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More frequent and intense fires: are we really ready?

As we head from the fire season into autumn, we want to reflect on our work at Friends of the Earth over the past few months and how it ties into the extreme weather we saw across our state this summer.

While we expected a dry summer with El Nino conditions, instead we got a wild ride of early fires in Gippsland mixed with widespread floods and storms, and then a late and brutal fire season. The big blazes in Gariwerd/ The Grampians and the Mt Cole/ Beaufort area (the Bayindeen fire) were devastating for local communities and have caused immense ecological damage. It is believed up to 98% of the Mt Cole reserve was burnt, even the cooler and wetter fern gullies.

If you have been to that part of the west you will know that the mountain ranges around Mt Cole and Ben Nevis are a precious stronghold of biodiversity, rich in animals, with tall mixed forests on the slopes and old snow gums on the higher peaks. 

As a CFA volunteer I spent nights out on that fire and I can honestly say I have never seen so many habitat trees ‘candle’ so badly - with the hollows catching on fire and sending out jets of flame. Pushed by strong winds and burning through a dry landscape, these fires were hot and intense. The sound of big old trees collapsing in the forest throughout the night will stay with me for a long time. It is truly horrifying to think how many arboreal mammals will have died in that fire.

Weather is getting more unpredictable. The frequency and intensity of fires are making them harder to fight, and with increasing risks to built infrastructure, ecosystems are getting sacrificed because of our fire fighting limitations.

The reality is - we need to be doing a lot more to prepare for climate impacts and we need leadership.

Back in January we launched our vision for a Climate Ready Victoria. Within this proposal we are calling on the State Government to: 

  • Fund additional Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV) remote area firefighting crews to protect fire-sensitive ecosystems and to stop fires while they are small.
  • We also want the government to establish a volunteer remote area firefighting team within the CFA, which would be tasked with supporting FFMV firefighters in protecting public and natural assets in national parks. The CFA supports our proposal, as do a range of environmental and climate action groups. We want this team to be open to people living in urban areas. It will be a cheap way to increase our ability to stop small fires turning into out of control blazes.

Please join us in calling on the premier to fund measures that help get fire fighters on site faster, and support a remote firefighting team as climate change makes our fire seasons longer and more intense. 

Send an Email to Premier Allan here


Keep safe out there.

Cam Walker - Friends of the Earth Melbourne


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