Intense blazes, longer fire seasons 'new normal' for region
IT'S been an intense few days on the fire front but residents should expect the devastation seen in Northern NSW to become "the new normal”, warns the former NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner.
Having battled fires for more than 50 years with NSW Fire and Rescue, Climate Councillor Greg Mullins has seen his fair share of destruction but worries the fires this region has seen this past week is only just the beginning.
"The fire seasons have been getting longer, they're starting earlier and finishing later,” Mr Mullins said.
"Observations over the last 20 years by scientists prove the official fire season, which is typically October 1 to March 3, probably needs to change.
"We're not having an early fire season, this is the fire season now.”
Mr Mullins warned things were only going to get worse from here on in, as the summer months approach.
"It's been confirmed that we've never recorded fire danger indexes in September like we had the other day,” he said.
"I've been to thousands of fires here, Spain, France and California and I'm now seeing stuff that I've never seen before.”
Mr Mullins said ongoing data had proven as temperatures continue to rise, the likelihood of a destructive fire season also continues to worsen each year.
"This isn't an old fire chief saying 'I think it's getting worse', this is based off CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC studies,” he said.
"The baseline temperature has gone up by a little over one degree, that means warmer winters and nights.
"There's been a 20 per cent decrease in winter rainfall over the years.
"That rainfall used to keep things damp up until October but that doesn't happen any more.
"The bush is far drier, and the extremes are higher, everything is more extreme.
"BoM is saying in some areas the fire season is three months longer than previously forecast.”
But despite the hard work of the on-the-ground firefighters, Mr Mullins said the Federal Government's inability to act on climate change means things need to be tackled head on instead of waiting for disaster to strike.
"If the government doesn't want to spend money on reducing climate change, they have to spend money on fighting the effects of it,” Mr Mullins said.
"The Federal Government needs to pay more than just the 10 per cent to the national firefighting fleet.
"There needs to be a lot more support for volunteers.
"The Federal Government has to back up the firefighters on the ground, and start getting ahead of (the fires).”