Fire seasons are getting longer and hotter, and it’s time for everybody to pull their weight.
That is the message from former NSW Fire & Rescue Commissioner and Climate Councillor Greg Mullins.
Mr Mullins will speak at a forum today — attended by 60 councils from across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania — aimed at developing new strategies to combat intense bushfire seasons due to climate change.
Among the possible strategies are a crack down on enforcement for people in bushfire prone areas who fail to maintain and clear their property.
I’ve been fighting fires for 50 years,” Mr Mullins, who recently returned from a fire at Inverell, said.
“What I have noticed is fire season is getting longer and hotter, and there are more heatwaves.
“Warmer winters mean more evaporation making the bush drier and fires more intense.
“There are also more dry lightning storms and winds are stronger.”
He said in 2018, emergency bushfire warnings were being issued across NSW in early August.
“That should have been in October,” he said. “It’s happening more and more.
“Tasmania’s bushfire season also started two months earlier and places that have never burned are now burning.”
The forum, hosted by the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, called on councils to help protect their communities.
Strategies outlined include educating communities on the increased bushfire risk, using bushfire risk maps to make informed planning decisions and “rigorously enforcing” local laws on maintaining firebreaks, low vegetation and property clearing.
Mr Mullins said this could include discussions around on the spot fines for people in bushfire prone areas not willing to clear their property.
“Local government is closest to the community and more likely to know the local risks and what communities can and can’t do,” he said.
“They need to be proactive and keep maps up to date of bushfire risks, make informed decisions when determining DAs and assist local fire services with community education.”
He said the idea of the forum was for local council representatives to share ideas and work together on the unavoidable issue.
“The risk is there and it’s very real,” he said. “It’s about bushfire and climate change; because it’s a worsening problem everybody has got to pull their weight.”
Representative from Central Coast Council attended the event, and Mayor Jane Smith said one of the main roles for local governments was helping residents understand the new fire risks.
“Australian communities need to understand that we’re living in a new era now, with intense
bushfire seasons that start earlier and continue longer, as a result of climate change,” she said.
“As a significant amount of land within the Central Coast is considered bush fire prone, we must be prepared.
“Councils can help people to understand this new fire threat, and how it could affect where they live and how they build and renovate their homes.”
Council across Sydney taking part in the forum included Blacktown City Council, City of Canterbury-Bankstown, Hawkesbury City Council, Hornsby Shire Council, Ku-ring-gai Council, Northern Beaches Council, North Sydney Council and City of Ryde.