When firefighting is in your blood and you’ve had years of training you have a pretty good idea of how fire behaves and how to stay safe. But on the fire ground, we are dealing with more and more fires that behave unexpectedly – the ones you can’t predict, or control.
The damage they wreak is more complicated than the others, which means communities take longer to fully recover from them.
It was when I was fighting an unpredictable fire more than a decade ago now that I first understood how climate change is driving situations I have never seen before.
As well as increasing the intensity of fires, climate change has extended our fire season by two weeks and decreased our capacity to control short and very sharp events. On the frontline are our rural communities that now face unprecedented bushfire risk.
We need a more thorough and detailed plan to prepare for this new threat.
Preparation must no longer be an afterthought, especially the decision to stay and defend or leave on bad fire days.
Bigger fires mean longer recovery times. I personally witnessed the long and traumatic recovery following the devastating ACT bushfires in 2003.
A recent report by Melbourne University, Beyond Bushfires, found that eight years after Black Saturday, communities are still rebuilding and grappling with the health effects of the fire.
Communities as a whole have to do more than simply create a “new normal” after a major fire.
Climatic forecasts indicate life will potentially never be the same again.
We need to take stock of how our world is heating up and reexamine how we prepare for what lies ahead.
Vivien Thomson is a rural firefighter with 29 years experience and runs a mixed farm in NSW.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.