Greens at the recent federal election, said it was obvious climate change was creating hotter conditions and you only had to look at rising insurance costs over the past 20 years to see fires were occurring more regularly.

In 1987-1996 there was $88 million in insurance claims recorded as a result of megafires.

According to Insurance Council of Australia figures, this jumped to $491 million between 1997 and 2006, and more than doubled to $1.179 billion between 2007-2016.

Mr Casey said the research and cost findings from the Insurance Council of Australia came as no surprise to firefighters on the frontline.

“They know first-hand that they are unlike anything they have faced before — fires like Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, or the Yarloop fire in Western Australia that destroy everything in their path,” he said.

“These are the sort of fires that can’t be fought in the way you would a traditional bushfire — they are too large, and too intense. You can only get people out of the way.”

Megafires have been fought in Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales and the ACT during the past decade.

The Black Saturday bushfires saw more 400 blazes recorded across the state affecting 78 communities and claiming 173 lives and 2029 houses lost.

Images of the Black Saturday disaster remain etched in many people’s memories with the fires resembling that of a nuclear explosion.

Just last year, four people lost their lives in bushfires to the north of Esperance in Western Australia.

Mr Casey warned that unless there was real leadership shown on climate change, such disasters would continue to occur.

“We can take all the steps to try and get ready that we can,” he said.

“But at the end of the day it’s like sticking a Band-Aid over a wound that is rapidly becoming gangrenous.”

The Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance warn everywhere west of the Great Dividing Range face higher risks of such firestorms than ever before.

The group is also concerned about the increased risk their members will face in the line of duty and said it was clear climate change could no longer be denied.

“It’s no longer a question of belief,” Mr Casey said.

“It’s just a question of whether you can read and a question of scientific research.”

Mr Casey also said while houses could be replaced, ecosystems and lives couldn’t and the time for taking action was now.

“The cost of not addressing the root cause of worsening bushfires is high, and growing ever higher,” he said.

“This is a real threat because it has the potential to be so catastrophic.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien