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Fire news

Fires are part of life here in Australia. Many of our landscapes are fire adapted or fire reliant, and First Nations people have been using fire for millennia to manage and craft the landscapes we now live in.

However, climate change is driving ever more intense fire seasons. These newsletters provide weekly news updates that will be posted through the 2021/22 fire season.

Cockatoo_April_07.jpg

HEADER IMAGE: Geoff Browne. Other images are mostly photos from fires this summer in VIC.

Please feel free to send content for future issues: [email protected] The newsletter is published each Monday morning. Let me know if you'd like to go on the distribution list for future newsletters.

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Fire News update, #18. April 11, 2022

Last edition for the season

This newsletter has been produced weekly over the summer. I would love to hear your feedback: was it useful for you? what you enjoyed/ what you’d like to see changed or added next year. Thanks.

 

Current fires

As winter ends in the USA, fires continue to burn.

More than 1,700 wildland firefighters are assigned to 25 fires across the country. 16 new large fires were reported over the weekend, many of them in the Southern Area. The Southwest, Great Basin and Northern Rockies also reported new large fires.

https://nifc.gov

In Colorado, the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Red Flag Warning across the Front Range and northeast Colorado, amid gusty winds and dry conditions. "Any fire that develops will have the potential to spread rapidly.

Fire season has started in Mexico.

And as Northern California heads towards summer, the wildfire danger looks increasingly dire in 2022. “The vulnerability of our forests is really catastrophic”.

https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article259906985.html

‘Extreme weather – severe windstorms, dry lightning and extended heat waves – is becoming more commonplace by the year. “California continues to experience longer wildfire seasons as a direct result of climate change.”

 

Climate change and fires

A Recipe for Climate Disaster

Extreme rain, rising sea levels, and more frequent wildfires are all making landslides more likely.

Landslides happen for many reasons, set off by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or human behavior. But “probably the most common driver we see for landslides worldwide is rainfall.”

And climate change is creating more extreme rain events.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/03/climate-change-heavy-rain-landslides-flood/629404/

 

Climate change increases risk of devastating debris flows after wildfires in western U.S.

According to a new research paper co-authored by Swain, post fire flood events could begin occuring more frequently in the western U.S. because of climate change. In the coming years, hilly or mountainous regions within wildfire burn areas will face a higher risk for debris flows, mudslides and flash floods — all of which are likelier to occur on fire-scorched hillsides without vegetation.

That’s because climate change is projected to increase the conditions — higher temperatures, low humidity and precipitation extremes, both wet and dry — that lead to those disasters, according to the study, which was published in Science Advances.

“Climate change is increasing the number of extreme precipitation events that follow extreme wildfire conditions,” Swain said. “This is going to increase the incidence of post-fire debris flows and flash floods.”

https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/climate-change-debris-flow-wildfire

 

First Nations and fire

The right to burn: barriers and opportunities for Indigenous-led fire stewardship in Canada

‘Indigenous fire stewardship enhances ecosystem diversity, assists with the management of complex resources, and reduces wildfire risk by lessening fuel loads. Although Indigenous Peoples have maintained fire stewardship practices for millennia and continue to be keepers of fire knowledge, significant barriers exist for re-engaging in cultural burning.

‘The future and coexistence with fire in Canada needs to be a shared responsibility and led by Indigenous Peoples within their territories’.

https://www.facetsjournal.com/doi/full/10.1139/facets-2021-0062

 

Fire culture

Cancer threat hangs over firefighters and volunteers

Each summer tens of thousands of Australians volunteer with rural fire brigades around the country but after decades of service volunteer firefighters are now facing new battle – cancer. They’re struggling with a range of cancers linked to bushfire smoke.

Now their families are worried fire services are not doing enough to prevent the next generation also becoming victims.

https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/cancer-threat-hangs-over-firefighters-and/13828614

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-06/firefighters-in-compensation-battle-as-cancers-linked-to-smoke/100840784

 

US Forest Service expects to substantially increase the number of firefighters this year

In the USA federal fire agencies are increasing the number of paid firefighters. the US Forest Service about the number of wildland firefighters in the agency has been 10,000 wildland firefighters nationwide, but in recent years they have been unable to fill all of their positions due to difficulties in recruitment and retention.

The goal this year is 11,300. That would be 13 percent more than the maximum they have had in recent memory.

https://wildfiretoday.com/2022/04/05/forest-service-expects-to-substantially-increase-the-number-of-firefighters-this-year/

 

Fire and community resilience

Bushfire smoke: what are the health impacts and what can we do to minimise exposure?

Air pollution from bushfires or landscape fires affects the health and well-being of thousands of Australians. In this factsheet we outline how bushfire smoke affects health and what you can do to protect yourself when bushfire smoke is around.

Anyone can be affected by bushfire smoke, but some people are more at-risk than others. At-risk groups are: those living with asthma or lung disease, those with diabetes, heart or blood vessel diseases, pregnant women, young children, and older adults. These groups should take special precautions in the event of bushfire smoke.

https://www.car-cre.org.au/bushfire-smoke-factsheet

 

Fire and biodiversity

Devastating post-bushfire logging - 2 years in photos

Since the 2019 - 2020 fires, this is what post-bushfire logging looks like in East Gippsland on Bidewell and Monero Country. 

https://www.geco.org.au/post_bushfire_logging_2022

 

Take action

A volunteer remote area firefighting team for Victoria

We would love your help on this one.

ACT, NSW and TAS have remote area firefighting crews to add extra capacity to career firefighters in bad seasons. It’s crazy that VIC doesn’t have these crews.

Please help us convince the government to fund a pilot program.

https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/volunteer_firefighter

RAFT1.jpg

Fire News update, #17. April 4, 2022

 

Current fires

 

Fires continue in the northern hemisphere

‘Firefighters in Texas are battling a wildfire at Fort Hood that has scorched about 33,175 acres. The state has been beleaguered by wildfires in the past few weeks. This month, 726 wildfires -- 121 in the past seven days -- have burned through 164,257 acres across the state.’

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/28/us/texas-wildfires-monday/index.html

 

‘Early’ fires in the UK

There have been many media reports about large fires that have been occurring in the IK,

Firefighter Craig Hope says ‘are these fires a new phenomenon? No, there have been over 75,000 wildfires across South Wales since the year 2000’. He says they are not arriving earlier (‘springtime fires burn the dead annual vegetation (fuel) and once dry weather arrives so do the fires.)

However he does point out that high pressure systems centered to the East of the UK brings sunny days, dry easterly winds and low humidity which rapidly dries out the dead annual vegetation. This weather pattern is associated with large wildfires on the uplands.

He notes that sustained high pressure weather systems are unusual at this time of year. They are becoming more common. ‘What is also unusual is that these early season fires are normally self-extinguished at night as the temperature drops below dew point as the vegetation becomes wet.

We (in Wales, the South West of the UK) were not getting night time temperatures low enough to achieve dew point, which is another reason these wildfires are burning for multiple days’.

More info via his twitter feed.

 

Climate change and fires

 

FireProof Australia issues call for action on climate disasters

Fireproof Australia has recently gained attention for its civil disobedience actions. They describe themselves as ‘a politically unaffiliated group of ordinary citizens taking action to force our government to respond urgently to the climate crisis’.

Fireproof Australia has three primary demands:

  • that any Australian unhoused by a climate disaster is rehomed at the expense of the Federal government.
  • that the Federal government establish a sovereign aerial firefighting fleet as proposed by the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action.
  • that the Federal government fund all schools, aged care and disability care facilities to be fitted with air purifiers sufficient to protect the occupants against bushfire smoke.

Their letter to MPs is available here:

https://fireproof.news/releases/letter-to-australian-parliament/

 

Fire and rain: West to get more one-two extreme climate hits

Does this sound familiar?

The one-two punch of nasty wildfires followed by heavy downpours, triggering flooding and mudslides, will strike the U.S. West far more often in a warming-hopped world, becoming a frequent occurrence, a new study said.

That fire-flood combination, with extreme drenchings hitting a spot that burned within a year, could increase as much as eight-fold in the Pacific Northwest, double in California and jump about 50% in Colorado by the year 2100 in a worst-case climate change scenario of increasing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study in Friday’s Science Advances.

The study said that as human-caused climate change intensifies, 90% of extreme fire events will be followed by at least three extraordinary downpours in the same location within five years.

https://www.outtherecolorado.com/news/fire-and-rain-west-to-get-more-one-two-extreme-climate-hits/article_bdc931b2-3391-5005-86bc-a06ba011f5aa.html

 

IPCC report to be released later today

The third part of the IPCC’s landmark assessment is due out later today. The second report made it very clear what the implications will be in terms of climate impacts if we decide not to act decisively to reduce emissions. There is a summary of expected impacts on fire here.

Talks on the final draft of the latest assessment of climate science, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), stretched hours past their deadline on Sunday. Scientists and governments were locked in disagreement on questions such as how much funding was likely to be needed for developing countries to tackle the climate crisis, and what emphasis to give policies such as phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/03/scientists-urge-end-to-fossil-fuel-use-as-landmark-ippc-report-readied

 

U.S. fires became larger, more frequent, and more widespread in the 2000s

Recent record-breaking events, unprecedented losses, and escalating suppression costs, however, have raised concerns over a “new normal” of increased fire activity and the onset of an era of megafires.

Recent fires have fueled concerns that regional and global warming trends are leading to more extreme burning.

We found compelling evidence that average fire events in regions of the United States are up to four times the size, triple the frequency, and more widespread in the 2000s than in the previous two decades. Moreover, the most extreme fires are also larger, more common, and more likely to co-occur with other extreme fires.

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abc0020

 

Fire culture

 

Pyrocene Park

Fire is a planetary feature. What can we learn from Yosemite’s experiment to restore natural fire?

Nearly everywhere that Europe or European-inspired modernity went, it found landscapes routinely ablaze, and everywhere authorities made fire’s suppression a foundational doctrine of conservation.

https://aeon.co/essays/what-yosemites-fire-history-says-about-life-in-the-pyrocene

 

Communities are embracing ‘controlled burns’ to protect themselves

The past few years have led to record wildfires across the U.S. Decades of suppressing fires has led to overgrown forests, and a warming climate has increased their intensity and frequency.

Christopher Booker reports from California on community-led efforts to preemptively set controlled fires, reducing the risk from large out-of-control fires while also restoring the ecological health of the forest.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/communities-are-embracing-controlled-burns-to-protect-themselves

 

Transportable water tanks

As climate change driven fires threaten more and more fire sensitive vegetation communities, we are seeing remote area firefighters inserted onto fire grounds to protect significant areas. While these crews are trained in ‘dry firefighting’ techniques, often they will use locally available water to defend areas.

This was done in the case of the fires around Lake Rhona in south western Tasmania/ lutruwita in 2019 where ground crews installed sprinklers to protect sensitive vegetation.

Sadly, it is hard to imagine a scenario where this won’t become more common in future fires. This story highlights some of the transportable water tanks that have been developed which can be deployed by truck or helicopter to remote areas to fight fires.

https://wildfiretoday.com/2022/03/28/two-transportable-water-tanks-with-pumps-for-wildfires-or-prescribed-burns/

 

Fire and community resilience

 

Bushfire stories

Bushfire Stories is an online platform for people to tell their own stories, in their own ways, about their experiences with bushfire in Australia: how it matters in their lives, their communities, and their landscapes. This project is grounded in the understanding that personal narratives have the potential to explore local complexity in ways that are relatable and meaningful and that can generate broad engagement and connection.

https://bushfirestories.org/

 

Take action

 

(This is a repeat of last week’s call out)

Climate change driven fire threatens Tasmania’s forests

While the summer of 2021/22 has been a mild fire season in the east of the country, there have been a small number of significant fires in lutruwita/ Tasmania that have threatened World Heritage Areas (including one that threatened an incredibly significant Huon pine forest). This is because the west of that state has been experiencing a prolonged and extreme drought, with some areas receiving their lowest rainfall on record.

In a recent article in The Conversation, David Bowman, a prominent fire expert who is a Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, University of Tasmania, and Jenny Styger, an Associate at The Fire Centre, University of Tasmania outline the threats posed by climate driven fire regimes to Godwanic vegetation such as Pencil Pines and cool temperate rainforest.

They point to the fact that we will need to change some aspects of how we manage the wild landscapes of the great World Heritage landscapes of the south west, and centre of the state.

We need additional resources to fight fires in remote areas

1/ The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service already has teams of remote area firefighters, who did a great job tackling the recent fire that threatened the Huon Pine reserve.

Tasmania now also has a volunteer remote area team, whose members support career firefighters from the Parks Service. This is a new program and should be continued and expended.

It is also worth while considering the need to establish a national remote area team of firefighters who could be deployed around the country to high conservation value areas to add extra capacity to local firefighting teams.

This was recommended by a Senate Committee after the 2016 Tasmanian fires.

2/ And we will need to continue to invest in a national, publicly owned air fleet of large air tankers (LATs) and large helicopters. Many fire experts say that we need 6 or 7 LATs whereas at present we only own one (in NSW) and lease one on a year round basis.

You can sign a petition to the Prime Minister urging him to support the establishment of a national fleet here.

Further information on what we need to do here.

https://themountainjournal.com/2022/03/26/climate-change-driven-fire-threatens-tasmanias-forests/#more-10117

Harcourt3.jpg

ABOVE: fire season is winding down across much of the country. But its still really dry in many places. This was a recent call out in our patch in Central Victoria.

Fire News update, #16. March 28, 2022

 

Current fires

 

As fire season winds down, ‘burning season’ ramps up

In many parts of the country fire season is winding down. Autumn is the time where land managers carry out a lot of their fuel reduction burning. Many areas that have been logged are also burnt. This leads to major air pollution and associated public health impacts.

This is an older story (2018) but is current to what is happening at present.

https://theconversation.com/logging-burns-conceal-industrial-pollution-in-the-name-of-community-safety-96712

According to a research paper, planned burning can actually contribute to worse fires.

https://theconversation.com/coming-of-age-research-shows-old-forests-are-3-times-less-flammable-than-those-just-burned-179571

Air pollution linked to higher risk of autoimmune diseases

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/15/air-pollution-exposure-linked-higher-risk-autoimmune-diseases

 

Fires continue in the northern hemisphere

As the northern hemisphere comes out of winter, fires continue to burn across large areas. For instance, about 8,000 homes were ordered to evacuate due to a fast-moving wildfire burning in an open space near the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado over the weekend. 

https://www.9news.com/article/news/local/wildfire/boulder-fire-ncar/73-d95379be-1202-4606-bb42-3961be06da4a

 

Climate change and fires

 

Wildfires caused by global warming 'are accelerating global warming'

Wildfires blazed around the world last summer, burning land from California to Siberia - and the carbon released is accelerating global warming.

The risk of wildfires has been increased by climate change - and the researchers warn that the carbon released by wildfires could lead to even more wildfires in the future, in what’s known as a ‘positive feedback loop’.

https://news.yahoo.com/wildfires-caused-by-global-warming-are-accelerating-global-warming-154643140.html

 

We are Past the warning stage on climate

As a climate scientist, I find myself in the extraordinary position of trying to write about an emergency that is unfolding in real time. I don’t know how this story will end. But what I do know is that Australians no longer have the luxury of being apolitical.

https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2022/april/1648731600/jo-lle-gergis/past-warning-stage-climate#mtr

 

Fire and biodiversity

 

Coming of age: research shows old forests are 3 times less flammable than those just burned

This is not ‘new’ news. It has been widely documented for years. But it needs to be said and re-said.

As coal-fired climate change makes bushfires in Australia worse, governments are ramping up hazard-reduction burning. But our new research shows the practice can actually make forests more flammable.

We found over time, some forests “thin” themselves and become less likely to burn – and hazard-reduction burning disrupts this process.

What does that mean as Australians face a more fiery future? Is there a smarter and more sensitive way to manage the bushfire risk?

To find out, we looked at the forests of south-western Australia, where hazard-reduction burns are very frequent.

https://theconversation.com/coming-of-age-research-shows-old-forests-are-3-times-less-flammable-than-those-just-burned-179571

 

In 20 years of studying how ecosystems absorb carbon, here’s why we’re worried about a tipping point of collapse

From rainforests to savannas, ecosystems on land absorb almost 30% of the carbon dioxide human activities release into the atmosphere. These ecosystems are critical to stop the planet warming beyond 1.5℃ this century – but climate change may be weakening their capacity to offset global emissions.

This is a key issue that OzFlux, a research network from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, has been investigating for the past 20 years. Over this time, we’ve identified which ecosystems absorb the most carbon, and have been learning how they respond to extreme weather and climate events such as drought, floods and bushfires.

In our latest research paper, we look back at the two decades of OzFlux’s findings. So far, the ecosystems we studied are showing resilience by rapidly pivoting back to being carbon sinks after a disturbance. This can be seen, for example, in leaves growing back on trees soon after bushfire.

But how long will this resilience remain? As climate change pressures intensify, evidence suggests carbon sinks may lose their ability to bounce back from climate-related disasters.

https://theconversation.com/in-20-years-of-studying-how-ecosystems-absorb-carbon-heres-why-were-worried-about-a-tipping-point-of-collapse-179554?

 

Take action

 

Climate change driven fire threatens Tasmania’s forests

While the summer of 2021/22 has been a mild fire season in the east of the country, there have been a small number of significant fires in lutruwita/ Tasmania that have threatened World Heritage Areas (including one that threatened an incredibly significant Huon pine forest). This is because the west of that state has been experiencing a prolonged and extreme drought, with some areas receiving their lowest rainfall on record.

In a recent article in The Conversation, David Bowman, a prominent fire expert who is a Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, University of Tasmania, and Jenny Styger, an Associate at The Fire Centre, University of Tasmania outline the threats posed by climate driven fire regimes to Godwanic vegetation such as Pencil Pines and cool temperate rainforest.

They point to the fact that we will need to change some aspects of how we manage the wild landscapes of the great World Heritage landscapes of the south west, and centre of the state.

We need additional resources to fight fires in remote areas

1/ The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service already has teams of remote area firefighters, who did a great job tackling the recent fire that threatened the Huon Pine reserve.

Tasmania now also has a volunteer remote area team, whose members support career firefighters from the Parks Service. This is a new program and should be continued and expended.

It is also worth while considering the need to establish a national remote area team of firefighters who could be deployed around the country to high conservation value areas to add extra capacity to local firefighting teams.

This was recommended by a Senate Committee after the 2016 Tasmanian fires.

2/ And we will need to continue to invest in a national, publicly owned air fleet of large air tankers (LATs) and large helicopters. Many fire experts say that we need 6 or 7 LATs whereas at present we only own one (in NSW) and lease one on a year round basis.

You can sign a petition to the Prime Minister urging him to support the establishment of a national fleet here.

Further information on what we need to do here.

https://themountainjournal.com/2022/03/26/climate-change-driven-fire-threatens-tasmanias-forests/#more-10117

fires.png

ABOVE: current fuel reduction burns happening around Melbourne (March 28).

Fire News update, #15. March 21, 2022

 

Current fires

 

Fires in the Centre

‘This desert fire currently ripping through country on the southern edge of Lake Neal - 125km NW of Uluru. Hot conditions and high fuel loads from recent rains bringing challenging wildfire conditions to the desert. #Sentinel2 image taken on the 17th’.

Source: https://twitter.com/RohanFisher4/status/1505356538936193024/photo/1

Further information: https://firenorth.org.au/nafi3/

 

It’s still burning in the northern hemisphere

Despite it being the e3nd of winter, there have been fires throughout the north in recent months. This one is currently burning in Texas.

The Eastland Complex fire, consisting of four separate fires in a region west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, had burned more than 54,000 acres and was 30 percent contained by Saturday afternoon,

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/19/us/eastland-fires-texas.html

https://ntvhoustonnews.com/2022/03/wildfires-trigger-evacuations-in-west-texas-counties%EF%BF%BC%EF%BF%BC/

 

Climate change and fires

 

Do Mountain Forests Hold the Answers for Climate Science?

It’s the same story everywhere:

As climate change makes summers hotter and drier in the Northern Rockies of the USA, forests are threatened with increasing wildfire activity, deadly pathogens, and insect infestations, including the mountain pine beetle outbreak, which has killed more than 6 million acres of forest across Montana since 2000.

https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2020/08/06/climate-science-mountains

 

Further commentary on the IPCC report

Global Wildfire Activity to Surge in Coming Years

A new U.N. report says communities need to prepare for the growing threat by refocusing on prevention, rather than just reacting to fires as they happen.

As global warming heats the air and land, drying out trees and other plants, people around the world need to reset their expectations of where, when and how long wildfires will burn, warns a new global wildfire report released today.

In a sweeping look, the scientists who authored the report for the United Nations Environmental Programme project a global increase of extreme fires of up to 14 percent by 2030, 30 percent by the end of 2050 and 50 percent by the end of the century.

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23022022/global-wildfire-activity-to-surge-in-coming-years/

 

Western drought to worsen this year, NOAA says

‘The Southwest, including California, is experiencing the worst multi-decade drought in more than 1,000 years. A string of lackluster winters for precipitation have deepened a regional hydrological crisis that has induced record-smashing heat, devastating wildfire seasons and agricultural woes.

‘Continuing drought will probably mean wildfires again threaten vast tracts of the West into 2022’s warm season, taking advantage of fuels rendered extremely dry by the lack of rain.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2022/03/18/noaa-spring-outlook-western-drought/

 

Black Summer bushfire smoke altered ozone-depleting chemicals in atmosphere

A team of researchers, led by Peter Bernath of the University of Waterloo, found smoke from the 2019-2020 fires caused extreme changes in a number of ozone-depleting gases at mid-latitude locations.

The changes were beyond anything that had been measured in the previous 15 years

The authors speculate that increasing frequency of wildfires with climate change may delay recovery of ozone levels.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2022-03-18/smoke-black-summer-bushfires-ozone-layer-altered/100908234

 

Fire culture

 

Air pollution linked to higher risk of autoimmune diseases

Relevant to fire fighters given the amount of particulates in smoke.

Exposure to particulates has already been linked to strokes, brain cancer, miscarriage and mental health problems. A global review, published in 2019, concluded that almost every cell in the body could be affected by dirty air.

Now, 'Long-term exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of autoimmune disease, research has found.'

Now researchers at the University of Verona have found that long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution was associated with an approximately 40% higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, a 20% higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and a 15% higher risk of connective tissue diseases, such as lupus.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/15/air-pollution-exposure-linked-higher-risk-autoimmune-diseases

 

CSIRO unveils new research facility aimed at better understanding and predicting bushfire behaviour

The CSIRO has unveiled a new $2.1 million research facility in Canberra aimed at helping firefighters and other authorities better understand and predict bushfire behaviour.

Fire expert Andrew Sullivan said the ultimate goal of the National Bushfire Behaviour Research laboratory was to help Australians "live with fire".

"We can't remove fire as a threat to the landscape but everyone at every level needs to understand what it means to live in Australia and live with bushfires,"

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-17/csiro-unveils-bushfire-behaviour-facility-canberra/100914886

 

Fire and community resilience

 

‘What do we say to people? They still need help’: Bushfire first responder service at risk

First responders who have saved Australians from bushfires, floods and other natural disasters could lose access to vital mental health services in a matter of months when a $4 million government program ends.

The federal government allocated $4 million for the Traumatic Stress Clinic, which is run by the world-renowned Black Dog Institute, to provide a free psychological program for first responders, emergency services workers, volunteers and their families in the wake of the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires.

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/what-do-we-say-to-people-they-still-need-help-bushfire-first-responder-service-at-risk-20220318-p5a61h.html

 

Fire and biodiversity

 

Field trip to the Little Dargo River

Victorian people may be interested in this one.

The Little Dargo River in north eastern VIC is an unburnt refuge of high elevation forest in a landscape that has burnt multiple times in recent decades. However it is scheduled for logging this spring.

Friends of the Earth is helping to organise a walking tour of the upper catchment on April 24 so people can see how special this place is.

Details here.

https://themountainjournal.com/2022/02/14/pristine-catchment-in-vic-alps-to-be-logged/

You can rsvp for this free trip here.

https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/walk_to_the_little_dargo_river

Logging_Map_DHP.jpg

 

Fire News update, #14. March 14, 2022

Current fires

 

Its not over yet

The Bushfire Seasonal Outlook for Autumn 2022 has now been released. With the wet summer in the east and south east, fire risk is lower than normal in many areas.

However, above normal bushfire potential is expected for lower southeast South Australia, SW and north west WA.

This is 'due to prolonged dry conditions and indications that above average temperatures are possible over the next three months'.

https://www.afac.com.au/auxiliary/publications/newsletter/article/bushfire-seasonal-outlook-autumn-2022-australia-s-national-picture-of-fire-potential

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2022-03-07/climate-change-floods-storms-weather-time-to-talk/100882016

 

Climate change and fires

 

Florida Wildfires Fueled By Dry Forests Killed By Hurricane Michael

Multiple wildfires are blazing across the Florida Panhandle, burning thousands of acres, forcing evacuations, and incinerating homes. The largest, the Bertha Swamp Road Fire, has burned more than 14,000 acres. Climate change is increasing the size, frequency, and intensity of wildfires overall, and the Bertha Swamp Road fire is voraciously consuming dry vegetation as it burns through forests devastated by Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm — fueled by exceptionally warm water before making landfall — that hammered the Panhandle in 2018 with the strongest winds on record. 

https://www.climatesignals.org/headlines/florida-wildfires-fueled-dry-forests-killed-hurricane-michael

 

How to prepare your family for winter wildfires in Utah

Experts agree that winter wildfires are very likely in Utah’s future. With climate change, winter wildfires, similar to the Marshall fire in Boulder, Colorado are likely to be part of Utah’s future. A number of communities could be at fairly high risk from these wildfires.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/03/12/how-prepare-your-family/

 

Fire and community resilience

 

How climate change is impacting health in Australia

Simon Judkins is a senior emergency doctor who was part of the response team deployed to east Gippsland in Victoria in the aftermath of the Black Summer bushfires in late 2019, which contributed to 417 deaths across Australia. Homes and forests were destroyed as 4000 Mallacoota residents and holidaymakers fled to the shoreline to escape the flames.

“For days all you could see was thick smoke or bright red sky,” Judkins recalls. “Parents had been on holiday with their newborn babies, celebrating their first Christmas with the grandparents, and two days later they were in the health centre in tears, worrying for the health of their child.”

Immediate health impacts included smoke inhalation, asthma exacerbations and heart attacks.

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/health/2022/03/12/how-climate-change-impacting-health-australia/164700360013490#mtr

 

Anxious nation: Eco-grief takes hold as ‘code red for humanity’ hits home

Not specifically fire related, but relevant for people dealing with fire.

Various terms have been coined to describe the psychological distress which accompanies climate change. There’s climate anxiety and eco-anxiety, as well as solastalgia (coined by philosopher Glenn Albrecht in 2003 to describe a “homesickness you have when you are still at home”).

Although its use dates back to the 1940s, perhaps the most apt term for the modern state of affairs is “eco-grief”.

“That’s the grief that people are feeling as we watch our planet die around us,” explains Dr Kate Wylie, chair of the Royal Australian College of GPs’ climate and environmental medicine group.

https://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/anxious-nation-eco-grief-takes-hold-as-code-red-for-humanity-hits-home-20220311-p5a3ua.html

Autumn_outlook.png

 

Fire News update, #12. March 7, 2022

Current fires

 

Intense fire in Cape Range National Park unearths cave system hidden for decades

An update on some very interesting discoveries after recent fires in north west WA.

The fire in the Cape Range National Park burnt 7,000 hectares and came within 10 kilometres of Exmouth.

The blaze unearthed a hidden cave system that experts are keen to explore, and an ‘elaborate limestone cave network’ that has become obvious in the aftermath of the fire.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-01/bushfire-uncovers-hidden-caves-in-national-park-near-exmouth/100868132

 

National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook points to significant fire activity

As North America comes out of winter, fire conditions are already bad across a big part of the USA.

The ‘significant wildland fire potential forecast’ for the USA for April to June shows large sections of the country subject to ‘above average’ fire conditions.

‘Most of the West, Plains, and Texas remain in drought, with abnormally dry conditions now across Florida and continuing in portions of the Carolinas’.

Above normal significant fire potential is forecast to expand across Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas during March and April.

https://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/outlooks/monthly_seasonal_outlook.pdf

 

Meanwhile, fire season is underway in Alberta in Canada.

The fire season in Alberta runs from March 1 to Oct. 31. The season used to start later but the province extended it in 2016. 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-crews-preparing-as-wildfire-season-officially-begins-1.6368115

 

And fires are still burning in Colorado at the end of winter

‘News of a wildfire sparking up in March may sound odd to some Coloradans, though it's important to remember that widespread drought conditions are still present. As of March 1, 91 percent of the state was experiencing some form of drought’.

https://www.outtherecolorado.com/news/230-acre-wildfire-burns-in-colorado-with-90-percent-of-state-in-drought/article_2762fb3a-9b16-11ec-9f20-abf114aa759f.html

 

And Florida ...

Huge fires burn across parched Florida.

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7647087/huge-wildfires-rage-across-parched-florida/

 

And in South Korea …

And a wildfire just broke out in South Korea, threatening a nuclear power station.

https://twitter.com/Reuters/status/1499737675410067460

 

Climate change and fires

 

More analysis of the IPCC WGII Sixth Assessment Report and fire

The chapter on Australasia is here. https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg2/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGII_FinalDraft_Chapter11.pdf

IPCC report warns of fire threat. A quick look at some of the content from the IPCC report and outlook for fires in Australia. https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/ipcc_climate_report_warns_of_fire_threat

 

IPCC report warns of collapse of Alpine Ash and Snow Gums.

The report says ‘there is risk of transition or collapse of alpine ash and snowgum woodland, due to hotter and drier conditions with more fires

https://themountainjournal.com/2022/03/01/ipcc-report-points-to-collapse-of-alpine-ash-and-snowgum-woodland/

Please take action on this one: the IPCC coverage of Snow Gums and Alpine Ash adds weight to the campaign which is seeking to see these forests protected from climate change-driven fire.

Please consider signing this petition to the Victorian Environment Minister. It is available here.

 

Australia’s future of fire

As climate change continues to destablise global weather patterns, a report released by the United Nations Environment Program and environmental not-for-profit organisation GRID-Arendal says we can expect up to 50% more wildfires by the turn of the century.

Australia’s already a parched, fire-prone nation, and its outlook as climate shifts is grim.

“Between 2000 and 2020, one million hectares of forest was burned by at least two bushfires, and a quarter of this area experienced multiple, severe fires,” says Fairman.

Our ecosystems’ unique adaptations begin to fall apart under such relentlessly stressful conditions.

https://cosmosmagazine.com/earth/climate/australia-future-of-fire/

 

First Nations and fire

 

The case for Native led forest management in California

Despite centuries of proven expertise, Native communities have long been excluded from decisions around land and resource management in California. As wildfires become more frequent and more severe, that expertise is needed more than ever.

Climate change is not the only factor driving more devastating fires throughout California. Some are turning a critical eye to the role that management decisions, and specifically wildland fire suppression, play in exacerbating the risk of super fires.

https://www.brencomm.com/post/the-case-for-native-led-forest-management-in-california

 

Fire culture

 

Canadian Wildland Fire and Smoke newsletter

The Canadian Wildland Fire and Smoke newsletter has some great content for people interested in all aspects of wildland fires and smoke related issues, covering topics from resilience to First Nations. The Fall 2022 edition is now available.

https://www.canadawildfire.org/_files/ugd/90df79_9aa192ad00224a65b6cbad61a3cef54d.pdf

 

Women on the Firelines

Fire fighting culture is still often very male dominated. This is an interesting piece on efforts in the USA to create all-female controlled burn crews.

https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/florida/stories-in-florida/all-women-controlled-burn/

20211228_142000.jpg

Fire News update, #11. FEB 28, 2022

Current fires

Thinking of friends and communities in south east QLD and northern NSW who are suffering from terrible flooding at present.

 

Tasmania update

Over the past two weeks a remote fire in lutruwita/ Tasmania has threatened the incredibly significant Huon Pine Reserve near Olegas Bluff in the west of the state. As of February 26, the fire is now contained.

https://themountainjournal.com/2022/02/18/huon-pine-reserve-threatened-by-fire/

 

Victoria

It has been busy lately in Victoria. With La Nina conditions we always knew it would be a summer of grassfires in the north and west rather than forest fires in the east. That’s certainly how it has played out.

There have been a number of major fires in central west and northern VIC:

https://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/7629678/mount-camel-fire-burns-150-hectares-before-being-pulled-under-control/

Locally, our brigade had its biggest fire of the season so far.

https://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/7635636/cfa-crews-to-stay-overnight-and-monitor-harcourt-north-fire-scene/?src=rss

 

Recent fires in WA

Gascoyne pastoralists fight fire through rain, as ongoing lightning continues to spark blazes

More than 40,000 hectares of land was burnt in the area around Wahroonga, Wooramel and

Pastoralists in the remote Gascoyne region of Western Australia have spoken of the challenges they faced battling bushfires during heavy rain and thunderstorms.

Wahroonga Station owner Cameron Tubby said he had never experienced anything like it before.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-23/gascoyne-pastoralists-fight-second-bushfire-wave-through-rain/100853562

 

Fires burn more than 1.5 million acres in northeast Argentina

Meanwhile, in Argentina, drought, low humidity and a record-setting heatwave have created conditions in the northeast part of the country that has made it difficult to suppress the widespread fires currently burning there, some of which started in December.

Officials estimate that more than 1.5 million acres have already burned, including areas near Iberá National Park.

https://wildfiretoday.com/2022/02/21/fires-burn-more-than-1-5-million-acres-in-northeast-argentina/

 

Climate change and fires

 

Climate Scientists Warn of a ‘Global Wildfire Crisis’

A landmark United Nations report has concluded that the risk of devastating wildfires around the world will surge in coming decades as climate change further intensifies what the report described as a “global wildfire crisis.”

The scientific assessment is the first by the organization’s environmental authority to evaluate wildfire risks worldwide. It was inspired by a string of deadly blazes around the globe in recent years, burning the American West, vast stretches of Australia and even the Arctic.

The report, produced by more than 50 researchers from six continents, estimated that the risk worldwide of highly devastating fires could increase by up to 57 percent by the end of the century, primarily because of climate change. The risks will not be distributed equally: Some regions are likely to see more fire activity, while others may experience less.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/climate/climate-change-un-wildfire-report.html

 

There is a chapter in the report focused on wildfire: Wildfires Under Climate Change: A Burning Issue which discusses the role of climate change and human influence in the changing wildfire regimes around the world, the impacts of wildfires on the environment and human health, and the measures that can help to prevent, respond and build resilience to wildfires.

https://www.unep.org/resources/frontiers-2022-noise-blazes-and-mismatches

 

Wildfires will be more frequent, larger and intense due to climate change: UNEP

Wildfires are predicted to worsen in the coming years and decades, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned in its annual Frontiers report

Wildfires are a natural phenomenon, but are becoming more dangerous and affecting larger areas. The UN report has attributed this to climate change and human activities.

“The trends towards more dangerous fire-weather conditions are likely to increase due to rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the attendant escalation of wildfire risk factors,” Inger Andersen, executive director, UNEP, said.

The report recommended the following to improve monitoring and management of wildfires:

  • Appreciating and adopting indigenous fire management techniques
  • Focus on long-range weather forecasting
  • Focus on rem

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/natural-disasters/wildfires-will-be-more-frequent-larger-and-intense-due-to-climate-change-unep-81615

Harcourt.jpg

Fire News update, #10. FEB 21, 2022

 

Current fires

Huon Pine forest threatened by fire

There is currently a bushfire burning at Olegas Bluff within the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park in south western lutruwita/ Tasmania.

The Parks and Wildlife Service is undertaking air-based suppression works in the area. The fire is not yet contained and the cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

The most disturbing aspect of this fire is that it threatens the Truchanas Pine Forest, which contains globally significant Huon Pine trees.

There are updates as the situation changes available here.

https://themountainjournal.com/2022/02/18/huon-pine-reserve-threatened-by-fire/

 

Bushfire emergency warning - Mt Nelson

Fires threatened houses on Hobart’s fringe in recent days. Locals reported on social media that a landowner in the area had been using a brushcutter and accidently caused a fire. Aircraft were used to contain it.

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7627228/bushfire-threatens-homes-in-states-south-watch-and-act-alert-issued/

https://www.examiner.com.au/story/7627592/fire-threatened-15-homes-cause-determined/

 

Fires in WA - Rainfall follows major bushfires in WA

‘RAIN, hail and fire - this last week has felt a little more like the apocalypse, as the bottom end of the State was ravaged by fires and the top end has continued to receive heavy rainfall.

"Places through the Great Southern, Wheatbelt and Esperance area only got about five to 15mm from the Friday night thunderstorms."

The lightning experienced in last weekend's thunderstorms also caused six bushfires which burnt through an area of about 4564 hectares.

https://www.farmweekly.com.au/story/7623487/rainfall-follows-major-bushfires-in-wa/

https://www.emergency.wa.gov.au/#

 

Climate change and fires

Bushfires, dry lightning, rapid spark and spread all indicate climate change, southern fire chief says

Great Southern District DFES Superintendent Wayne Green said of the recent fires in south west WA that the bushfires were exacerbated by climate change.

"That's definite," he said.

"We've seen the change in our fire behaviour over the last few years."

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-14/bushfires-dry-lightning-indicate-climate-change/100829712

 

First Nations and fire

World-first research confirms Australia’s forests became catastrophic fire risk after British invasion

Australia’s forests now carry far more flammable fuel than before British invasion, our research shows, revealing the catastrophic risk created by non-Indigenous bushfire management approaches.

Contemporary approaches to forest management in Australia are based on suppression – extinguishing bushfires once they’ve started, or seeking to prevent them through hazard-reduction burning.

This differs from the approach of Indigenous Australians who’ve developed sophisticated relationships with fire over tens of thousands of years. They minimise bushfire risk through frequent low-intensity burning – in contrast to the current scenario of random, high-intensity fires.

https://theconversation.com/world-first-research-confirms-australias-forests-became-catastrophic-fire-risk-after-british-invasion-176563

 

The report is available here >

https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.2395

 

Fire culture

Helicopter crash kills pilot in Tasmania

In terribly sad news, a pilot who was involved in firefighting in northern Tasmania has died following a crash.

A pilot was killed in Australia February 14 when a helicopter crashed while working on a bush fire southeast of Pipers Brook, Tasmania.

Since it started several days ago the fire has burned 1,660Ha (4,100 acres). Helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, heavy machinery, and firefighters on the ground have been working to control the blaze. A number of forestry plantations have been impacted and one structure has been destroyed.

https://wildfiretoday.com/2022/02/14/helicopter-crash-kills-pilot-in-australia/

https://www.police.tas.gov.au/news-events/media-releases/man-dies-following-helicopter-crash-in-northern-tasmania/

 

Warming weakens the night-time barrier to global fire

Night-time provides a critical window for slowing or extinguishing fires owing to the lower temperature and the lower vapour pressure deficit (VPD).

‘Here we show that night-time fire intensity has increased, which is linked to hotter and drier nights. Globally, night fires have become 7.2 per cent more intense from 2003 to 2020, measured via a satellite record. These results reinforce the lack of night-time relief that wildfire suppression teams have experienced in recent years.’

‘We expect that continued night-time warming owing to anthropogenic climate change will promote more intense, longer-lasting and larger fires’.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04325-1

 

‘Really incredible burn window’: Prescribed fire spreads across Humboldt County

This story from northern California raises several issues:

  • Climate change is making the area drier and allowing earlier burning in spring
  • Climate change is leading to “precipitation whiplash,” since dry, drought conditions will be punctuated with heavy rain that could lead to flooding
  • The Karuk Tribe is applying Cultural Burning practises

https://www.times-standard.com/2022/02/19/thats-not-love-in-the-air-its-smoke-prescribed-fire-is-spreading-across-humboldt-county/

 

Wildfires

Some interesting statistics on fire:

https://360info.org/special-report-wildfires/

 

Fire and community resilience

As bushfires tore through Bridgetown the power and phone lines were cut

A reminder that much of our distribution and communications are not ready for worsening fire seasons:

'As an out-of-control bushfire raged around Bridgetown, three hours south of Perth, earlier this month, the shire president John Bookless said it wasn't long before both power and phone services were down.

"The town was under serious threat and that's the time when you need to have the best telecommunications you can get, and if that's the best we can get then in this day and age it's pretty pathetic," he said.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-15/bridgetown-bushfires-wa-led-to-power-an-phone-line-outages/100829974

 

Fire and biodiversity

After the fires, a visit to the megadiverse Stirling Range

Stirling Range National Park is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, with more than 1,500 species of flora, at least eighty-seven of which are found nowhere else in the world. Stirling Ranges is also home to rare and unique fauna, including mainland quokkas.

Forty thousand hectares of the national park were burnt during the 2019 bushfires. Conservationists believe the landscape will take centuries to recover, because many of the native plants need long intervals between fires before they can produce viable seeds.

https://www.outdoorspeople.org/post/after-the-fires-a-visit-to-the-megadiverse-stirling-range

 

Take action

Is this the end of forests as we've known them?

This is from last year but still relevant:

‘Trees lost to drought and wildfires are not returning. Climate change is taking a toll on the world’s forests - and radically changing the environment before our eyes’.

‘In western North America, huge swaths of forested areas may become unsuitable for trees owing to climate change, say researchers. In the Rocky Mountains, estimates hold that by 2050, about 15% of the forests would not grow back if felled by fire because the climate would no longer suit them. In Alberta, Canada, about half of existing forests could vanish by 2100. In the south-western US, which is experiencing a “megadrought”, as much as 30% of forests are at risk of converting to shrubland or another kind of ecosystem’.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/10/is-this-the-end-of-forests-as-weve-known-them

 

This loss is happening locally in Australia, including mountain areas where Snow Gums are experiencing localised collapse.

Support the call for additional firefighting resources to fight fires in national parks in Victoria.

https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/snow_gum_petition

Olegas_fire.jpg

ABOVE: fire near Huon Pine reserve in lutruwita/ Tasmania. Photographer unknown.

Fire News update, #9. FEB 14 , 2022

Current fires

Lutruwita/ Tasmania

‘An uncontained bushfire in Tasmania's north is set to keep emergency services busy until next week after burning through more than 1500 hectares in four days.

Firefighters had a reprieve on Sunday when forecast hot and windy conditions didn't eventuate, prompting a "watch and act" alert for Pipers Brook, Lebrina, Wyena, Golconda and Ferny Hill Road to be downgraded.

The fire was first reported on Thursday after a burn-off on private property got out of hand and has since torched about 1630 hectares.

"To date a number of forestry plantations have been impacted, and we have had the loss of one outbuilding (barn)’.

https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/bushfires/tasmanian-towns-on-northern-bushfire-alert-c-5677858

 

WA fires recap

Wheatbelt fires like a 'war zone' as locals count the cost in devastated farming community

‘Corrigin is one of the Wheatbelt communities tallying its losses after strong winds hit the area, whipping the fire into a frenzy that burned through trees and recently cropped farms.’

Last year saw a bumper wheat harvest for the region but the dense stubble meant the fire burned extra hot, damaging valuable topsoil.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-08/losses-unclear-as-wheatbelt-communities-face-devastating-fires/100809984

 

Climate change and fires

The place that coal built and fire burned

The Marshall fire in Colorado was unusual in that it was a grassland rather than forest fire. This reflection on changing land use comes from the USA but is relevant for us.

‘UNLIKE SO MANY of Colorado’s wildfires, the Marshall Fire began out on the plains. The flames tore through grasslands and shrubs and burned more than 1,000 homes, making it the most destructive in the state’s history. Boulder County, once a coal-mining hub, now faced a destructive fire regime, fueled in part by the carbon that was mined there a century ago.

A disaster recovery researcher told me that what we call catastrophes, whether fires, floods or collapsing coal mines, are essentially change, compressed in time.

The prairie makes way for the coal mine. The coal mine becomes a suburb. Most people in Boulder today have jobs in tech or health care or service work. They are often drawn to the area by the promise of the Rockies, dreaming of exploring those high mountains, but they build their lives on the prairie’.

https://www.hcn.org/issues/54.3/south-wildfire-the-place-that-coal-built-and-fire-burned

 

Australia’s bushfire threat already beyond worst-case scenarios, thanks to climate change

Australia will continue to experience more extreme impacts of climate change, with the bushfire threat already exceeding the ‘worst case’ scenarios, experts have told the Australian National University’s 2022 Climate Update event.

The director of the ANU’s Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, Mark Howden, said that the observed impacts of climate change were indisputable evidence of the human effects on the environment.

Howden pointed to the worsening threat posed by the increasing severity of bushfires, no longer limited to Australia’s summer months, and now becoming a year-long issue.

“Across most of Australia, the fire danger index is increasing and increasing significantly, particularly in the southeast,” Howden said.

https://reneweconomy.com.au/australias-bushfire-threat-already-beyond-worst-case-scenarios-thanks-to-climate-change/

 

Fire culture

 

Black Saturday bushfires

Last week (FEB 7) marked the anniversary of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, which caused widespread devastation and the greatest loss of life from fire since colonisation.

One hundred and seventy-three people tragically lost their lives, 414 were injured, more than a million wild and domesticated animals were lost and 450,000 hectares of land were burned.

There is information and resources available here.

https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/black-saturday-bushfires

Check here for a range of articles on Black Saturday.

https://theconversation.com/au/topics/black-saturday-3290

Climate change is poised to deliver more Black Saturdays in decades to come. This is from 2019, but worth a read.

https://theconversation.com/climate-change-is-poised-to-deliver-more-black-saturdays-in-decades-to-come-111064

 

Fire and community resilience

 

Homesick at Home - Finding the words for a world set ablaze

The climate crisis presents us with many immediate challenges: to reduce carbon emissions, restore biodiversity—to rebalance all the many natural systems we have disrupted—as well as the challenge of accepting that our present central myth of constant economic growth is unsustainable, that “green growth” is just magical thinking. But the feeling of grief also calls to us to look deeper, to recognize and respond to our sense of alienation and loss of belonging, and to understand how this sense of home is essential to our well-being as well as that of the planet.

The climate crisis will take us into an unfamiliar world. After a brief pause at the beginning of the pandemic, last year carbon emissions again increased. The last time the planet was as warm as today was 125,000 years ago.

https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/homesick-at-home

 

The fastest population growth in the West’s wildland fringes is in ecosystems most vulnerable to wildfires

This story is from the western USA but relevant to us here in Australia given the continual growth of housing into urban fringe areas which are highly bushfire prone. From the Perth hills to the Blue Mountains, this is an enormous planning and fire management issue across the country.

‘We found that while the number of people living in the wildland-urban interface overall roughly doubled from 1990 to 2010, the population in its highest-hazard regions grew by 160%. As more people move into these areas, the opportunity for fires to ignite rises, as does the number of people at risk.’

The article briefly touches on the issue of how to make these areas safer from fire.

https://theconversation.com/the-fastest-population-growth-in-the-wests-wildland-fringes-is-in-ecosystems-most-vulnerable-to-wildfires-173410

 

Fire and biodiversity

 

Researchers identify 'double-hazard' zones for wildfire in the West

This research is from the western USA, but is interesting: local vegetation cover influences how much increase in fire risk that area will experience under global warming.

‘Previous research has shown that climate change is driving up what scientists call the vapor pressure deficit, which is an indicator of how much moisture the air can suck out of soil and plants. Vapor pressure deficit has increased over the past 40 years across most of the American West, largely because warmer air can hold more water. This is a primary mechanism by which global warming is elevating wildfire hazards.

The new analysis, which comes from the lab of Stanford ecohydrologist Alexandra Konings, suggests vapor pressure deficit is rising fastest in areas where plants are especially prone to drying out. The combination of highly sensitive, tinder-dry plants and a faster-than-average increase in atmospheric dryness creates what the authors call "double-hazard" zones’.

https://phys.org/news/2022-02-double-hazard-zones-wildfire-west.html

 

Take action


Snow Gums and fire

Friends of the Earth has recently been mapping areas of snow gum woodland in north eastern VIC which have been burnt multiple times in recent years. There are fears that this is starting to lead to localised ecosystem collapse.

Initial mapping on a recent fieldtrip found some good regrowth in areas that have been without snow gums since fires in the last decade. This appears to be due to two mild and wet summers and is welcome news. It highlights the need to keep fire out of these ecosystems while they recover.

ABC news story here >

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-31/volunteers-band-together-to-map-hard-hit-snow-gum-forests/100792318

 

FoE has been lobbying the VIC gov to boost remote area firefighting capacity, including establishing a volunteer remote area team, however they are yet to act. Please add your voice by emailing or tagging the Minister for Emergency Services, Jaclyn Symes. Simply say:

I support the proposal for a volunteer remote area firefighting team for Victoria @JaclynSymes @LilyDAmbrosioMP. It will help protect our national parks and wild places. #climatefire 

 

Additional information available here.

https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/longer_fire_seasons_are_putting_our_national_parks_at_risk

 

Support the call for additional firefighting resources to fight fires in national parks in Victoria.

https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/snow_gum_petition

 

[BELOW: FoE snow gum mapping fieldtrip, JAN 2022]

20220128_113449.jpg

IMAGE ABOVE: citizen science field trip to Snow Gum forests in north eastern VIC. Image: FoE.

Fire News update, #8. FEB 7 , 2022

 

Current fires

WA fires update

Large fires continue in south western WA  and the eastern Wheatbelt, and high fire danger ratings exist in much of the state. An emergency level bushfire is still threatening lives and property near tourist town Denmark — about 400km south of Perth — with more than 100 firefighters on the ground.

Over the weekend, homes and businesses have been destroyed and one man is seriously injured as two emergency bushfires continue to burn. The two fires in Denmark and Bridgetown have together burned through almost 4700 hectares as more than 200 firefighters battle to bring the blazes under control. A third bushfire has also broken out at Bruce Rock. The fire quickly escalated to an emergency level due to the "catastrophic" conditions.

As noted by Fiona Pepper, from the ABC:

‘Fires are raging in my hometown of Denmark WA. One of the areas worst affected by climate change in Australia as rainfall has dropped 25% since the 70s. This area also happens to be a biodiversity hotspot. This is a climate emergency!’

Recent news stories:

https://www.9news.com.au/national/western-australia-bushfire-update-fire-conditions-denmark-shire-perth-news/77131b83-5ef7-4db4-8ff3-9214c4cc46ec

https://thewest.com.au/news/triple-bushfires-rip-through-western-australia-c-5588898

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-05/wa-bushfire-emergency-denmark-update/100807552

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-04/denmark-emergency-warning-bushfire/100805618

https://thewest.com.au/news/disaster-and-emergency/nambeelup-fire-threatens-homes-in-shire-of-murray-c-5571450

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-05/wa-bushfire-emergency-denmark-update/100807552

https://www.emergency.wa.gov.au/#firedangerratings

 

Green Triangle chopper and pilot help save Mount Gambier's landmark mountain

During the recent fire near Mt Gambier in south eastern SA, there was a fire burning on the nearby landmark hill at Crater Lakes.

A helicopter owned by Green Triangle Fire Alliance (a consortium of plantation companies) which is based Casterton in southwest Victoria, flew more than 80 flights in the efforts to stop the fire.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-02/firebombing-helicopter-pilot-saves-iconic-mountain/100794716

 

Climate change and fires

What does lightning actually do to a tree?

The huge storms many Australians have experienced recently have damaged or toppled old trees which had withstood the vagaries of our weather for the past century or more.

This is what we can expect as our climate changes, with storm events more frequent, wind speeds stronger and rainfall heavier. These all contribute to trees falling or dropping large branches.

But there’s something you might not think of as linked to climate change. As storms intensify in our new climate, we’re likely to see more lightning strikes. And that means our tallest trees will be hit more often.

https://theconversation.com/what-does-lightning-actually-do-to-a-tree-176353

 

First Nations and fire

Living with Country — fire with Den Barber

‘Fire is an element that has shaped this continent for millions of years. Since the last ice age or so, Indigenous Australians have used fire to tend and nurture Country.

After colonisation, these practices were lost, suppressed or undermined. In the centuries afterward, fires of cataclysmic intensity have come along at higher frequencies.

Den Barber is a Wiradjuri man who runs the Indigenous cultural consultancy Yarrabin Cultural Connections, and is the founding director of Koori Country Firesticks Aboriginal Corporation. He's also an ex firefighter and ranger for the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service.

He joins Blueprint to share his vast and varied experiences in fire management from elders past and present, and how this can inform the protection of our towns and cities.

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/blueprintforliving/living-with-country-den-barber-fire-yarrabin-koori-firesticks/13731768

 

Fire culture

It’s summer, so bushfires and COVID collide. 3 ways one affects the other

Our bodies react to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, and bushfires in similar ways.

Both affect the lungs. Both can have serious health consequences in vulnerable populations, such as elderly people. Both can have long-term health consequences.

https://theconversation.com/its-summer-so-bushfires-and-covid-collide-3-ways-one-affects-the-other-169833

 

Fire and community resilience/ community health

Trauma caused by Morwell coalmine fire set high school students back 18 months

The Morwell coalmine fire in Victoria set high school students back more than 18 months academically, according to a new study.

The analysis of the Monash Rural Health Study led by Dr Emily Berger, published in the Trauma Psychology journal in December 2021, found that the 2014 fire led to an 18.5-month delay in the academic progress of secondary school students.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/feb/03/harrowing-trauma-caused-by-morwell-coalmine-fire-set-high-school-students-back-18-months

 

Fire and biodiversity

Snow Gum citizen science

Friends of the Earth has recently been mapping areas of snow gum woodland in north eastern VIC which have been burnt multiple times in recent years. There are fears that this is starting to lead to localised ecosystem collapse.

Initial mapping found some good regrowth in areas that have been without snow gums since fires. This appears to be due to two mild and wet summers and is welcome news. It highlights the need to keep fire out of these ecosystems while they recover.

Report from FoE here > https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/citizen_science_report_back_from_the_dargo_high_plains

ABC news story here >

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-31/volunteers-band-together-to-map-hard-hit-snow-gum-forests/100792318

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Fire News update, #7. Jan 31, 2022

Current fires

Fires continue in Western Australia

A number of fires continue to beurn, including a ‘fast-moving bushfire is threatening lives and homes in Perth’s northeast, prompting authorities to issue an emergency warning’.

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/breaking-news/fast-out-of-control-bushfire-sparks-emergency-warning-for-western-bullsbrook-in-perths-northeast/news-story/f8b8f4a26bca22edc525ee6a5f8c3119

https://www.emergency.wa.gov.au/#

 

Davey Gorge fire, lutruwita/ Tasmania

There are fires burning in remote areas of the World Heritage Area in the south west of the state. There is only limited information available on the Tasmania Fire Service website, although there are social media reports that aircraft are being used to control the fires.

Fires in the Davey Gorge, Dawsons Steps and Mt Solitary are currently listed as ‘Going’ (ie, not yet under control).

 

Dramatic fire at Mt Gambier

Last week saw dramatic scenes as the Crater Lakes district near Mt Gambier in southern SA caught fire. The fires have now been contained and in some good news, it was reported that ‘Fire crews were able to stop the blaze from entering the conservation park in the Valley Lake area’.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-26/mount-gambier-fire-at-crater-lakes/100782318

 

Climate change and fires

 

The Unfortunate New Need to Be Vigilant All Year Long

As fires continue to burn through the northern winter in places like California, Texas and Colorado, meteorologist Guy Walton reminds us that ‘in the western U.S. need to be mindful that wildfires can blaze at any time of the year due to climate change when a drought is ongoing’. 

‘We saw devastating fires in the Boulder Colorado area in December. Now in January we are seeing a major wildfire in Big Sur California, despite rains from December diminishing drought levels in most of that state. Apparently, rains didn’t penetrate soil deep enough to inhibit fire weather over the weekend.

‘During overall cooler decades prior to the 2010’s residents could relax after November once winter rain and snow fell on just about every location of the West. Not anymore’.

https://guyonclimate.com/2022/01/24/extreme-temperature-diary-monday-january-24th-2021-main-topic-western-wildfires-the-unfortunate-new-need-to-be-vigilant-all-year-long/

 

Fire and biodiversity

 

Snow Gum citizen science

Friends of the Earth has started to track how climate driven fire regimes are impacting on Snow Gum woodlands. FoE recently held its first citizen science fieldtrip to map areas that appear to be collapsing (converting to grassy/ scrubby dominated ecosystems) in the Victorian high country.

Photos here >

https://www.facebook.com/foemelbourne/posts/1573058833054975

Background information here > https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/snow_gum_citizen_science

 

Namadgi National Park two years on from Orroral Valley Bushfires

This is a sobering reflection on the state of the Namadgi national park 2 years on from the 2020 fire.

‘Mature-aged native forest may never return to parts of Namadgi National Park with climate change impacting regeneration two years on from the Orroral Valley bushfires.

Namadgi was currently going through what was called Succession Theory where the park had responded to the bushfires and was in a transitional state.

"We're seeing quite open woodlands because a lot of canopy has been burned," he said.

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7595284/why-parts-of-namadgi-may-never-be-the-same-again/

 

Take action

 

Support the AFCA summer campaign

The Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance is running an online campaign this summer:

We want you to share your experience of being a fire fighter and how you can see that fire seasons are getting worse because of climate change. Meaningful action now will reduce risk later on. The federal government sets Australia’s national climate commitments, so that is why we are targeting the Prime Minister and Emergency Services minister.

 

  • take a photo of yourself/ your crew
  • KEY MESSAGE: I’m on the frontline. I see that fire seasons are getting worse. Without climate action, it will only get worse. @ScottMorrisonMP @senbmckenzie – commit Australia to 75% emission reductions by 2030. #climatefire
  • post your photo and comment on any social media platform you use
  • tell your mates and get them involved

 

Full details here.

https://australianfirefightersclimatealliance.org/home/2022-summer-campaign/

 

Support the call for additional firefighting resources to fight fires in national parks in Victoria.

https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/snow_gum_petition

 

Invitation to comment on seven fire-affected ecological community listing assessments

The 2019/20 bushfires had catastrophic impacts on Australia’s wildlife and ecological communities. Many ecological communities which were not listed as threatened prior to the bushfires may now be eligible for inclusion on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) list of threatened ecological communities.

In response to this, the Australian Government Minister for the Environment included several fire-affected ecological communities on the Finalised Priority Assessment List. The Threatened Species Scientific Committee (the Committee) is undertaking assessments of these nominated ecological communities to determine their eligibility for listing and preparing Conservation Advice for each ecological community. 

https://www.awe.gov.au/environment/biodiversity/threatened/nominations/comment/seven-fire-affected-ecological-communities

 

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Fire News update, #6 JAN 24, 2022

 

New AFCA campaign

Bushfires are becoming more frequent and the bushfire season is coming earlier and lasting longer because of climate change. 

These longer fire seasons in Australia are not “normal”. They are being driven by human induced global heating (climate change). Unless we act now to reduce our emissions in line with what climate science suggests, we will become locked in to ever worsening fire seasons.

The Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance has launched a new campaign, asking firefighters to post an image of themselves on a fireground, and demanding the Austrtalian government act on climate change.

Full details are here:

https://australianfirefightersclimatealliance.org/home/2022-summer-campaign/

 

The AFCA facebook page is here.

https://www.facebook.com/ausfca

You can find AFCA on Instagram here.

Please use the hashtag #climatefire if posting images.

 

Current fires

Gascoyne bushfires burn for two weeks, killing livestock, destroying land and devastating pastoralists

For the past two weeks, pastoralists, including Tim and Chris Higham, in Western Australia's Gascoyne region (roughly 800 km north of Perth) have been battling ferocious bushfires that have destroyed property and livestock.

"We've had fires previously, but nothing quite as ferocious as this one," Mrs Higham said.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2022-01-21/gascoyne-complex-bushfires-burn-for-two-weeks-killing-livestock/100765830

 

Mackintosh Dam Road bushfire in Tasmania's west has been downgraded to advice

Fire season has started in lutruwita/ Tasmania, with a serious fire in the north west. In good news, the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) has downgraded the fire on Mackintosh Dam Road in Tullah on Tasmania's west coast to advice, but warns there may be increased fire activity this afternoon

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-23/west-coast-bushfire-downgraded-to-advice/100775972

 

Meanwhile, fires continue to burn in winter in the northern hemisphere: this one along the famous Big Sur coastline of California:

A wildfire near California's scenic Highway 1, which winds along the Pacific coastline, prompted evacuation orders in Monterey County on Friday night. 

The Colorado Fire was sparked in Palo Colorado Canyon in the Big Sur region, according to the county's office of emergency services.

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/01/22/weather/california-highway-1-palo-colorado-fire/index.html

 

Increased wildfire danger anticipated across Texas

Warm and dry temperatures continue to cause problems in North America during their winter.

The Texas fire service has been readying firefighting resources in anticipation of ‘an increase in wildfire activity caused by prefrontal weather conditions approaching the state’.

State and local firefighters have responded to 97 wildfires since the morning of Jan. 14.

https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/2022/01/18/increased-wildfire-danger-anticipated-across-texas/

 

Fire culture

CFS volunteer killed in tree falling incident on Lucindale fireground, another seriously injured

In terrible news from SA, a  Country Fire Service volunteer has been killed in a tree falling incident on a fireground in South Australia's south east and another has been injured.

About 150 firefighters from South Australia and Victoria have been battling the blaze near Lucindale, about 350 kilometres south east of Adelaide.

The fire has been burning in a bluegum forest about 20km south of the township. 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-21/sa-firefighters-injured-while-fighting-fire-in-states-south-east/100773400

 

The Australian Warning System

The Australian Warning System is a new national approach to information and warnings for hazards like bushfire, flood, storm, cyclone, extreme heat and severe weather.

The Australian Warning System has been designed based on feedback and research across the country and aims to deliver a more consistent approach to emergency warnings, no matter where you are. It uses a nationally consistent set of icons to show incidents on websites and apps, supported by calls to action.

There are three warning levels:

Advice, Watch and Act, Emergency Warning

Details here >

https://knowledge.aidr.org.au/resources/australian-warning-system/

 

Fire and community resilience

‘Our community is small, but our spirit is strong’: how art forms the heart of Cobargo’s Black Summer fires recovery

‘Recovery after a natural disaster largely depends on the energy and capability of local people. When those driving the recovery process are community members, the sustained collective activity increases the likelihood of success. Local people are present throughout the long-term process of recovery, and their deep knowledge of the community – its history, its demographics, and its values and aspirations – are vital.’

This story looks at the role of art and creatives in community recovery efforts.

https://theconversation.com/our-community-is-small-but-our-spirit-is-strong-how-art-forms-the-heart-of-cobargos-black-summer-fires-recovery-173649

 

Ballarat's climate is changing, how will we adapt?

Community-led action will be key for Ballarat and the Grampians region to adapt to climate change, according to the Grampians Region Climate Adaptation Strategy.

Extreme weather events like storms, floods and bushfires will become more frequent. 

How volunteer groups CFA and SES remain resilient when responding to more frequent extreme climatic events was raised as an issue in the report.

The strategy outlines actions for the next four years to build resilience to and reduce the risks of climate change in the region.

https://www.thecourier.com.au/story/7581071/ballarats-climate-is-changing-how-will-we-adapt/

 

US plans $50B wildfire fight where forests meet civilization

This is a huge issue here in Australia, with more and more people living on the urban/ forest interface.

The Biden administration has said it will ‘significantly expand efforts to stave off catastrophic wildfires that have torched areas of the U.S. West by more aggressively thinning forests around “hot spots” where nature and neighborhoods collide’.

There are, of course, concerns about how forest thinning may impact on biodiversity values. So it will be interesting to see how this program is enacted.

‘Forest Service planning documents indicate the work will focus on “hotspots” that make up only 10% of the fire-prone areas across the U.S. but account for 80% of risk to communities because of their population densities and locations.’

https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/us-plans-wildfire-fight-where-160352657.html

 

Fire and biodiversity

 

Managing fire in the boom-bust environment of Central Australia

This is a few months old but worth a read. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy reports from the NT:

At our Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary (NT), we're working to re-establish appropriate fire regimes that conserve species and ecosystems and restore ecological processes.

Our small, field-based team manages the 262,000-hectare area, in a landscape that is highly flammable. Careful planning is essential - taking into account the needs of various vegetation types, changing climates, and complex fire histories.

Our prescribed burning program is led by strategic planning, informed by science, mapping, and years of experience on the ground.

https://www.australianwildlife.org/managing-fire-in-the-boom-bust-environment-of-central-australia

 

Take action

 

Research looks at the impacts of recent fires in eastern Victoria.

It is worth going back to a report from 2020 that shows the impacts of fire in Victoria. Most of the area burned in the summer of 2019/20 is in mixed-species eucalypt forests, which are common throughout eastern Victoria, and which can recover well from fire.

But the fires also burnt forest types of more limited distribution including banksia woodlands, warm temperate rainforests, and mountain communities including alpine ash forests and snow gum woodlands.

Some species, like snow gum, re-sprout solely from the lignotuber because their stems are usually killed by fire. The proportion of snow gum trees killed outright by fire increased to 50 per cent after three high-severity fires in 2003, 2007 and 2013. The researchers note that here was also a decrease in tree regeneration from seed.

The intensity and the frequency of fires has a big impact on the post-fire recovery of tree populations.

Practices that reduce the extent and frequency of severe bushfires in coming years will improve the overall chances of tree survival and population recovery.

This will involve continued efforts to reduce bushfire ignitions, and to quickly suppress uncontrolled fires on extreme fire days.

While this work is now 2 years old, it does highlight the fact that we need to be able to keep fire out of fire sensitive communities as they recover from previous burns. In the case of Snow Gums,

  • we need extra capacity to exclude fire from Snow Gum forests. This means ground and air firefighting capacity to ensure aggressive First Strike firefighting designed to stop small fires caused by lightning strikes from turning into blazes that can’t be controlled
  • we need an ecological assessment of the health of these communities to determine if further intervention is needed, for instance as is being done with Alpine Ash.

 

Please consider supporting the campaign which is urging the VIC government to act to protect mountain forests. Support the call for additional firefighting resources to fight fires in national parks in Victoria. You can sign the letter here.

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Fire News update, #5 JAN 17, 2022

 

Current fires

 

It was a busy weekend in Victoria

As expected, the mild la nina dominated summer has led to more grassfires in the north and west rather than forest fires in the east. At present, crop harvesting is leading to a considerable number of fires, as are storm fronts which are delivering significant lightning strikes.

Victoria has been using its pre-determined dispatch (PDD) model well to get on top of these fires before they really take off. PDD is a system where the firefighting aircraft fleet is strategically positioned across the state and mobilised at the same time as firefighters on the ground where there is a concern that the fire could grow rapidly. Often ground forces get on scene first then need to call for air support. The PDD system means that there is less time before aircraft arrive, allowing the fire to be contained while it is still small because more resources are available.

 

Fires burning around the world

The NASA Fire Information for resource Management System (FIRMS) provides a real time look at fires happening around the planet. In recent weeks there has been a phenomenal number of fires in equatorial Africa and The Amazon.

https://firms.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov/map/

 

Climate change and fires

 

The Deadly Dynamics of Colorado’s Marshall Fire

Climate expert Daniel Swain explains how a convergence of climate change, urban sprawl, and extreme weather fueled the costliest wildfire in state history

In recent years, catastrophic wildfires have become an uncomfortably familiar experience. Once seen as a distant threat, wildfire has taken center stage in the public consciousness.

There’s good reason for this rising discourse: the American West and other areas have experienced a rapidly escalating wildfire crisis over the past decade. In California alone, 15 of the 20 most destructive fires in a century of record-keeping have occurred just since 2015—having together cost more than 150 lives and destroyed more than 40,000 structures. More broadly, across the contiguous U.S. West, the average annual area burned by wildfire has more than tripled in the past 40 years.

https://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/environment/marshall-fire-boulder-colorado/

 

Fire culture

 

Black Dog Institute Bush Fire Support Service

To support the mental health of Australia’s emergency service workers and their families, the Black Dog Institute has developed the Bush Fire Support Service.

The Bush Fire Support Service provides emergency service workers and their families access to a range of support services. There is an online mental health check-up which is a quick and confidential way to assess how they are feeling. The assessment is designed with evidence-based insights to confidently measure symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.

https://www.afac.com.au/auxiliary/publications/newsletter/article/black-dog-institute-bush-fire-support-service

 

Colorado buys $24 million helicopter for year-round fire risk

After horror fires that destroyed almost 1,000 houses (in winter!), the USA state of Colorado has announced that it will purchase a Type 1 helicopter to ‘be more prepared to fight fire year-round, as wildfire becomes more of a constant threat’. It will be the third aircraft owned by the state. 

https://www.outtherecolorado.com/news/colorado-shifts-staff-buys-24-million-helicopter-for-year-round-fire-risk/

 

Meanwhile Australia continues to lease in most of the Large Air Tankers and Type 1 helicopters it uses for our fire season.

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A national 'climate corps'? California is leading the way

As part of the Build Back Better plan that is currently stalled in Congress, President Joe Biden has called for the creation of a national Civilian Climate Corps to improve the environmental resilience of the United States, while providing good jobs for hundreds of thousands of young Americans. 

In California, the Conservation Corps was founded in 1976. The youth corps now has more than 1,500 members. Fighting fires is an increasing part of their work.

Climate change, which has led to more frequent, more intense fires around the world, has significantly affected the California corps. Five years ago, members mostly had jobs in forestry, energy, transportation, fisheries, and the culinary arts; only one crew was dedicated to firefighting. Now, 400 CCC members, more than a quarter of the corps, form 12 crews that work with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/national-climate-corps-california-leading-way

 

The groundbreaking research on the microbes in wildfire smoke

This is a whole new angle on the question of how smoke from fires impacts on humans: welcome to the new science of Pyroaerobiology.

‘Smoke, it turns out, isn’t sterile. It is a whole world full of microbes, fungi, and bacteria.

But that discovery has raised more questions than answers. One of those questions: What this means for human health in a time of more frequent and severe wildfires?

‘While scientists have a clear picture of the health impacts of smoke itself — how tiny smoke particles harm the lungs or the cardiovascular system — the health risks of bacterial or fungal infections from wildfire smoke remains a total mystery’.

 https://grist.org/grist-video/its-alive-the-groundbreaking-research-on-the-microbes-in-wildfire-smoke/

 

Fire management in Australia has reached a crossroads and ‘business as usual’ won’t cut it

‘The current wet conditions delivered by La Niña may have caused widespread flooding, but they’ve also provided a reprieve from the threat of bushfires in southeastern Australia. This is an ideal time to consider how we prepare for the next bushfire season.

Fire management in Australia has reached a crossroads, and “business as usual” won’t cut it. In this era of mega-fires, diverse strategies are urgently needed so we can safely live with fire’.

https://theconversation.com/fire-management-in-australia-has-reached-a-crossroads-and-business-as-usual-wont-cut-it-174696

 

Fire and community resilience

 

Should you build your home stronger to withstand the possible impacts of climate change?

‘Having lived through bushfires, including the devastating Waroona-Yarloop blaze, he and his husband have gone well beyond basic code in their build.

They have invested tens of thousand of dollars adding a reliable, long-term water supply, superficial sprinklers across the roofing system and fire-resilient landscaping around the house.

"I think we need to move beyond minimum compliance, and ensure what we produce imagines the worst-case fire," he said.

"What if we get the 1 in 1000 year fire, which we haven't experienced?"

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-10/people-building-for-climate-change/100704084

 

Protecting Homes From The Next Climate Firestorm

Improved wildfire building codes are protecting homes in California, and could soon come to Colorado.

Wildfires and other extreme weather events will continue to encroach into new areas and cause more damage, thanks to the burning of fossil fuels causing climate change. Meanwhile, new research indicates that markets have failed to incentivize people to take even minimal adaptation measures in the face of these growing risks.

But a new study about wildfire building codes, published in the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), reveals that state-mandated mitigation measures may be even more effective at protecting people against climate risks than previously thought. 

https://www.dailyposter.com/protecting-homes-from-the-next-climate-firestorm/

 

As summer heat and bushfire seasons intensify, Aussies may need to be better prepared for their getaways

An interesting piece from one of the key climate denier platformers in the country (Murdoch’s Herald Sun):

‘Rising temperatures cause longer and more frequent heatwaves, while also intensifying catastrophic bushfire conditions.

By 2050, the number of 'very high' or 'extreme' fire days in Australia could increase by up to 70 per cent.

This puts campers, tourism operators, and firefighters at increased risk’.

The story asks:

‘should we shift our traditional summer holidays to late March and early April to make the most of milder conditions’.

https://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/outer-east/hyperlocal/as-summer-heat-and-bushfire-seasons-intensify-aussies-may-need-to-be-better-prepared-for-their-getaways/news-story/64c08ec82750446d5e403df5ffb080cb?btr=6cd847b9f401d270b5209046c6bbc9b0

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Fire News update, #4 JAN 10, 2022

Current fires

 

Fires still burning in WA

A series of fires continue to burn in the south west, north west and central east of the state. The larger fires have now been contained (including the new breakout near Wooroloo).

https://www.emergency.wa.gov.au/#

 

Fires in the Gulf Country

Rohan Fisher, a North Australian fire scientist, reports that on January 9, a ‘massive, fast moving fire burnt through savanna woodlands’ in the Gulf Country. This was ‘an unseasonal high severity fire, not good to see. Scary for land managers and traditional owner's in the gulf region’.

 

‘Google launches bushfire feature to help users stay safe’

Google has announced that it has a new function on its Maps, which allows you to check local fire activity (you need to click on the Layer option when you are in Google Maps).

Google says ‘The new bushfire layer will help Australians to access official real-time bushfire information in a quicker and easier way.’

https://7news.com.au/technology/new-bushfires-near-me-google-maps-feature-launched-in-australia-c-4956918

 

Poolaijelo farming community on Victoria-SA border counts cost of New Year grassfire

A look at the costs and clean up from the recent fires on the SA/ Victorian border.

Thousands of livestock perished or have been destroyed. So awful for farmers: ‘Most devastating was the loss of livestock, largely sheep, including thousands that had to be destroyed after sustaining injuries in the fire’.

The fire also burnt into state forest that is home to the endangered red-tailed black cockatoo

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-02/victorian-border-farming-community-counts-cost-of-new-year-fire/100735120

 

Climate change and fires

 

Climate scientists grapple with wildfire disaster in their backyard

The wind-whipped firestorm that tore through parts of Boulder County, Colorado, on Thursday struck at the heart of one of America's top climate science and meteorology research hubs.

The Marshall Fire destroyed as many as 1,000 homes and may have killed two people, while leaving thousands of others homeless after tearing through Denver's northern suburbs of Superior, Louisville and Broomfield.

Climate researcher Russ Schumacher said climate change played a key role, noting that recent years have caused experts to rethink the meaning of "fire season" in Colorado.

https://www.axios.com/climate-scientists-colorado-wildfire-disaster-56480c87-2058-4df9-9266-24911cb0842a.html

 

Colorado Wildfire Destruction Was Caused by Embers Flung for Miles

It’s a familiar tale:

‘Communities far from flammable forests are increasingly at risk, as drought causes embers to burn hotter and travel farther’. (This may appear behind a pay wall).

https://www.wsj.com/articles/colorado-wildfire-destruction-was-caused-by-embers-flung-for-miles-11641470402

 

Forest regeneration funding misses burning issue

This story is a reminder about the impact of climate change driven fire regimes in our forests:

‘The Victorian government’s announcement late last year that it would commit $2.38 million to establish “best practice procedures” for management of regenerated timber-harvesting coupes is welcome, but misses the most important regeneration issue facing our forests – extensive forest loss caused by multiple, landscape-scale bushfires over the past 20 years.

‘The biggest threat to regeneration, and one that affects all forests, is frequent, severe bushfire – which can kill immature trees before they are old enough to set seed and regenerate naturally’.

‘This is a ticking time bomb in our forests, given the threat of increased fire risk in a rapidly changing climate. At least 140,000 ha of fire-killed ash forest is now in an immature condition in Victoria and at risk of forest loss if burned again within 20 years’. 

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/forest-regeneration-funding-misses-burning-issue-20211227-p59k9j.html

 

Wildfires Are Digging Carbon-Spewing Holes in the Arctic

Soaring temperatures are rapidly thawing permafrost, leading to huge sinkholes called thermokarst. Northern fires are making the situation even worse.

‘A PERFECT STORM is ravaging the Arctic—literally. As the world warms, more lightning systems are igniting more peat fires. They burn through ancient buried plant material and release great plumes of greenhouse gases, which further warm the planet. At the same time, as plant species march north thanks to a more hospitable climate, the Arctic is greening. That darkens the landscape and absorbs more of the sun’s energy, further heating the region. It also provides more fuel to burn’.

https://www.wired.com/story/wildfires-are-digging-carbon-spewing-holes-in-the-arctic/

 

‘Drastic’ rise in high Arctic lightning has scientists worried

‘The high Arctic saw a dramatic rise in lightning in 2021 in what could be one of the most spectacular manifestations of the climate crisis.

With temperatures rising in the Arctic at three times the global average, tracking lightning in the region has become an important indicator of the climate crisis.

“A changing climate may increase the potential for lightning-triggered wildfires.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/07/lightning-high-arctic-rise-scientists-worried

 

It’s the same story here

In western Tasmania, ‘we reached a ‘tipping point’ sometime around the year 2000 and that, since then, there has been an increase in the number of lightning-caused fires and an increase in the average size of the fires, “resulting in a marked increase in the area burnt”.

A study, published in the academic journal Fire in 2018, warns the state’s heritage forests face rising threats because of the tendency toward drier summers and that the probability of “catastrophic” fires could increase as a result of more fuel igniting from lightning strikes.

https://themountainjournal.com/2018/11/05/something-changed-about-2000-tas-forests-threatened-by-catastrophic-bushfires/

 

Refugees fight fires to preserve Mauritania’s environment

Refugees from Mali and local Mauritanians have formed voluntary fire brigades to fight fires in Mauritania.

Mauritania in western Africa is already feeling the impacts of climate change. About 90 per cent of its territory is desert, making it especially vulnerable to the effects of deforestation and drought.

As the climate here has become hotter, the frequency of wildfires has increased at an alarming rate, posing a serious threat to the dwindling grass and tree cover. 

“We have never seen a year like this. This is the year with the most bushfires.” 

https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2021/11/61a626e74/refugees-fight-fires-preserve-mauritanias-environment.html

 

First Nations and fire

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Fire culture

 

New CSIRO model to predict eucalypt bushfire behaviour will save lives

The CSIRO and the NSW Rural Fire Service have released a new model for predicting the speed and behaviour of eucalypt forest fires, which will ‘help save lives and properties during bushfires’.

The new mathematical description of how a fire responds to environmental conditions - labelled Vesta Mark 2 - will be rolled out nationally this summer and help fire control rooms across the country to predict and suppress bushfires as they spread across the landscape, and to warn the public.

https://www.theland.com.au/story/7569783/new-csiro-model-to-predict-eucalypt-bushfire-behaviour-will-save-lives/

 

Development of ultra-luxury Northern California resort stopped due to wildfire risk

This sort of thing is going to increasingly impact on decision making around planning here in Australia. This example is from California.

‘A judge stopped the development of a massive ultra-luxury resort in Northern California on Tuesday because developers failed to consider what would unfold if a wildfire exploded and thousands of guests had to escape raging flames.

“The recent history of wildfires has taught us that we need to be prepared for the next disaster,” Peter Broderick, a center attorney, wrote in a statement. “Part of that preparation is making sound land-use decisions and only approving developments that adequately address, not worsen, wildfire risks. Building in California’s fire-prone wildlands is dangerous for people and terrible for our imperiled wildlife.”

https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Lake-County-Guenoc-Valley-resort-wildfire-risk-16756752.php

 

Fire and community resilience

 

Two years on from the 2019/20 fires

January is a tough month for many people because two years ago, much of the south east of the country was on fire. There are so many significant dates across that summer, and especially during that month.

A timeline of the fires during the summer can be found here.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019–20_Australian_bushfire_season

 

 

This Isn’t the California I Married

What happens when you move somewhere because you fall in love with the landscape, but then find the land changing because of fire?

‘Living in California now meant accepting that fire was no longer an episodic hazard, like earthquakes. Wildfire was a constant, with us everywhere, every day, all year long

“We’re no longer dealing with a fire regime that responds to the kinds of mild prevention and mild responses we have thought about. It means the lives we had we no longer have.”

We can’t fix California’s wildfire problem with a big idea. We can only settle into the trans-​​​apocalypse and work for the best future, the best present. That starts with acknowledging that our political structures have failed us and keep failing us every day. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/03/magazine/california-widfires.html

 

Wildfire survivors face another threat: PTSD

As disasters become more frequent, acute stress can turn chronic.

This story looks at the impacts of repeat fire events on people in western USA. ‘Back-to-back disasters can undermine recovery, making it all the more likely that an acute stress response will develop into a chronic issue like PTSD.’ 

https://www.hcn.org/articles/wildfire-survivors-face-another-threat-ptsd

 

Fire and biodiversity

 

Google’s AI technology to identify animals impacted by bushfires

WWF-Australia and Conservation International, supported with a USD 1 million grant from Google’s philanthropic arm Google.org, have launched An Eye on Recovery, a large-scale collaborative camera sensor project.

The project will install more than 600 sensor cameras to monitor wildlife in landscapes impacted by last summer’s bushfires, including the Blue Mountains, East Gippsland, Kangaroo Island, and South East Queensland.

The first cameras have been installed on Kangaroo Island – where fires consumed half of the island – to monitor species like the critically endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart.

https://www.wwf.org.au/news/news/2020/googles-ai-technology-to-identify-animals-impacted-by-bushfires#gs.ksm5c4

 

Surprisingly few animals die in wildfires – and that means we can help more in the aftermath

‘Our new research, published today in Global Change Biology, suggests that, on average, the vast majority of animals (more than 90%) actually survive the immediate passage of a typical fire. But there are precious few studies of animal survival through catastrophic fires, such as those observed during Australia’s Black Summer. 

We urgently need data on how animals cope with megafires, given these are expected to increase in a warming world.

When you read a headline about the number of animals killed in fires, it can be easy to despair. 

That’s why we believe our research is good news. Why? Because it means there may be a narrow window of opportunity after fires to have a real impact, by helping animals survive the challenging post-fire period’.

https://theconversation.com/surprisingly-few-animals-die-in-wildfires-and-that-means-we-can-help-more-in-the-aftermath-174392

 

Bushfires helping cane toads thrive: study

Researchers at Sydney's Macquarie University have found that fires diminish the presence of tiny threadlike worms known as Rhabdias pseudosphaerocephala, which are the toad's natural enemy.

In effect, one of the biggest known threats to the survival of Australia's unique fauna would appear to be to the despised cane toad's advantage.

"At first sight, we might expect an intense fire to be deadly to an invasive amphibian such as the cane toad by killing them and drying out their habitats," said Professor Rick Shine from Macquarie's biology department. "However cane toads actively prefer relatively open habitats for foraging and thus can thrive in post-fire landscapes”.

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7574085/bushfires-helping-cane-toads-thrive-study/

 

Take action

 

Aircraft missing from Victoria’s bushfire response

It was reported last week in the Herald Sun that ‘Two large waterbombing helicopters ordered for the summer are still on their way to Victoria and have already missed the season’s largest fire so far.

Two large waterbombing helicopters ordered for the summer, a Boeing CH-47 Chinook and an Erickson Air Crane, are still on their way to Victoria.

The Bushfire Royal Commission recommended we invest in 'sovereign aerial firefighting capability', incl large helicopters. This highlights the problems with leasing these aircraft. They will get ever harder to secure in a world with longer fire seasons

 

Please take a minute to Support the call for a publicly owned air fleet to fight fires.

https://www.foe.org.au/firefighting

https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/aircraft-missing-from-victorias-bushfire-response/news-story/a9edde8c68256a91438c4e621d1a86b7?btr=1817cffc6bb8baffd975457472db57f8

 

How would we pay for this fleet?

The Australia Institute is proposing a National Climate Disaster Fund, funded by a levy of $1 per tonne of all coal gas and oil produced in Australia to help pay for some of the increasing costs of these climate disasters.

A $1 levy on fossil fuel production in Australia would currently raise around $1.5 billion a year for the National Climate Disaster Fund. While the Institute suggests the money generated could be allocated to sectors and communities which are affected by climate change, like First Nations and farmers, some of it could also be allocated to fire fighting capacity, including planes.

 

Support the call for additional firefighting resources to fight fires in national parks in Victoria.

https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/snow_gum_petition

 

Screen_Shot_2021-01-19_at_2.08.57_pm.png

Fire News update, #3. JAN 3, 2022

 

Current fires

After a slow start and mild summer across a lot of the country, we are now well into a serious fire season.

 

Fires in NW WA and the Top End.

Check the twitter account of Rohan Fisher, a fire scientist based in Darwin, for some incredible images from recent fires in the Pilbara, Great Sandy Desert and elsewhere in the North.

Onslow.jpg

IMAGE from Rohan Fisher: 'This fire from last Thursday - east of Onslow, Pilbara. Burning along dry drainage lines with fuel under extreme hot conditions'.

 

Heavy stock losses as fire races through farms, forest in western Victoria

There have been dangerous fires in South Australia and western Victoria in recent days.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-01/grassfire-burns-in-western-victoria/100734224

 

Fire in northern Victoria

There is still a ‘Watch and Act’ message for Barmah, Barmah East, Lower Moira, Picola, Yambuna in the north of Victoria. There is an active bushfire at Yambuna that is under control, but there are fears it may travel in a northerly direction from Yambuna towards Barmah because of strong winds which have been forecast for Monday.

20211205_160208.jpg

Large fire in Melbourne's north west

And in Melbourne, a large grassfire at a former ammunitions factory site in the north western suburbs threatened nearby houses. The fire was in Maribyrnong.

In a reminder of the 2019/20 season, the fire sent significant amounts of smoke across Melbourne's north west.

https://www.9news.com.au/national/large-fire-burning-at-old-factory-site-in-melbournes-north-west/d7a9ab8b-e108-4f90-8a5a-3be245e97b30

 

How climate change played key role in disastrous Colorado wildfires

Despite the fact that it is winter in the northern hemisphere, over the weekend, hundreds of homes have been destroyed in Superior, Colorado.

As with many climate change-amplified disasters, the conditions that set the stage for the explosive and fast-moving fires had been developing and intensifying in the months prior.

Information on the link between climate change and these fires.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/climate-change-played-key-role-disastrous-colorado-wildfires/

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/climate-change-primed-colorado-rare-december-wildfire-rcna10543

 

The Return of the Urban Firestorm

The Colorado fires occurred in a suburban area rather than a heavily forested urban fringe or rural area. ‘What happened in Colorado was something much scarier than a wildfire’.

‘By the standards of the megafires and gigafires of the last few years, the Marshall Fire was quite small — 6,000 acres, all told, once it was finally brought to an end by snowfall on New Year’s Eve. But following the driest and second-warmest fall in 150 years, the devastation was harrowing out of proportion to its scale, since unlike most wildfire it was not in wildland or forest but was — as the climate scientist Daniel Swain, who lives in Boulder, put it — an “urban firestorm.”

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/01/colorado-saw-the-return-of-the-urban-firestorm.html

 

And in a sad irony, snowfalls helped firefighters get on top of the Colorado fires.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/two-days-ago-colorado-was-fighting-catastrophic-fires-now-it-s-blanketed-by-snow/c8dd7857-aff2-499f-b344-f387b78b3a6e

 

Climate change and fires

 

Extreme weather communication guides

The Climate Council has released a new guide to communicating the influence of climate change on events like wildfires.

‘Climate change is supercharging our atmosphere and leading to more frequent and severe extreme weather events, such as bushfires, heatwaves, flooding and cyclones. Australians are paying the price in costs to their health, lost lives and livelihoods.

We’ve produced this communication guide so you can accurately explain the link between extreme weather events and climate change’.

https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/extreme-weather-communication-guides/

 

Don’t let La Nina fool you, Black Summer could be around the corner

An opinion piece from Greg Mullins, Former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner.

‘In the last 32 years the amount of land burnt by bushfires annually in Australia has increased by 800 per cent, and the scientists who established this say the increase is directly driven by human-caused climate change.

We cannot fall into complacency.

It will only take a flash-drought, a heatwave, an intense change of weather and the growth that has sprung up could turn into ominously heavy fuel loads for fires'.

https://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/don-t-let-la-nina-fool-you-black-summer-could-be-around-the-corner-20211221-p59jdf.html

 

Why WA's south-west is drying out at one of the worst rates in the world

We know that climate change driven background warming and drying impacts on the severity of bushfire seasons.

‘As parts of Western Australia are tipped for another scorching hot summer, climate change is leaving a worrying footprint on the south-west of the state.

Experts agree the region is drying out at a globally significant rate.

Since the late 60s, rainfall in the region has declined by up to 20 per cent overall. “A hotter climate means you have more evaporation, drier soils soak up more waters and also trees need to use more water when it’s dry’.

In simple terms – a drier environment, which burns more easily and intensely.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-28/why-south-west-wa-is-drying-out/100625142

 

First Nations and fire

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Fire culture

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Fire and community resilience

 

Two years on from the 2019/20 fires

January is a tough month for many people because two years ago, much of the south east of the country was on fire. There are so many significant dates across that summer, and especially during that month.

A timeline of the fires during the summer can be found here.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019–20_Australian_bushfire_season

 

Black Summer revisited: meet the survivors of Australia's devastating 2019-2020 bushfires rebuilding their lives one day at a time

This looks at the impacts of the fires in SE NSW two years on.

‘Venturing into the burnt zone brings back many memories, some haunting, others abundantly enriching. The landscape is still scarred but is healing. And just as every fold in the landscape will renew itself at a different pace, so too will the people. 

‘As harrowing as the fires were, they did bring Australians together as a community and we should never forget that’. 

https://www.thecourier.com.au/story/7564385/if-hell-had-a-cathedral-it-would-look-like-this-two-years-on-fire-scars-healing/

 

The 2019-20 Bushfire History Project

This project was an initiative of the Royal Commission into the National Natural Disaster Arrangements. It provided an opportunity for people to record their personal experience and share photos and videos taken during the 2019-20 bushfires or the ongoing recovery. There are some excellent videos available on the website.

https://naturaldisaster.royalcommission.gov.au/2019-20-bushfire-history-project

 

Mice, floods, pandemic: South Coast hit with ongoing challenges two years after bushfires

There is so much in this story – the long term impacts of fire on individuals and communities, the sometimes short sighted and ad hoc nature of government support for fire affected areas, and the way that communities self organise after natural disasters.

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7548477/mice-floods-pandemic-south-coast-hit-with-ongoing-challenges-two-years-after-bushfires/

 

Fire and biodiversity

 

Sambar deer are destroying rainforest canopy trees in fire-affected regions

"We know these rainforests can recover from fire, but we also know deer have the capacity to interrupt those processes,"

"If sambar choose to thrash or antlers rub on these tree ferns, it may actually cause a localised extinction of this species."

This site has been prioritised by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) for deer control.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-27/sambar-deer-damage-rainforests-in-fire-ravaged-areas/100660722

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Fire News update, #2. DEC 26, 2021

 

Current fires

 

Bushfires in WA

Bushfires are threatening homes in the Perth Hills. Last night, authorities issued an emergency warning at 6.07pm for people in Wooroloo and Chidlow. People living in Warrigal Estate were advised to shelter in their homes as it was not safe to leave. Last night, multiple structures were on fire and residents were warned to“act immediately to survive” as the fire threatened “lives and homes.”

A second bushfire is threatening homes in the Augusta-Margaret River Shire, about 300 kilometres south of Perth. An emergency warning has been issued, and people have been ordered to evacuate.

 

Meanwhile, fires are still burning in the northern hemisphere …

After a horror summer across the northern hemisphere, some areas are still experiencing wild fires even though it is well into winter. In this instance, from Colorado, normally cold conditions have been replaced by warm temperatures and high winds blowing dust and fanning any fires that start.

https://www.outtherecolorado.com/news/blodgett-peak-fire-air-attack-underway-pre-evacuation-orders-remain/article_fa4f773d-567f-59ca-9296-eb9781d136cf.html

 

Fire news

A new Large Air Tanker

Australia relies on having access to Large Air Tankers (LATs) and large helicopters to be able to fight fires. The recent Bushfire Royal Commission report recommends the creation of a national aerial firefighting fleet, which can then be allocated to the states "according to greatest national need".

Given Australia currently relies heavily on overseas-based aircraft which are leased for the season, this makes sense.

We own one LAT (which belongs to the NSW Rural Fire Service). The federal government has secured a second LAT via a leasing arrangement which will be available year round. Two Black Hawk helicopters have also joined the west’s aerial firefighting fleet for the first time this season, on loan from the US and New Zealand.

This is a good move but still not enough. We need to own more planes.

https://thewest.com.au/news/new-weapon-to-fight-aussie-bushfires-kicks-off-service-in-wa-c-5065456

 

Please sign the letter to the PM here urging him to establish a publicly owned air fleet.

https://www.foe.org.au/firefighting

 

Climate change and fires

Scientists find climate-driven tree mortality and fuel aridity increase wildfire fuel availability

In short, the message of this research is that ‘more fire means more fire’.

‘New research conducted by scientists at The University of New Mexico suggests climate-driven tree mortality and fuel aridity are increasing fuel availability in forests leading to record-breaking wildfires in size, spread and plume formation.

In North America, wildfire activity has been increasing in large part due to climate change, which is increasing the amount of energy stored in biomass that can be released as heat during a wildfire. Drought stress, insect outbreaks, and temperature increases have caused large areas of tree mortality and rising temperatures are drying out forest fuels, making them more available to burn’.

https://news.unm.edu/news/unm-scientists-find-climate-driven-tree-mortality-and-fuel-aridity-increase-wildfire-fuel-availability

 

Bushfire Royal Commission accountability tracker

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements was established on the 20th February 2020 in response to the horrific 2019/20 fire season. The final report was delivered to the Governor-General on the 28th October 2020, and tabled in Parliament on 30th October 2020.

The Federal Government released its response to the Royal Commission on Friday the 13th November 2020 and since Tuesday 2 February 2021 releases a document tracking its progress monthly. 

To help hold the Government to account on implementing the Royal Commission, we are highlighting 10 recommendations of the 80 and tracking their progress live.

https://emergencyleadersforclimateaction.org.au/bushfire-royal-commission-accountability-tracker/

 

The changing nature of bushfires is leaving emergency services with less relief at night

Firefighters are being forced to adapt to changing bushfire behaviour, as relentless winds and dry conditions mean they have less reprieve at night to get on top of out-of-control blazes.

Senior firefighters have noticed this pattern emerging at bushfires over the last few years and are recalibrating both mitigation strategies and the way fires are being fought. 

“The difference now is we're not getting any reprieve overnight" - WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) deputy commissioner of operations Craig Waters.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-24/the-changing-nature-of-bushfires-offers-less-reprieve-at-night/100718446

 

The planet is burning

This is a few years old but worth a read if you are not familiar with the term the ‘Pyrocene’.

‘As an idea, the Pyrocene gives us a usable narrative, a crisp analogy, and a new way to imagine our fast-morphing world.

We need to shut down as quickly as possible our binge-burning of fossil biomass and clean up as much of the mess as we can. A full-blown Fire Age will not be a pretty picture.’

https://aeon.co/essays/the-planet-is-burning-around-us-is-it-time-to-declare-the-pyrocene

 

First Nations and fire

Rekindling with Fire

 

This story is from North America.

‘My tribe, like many tribes, carefully stewarded the land, using tools like burning and implementing fire management. But our traditional practices were violently disrupted by colonialism and continue to be impeded by the U.S. government.

I was eager to see fire reclaim its rightful place within the landscape, eager to reclaim a role in stewarding the land the way my ancestors had, using fire as a tool to maintain the savanna’.

https://www.adventure-journal.com/2021/12/rekindling-with-fire/

 

Fire culture

It’s important we see first responders as the humans they are

Anyone who has worked on a fire ground will know that firefighters can see awful things. These can impact on you for years to come. The recent death of children in Devonport, and obvious terrible impact on first responders, is a reminder that we are all human, and that we need to look out for each other when we are exposed to trauma.

https://www.theage.com.au/national/it-s-important-we-see-first-responders-as-the-humans-they-are-20211221-p59j7f.html

 

Fire and community resilience

Black Summer bushfires led to 'huge health burden', researchers say

The 2019-20 bushfire season, in which 34 people died and more than five million hectares were burnt over six months, led to record readings for air pollution in NSW.

Breathing and heart problems surged during the Black Summer bushfire season, causing researchers to warn that  climate change requires better fire-prevention strategies to reduce health problems.

Small particles in bushfire smoke have been shown to result in increased cell damage and the smoke can led to lung inflammation.

https://amp-sbs-com-au.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/amp.sbs.com.au/eds/news/article/black-summer-bushfires-led-to-huge-health-burden-researchers-say/d544dd76-009a-4055-9eaa-e5dc526ab8d4?amp=1

 

Rising regional populations a challenge for bushfire protection

This is a phenomena across much of the country: people from large cities are moving to country areas and regional centres. Many people are not used to living with fire, and new housing is often exposed to considerable fire risk. This in turn is impacting on the ability of land managers to fight fires and carry out fuel reduction activity. This story is from Victoria:

‘Fast-growing communities living beside bushland on the Great Ocean Road, Daylesford and outskirts of Bendigo are among the groups of tree-changers causing fire management headaches for Forest Fire Management Victoria’.

https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/victoria/rising-regional-populations-a-challenge-for-bushfire-protection-20211223-p59jr6.html

 

Wildfire survivors face another threat: PTSD

As disasters like bushfires become more frequent, acute stress can turn chronic.

‘Extreme weather events are becoming both more frequent and severe, and now, the next fire, hurricane or flood often hits before the hard work of recovery is done. Trauma is already accumulating in some of the regions hit hardest by climate change’. 

‘Back-to-back disasters can undermine recovery, making it all the more likely that an acute stress response will develop into a chronic issue like PTSD’. 

https://www.hcn.org/articles/wildfire-survivors-face-another-threat-ptsd

 

 

 

Fire News update, #1. DEC 21, 2021

Current fires

 

Lutruwita/ Tasmania

Two bushfires are burning in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area near Eldon Range west of Lake St Clair and at Mt Rufus immediately west of Lake St Clair, following multiple dry lightning strikes on Saturday morning.

Further information > https://themountainjournal.com/2021/12/20/fires-in-tasmanian-world-heritage-areas/

 

Climate change and fires

Wildfires break carbon emission records

Wildfires produced a record amount of carbon emissions in parts of Siberia, the United States and Turkey this year, as climate change fanned unusually intense blazes, the European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said on Monday.

Wildfires emitted 1.76 billion tonnes of carbon globally in 2021, Copernicus said. That's equivalent to more than double Germany's annual CO2 emissions.

https://www.inkl.com/news/from-siberia-to-the-u-s-wildfires-broke-emissions-records-this-year

 

What Do the Australian Black Summer Fires Signify for the Global Fire Crisis?

New research, published in the Fire Journal, shows that climate change is influencing fire seasons in Australia, and reducing the benefits of fuel reduction burning.

‘The fires produced large carbon emissions, burnt fire-sensitive ecosystems and exposed large areas to the risk of biodiversity decline by being too frequently burnt in the future. We argue that the rate of change in fire risk delivered by climate change is outstripping the capacity of our ecological and social systems to adapt’.

https://www.mdpi.com/2571-6255/4/4/97

 

Australia’s Black Summer of fire was not normal – and we can prove it

The Black Summer forest fires of 2019–2020 burned more than 24 million hectares, directly causing 33 deaths and almost 450 more from smoke inhalation.

But were these fires unprecedented? You might remember sceptics questioning the idea that the Black Summer fires really were worse than conflagrations like the 1939 Black Friday fires in Victoria.

We can now confidently say that these fires were far from normal. Our new analysis of Australian forest fire trends just published in Nature Communications confirms for the first time the Black Summer fires are part of a clear trend of worsening fire weather and ever-larger forest areas burned by fires.

https://blog.csiro.au/bushfires-linked-climate-change/

 

First Nations and fire

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Fire culture

This is a tough week for many firefighters as it marks the anniversary of the deaths of two RFS volunteers who were killed on 19 December 2019 when their fire tanker rolled down an embankment. Another RFS volunteer sustained fatal injuries in a freak weather event on 30 December 2019.

https://knowledge.aidr.org.au/resources/black-summer-bushfires-nsw-2019-20/

 

Fire and community resilience

Building Community Resilience to Bushfires

The project focussed on the particular community of Kangaroo Valley and how members of that community prepared for, responded to and recovered from the impact of the Currowan  Bushfire that impacted the Valley on 4th of January 2020.

The researchers set out to document and activities and perspectives of members of that community and of other organisations regarding enhancement of community resilience bushfires.  The long-term aim was then to develop guidance and resources to help KV, and other communities prepare for, and recover from, possible future bushfires, or other emergencies.

https://www.uow.edu.au/global-challenges/building-resilient-communities/building-community-resilience-to-bushfires/

 

Fire and biodiversity

Victorian State of the Environment Biodiversity Update.

‘The severity, extent, frequency and duration of bushfires have all increased, fire seasons are now longer and more dangerous, and the window for fuel management is closing.

‘Many areas are now experiencing increased frequency of fires, the area of public forests below the minimum Tolerable Fire Interval (TFI) is increasing, and the area with a no burn history is decreasing. This threatens species and communities that lack resilience to fire’.

https://www.ces.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/publication-documents/Executive%20Summary%20-%20State%20of%20the%20Environment%20Biodiversity%20Update%202021%20Report_WEB.pdf

 

 

Background information

 

FoE’s resources on fire are available here >

https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/living_with_fire_in_the_pyrocene

 

Why we need additional aerial resources to fight fires.

https://www.foe.org.au/fires_and_air_support

 

General resources on climate change and fire (focus on SE Australia) . https://themountainjournal.com/environment/fire/

 

Climate Council resources on bushfires > https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/?category=bushfires

 

Australian Firefighters for Climate Action facebook page > https://www.facebook.com/ausfca

 

Climate Council Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements ‘accountability tracker’. https://emergencyleadersforclimateaction.org.au/bushfire-royal-commission-accountability-tracker/

 

Fire and Culture Wars. We know that arson and ‘lack of fuel reduction’ is often used by conservative media to push back against the argument that climate change is making fire seasons worse. Resources here > https://www.foe.org.au/bushfire_disinformation

 

Take action

 

Fire as a threatening process

 

A draft Advice to the Minister for the Environment from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee on amendments to the List of Key Threatening Processes under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 recommends that fire be added to the list of threatening processes under the EPBC.

 

You can provide comment, and support this proposal (please do so before JAN 10).

 

https://www.awe.gov.au/node/18974

 

https://www.awe.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/fire-regimes-that-cause-biodiversity-decline-ktp.pdf

 

Support the call for a publicly owned air fleet to fight fires.

https://www.foe.org.au/firefighting

 

Support the call for additional firefighting resources to fight fires in national parks in Victoria.

https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/snow_gum_petition

 

 

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