Fire crews need to double for the future, according to research.
Fire crews need to double for the future, according to research. Frank Redward

The 'next big threat' facing us in future fire seasons

IF AUSTRALIA'S number of firefighters doesn't double into the future it will be "a recipe for disaster", experts say.

Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance spokesperson, Paul Gray, said one of the biggest long term issues facing Australia in bushfire season is there's just not enough crews, be it volunteer or full time, to deal with the potentials of moving forward.

Mr Gray said a study released around 2013 which predicted most of the professional and volunteer fire brigades would need to essentially look at doubling their workforce in many high risk areas within the 15 to 20 years was "not ambitious".

But, he said, no numbers of that kind were coming to fruition.

"We're not seeing anything like those sort of numbers being able to be recruited and retained. If anything, where we're struggling to keep people within the volunteer ranks."

Mr Gray said fatigue was a major issue for many, especially in the volunteer sphere or the ageing workforce.

"You get a few big seasons like this, it's often the same people that are responding to these incidents that have to turn around as soon as the rain starts falling and start responding to floods and swift waters," he said.

"It's quite often the case that they have to back up and deal with the other threat on the other side of it. It's kind of becoming a never-ending circus to move from one footing to another.

"We've seen it a lot more in the last few years where crews are expected to go from a wildfire frontage and a bushfire frontage ... to having to switch over to respond to swift water and flooding incidents at the blink of an eye."

He said many predicted a "nasty" fire season this year, but the threats don't end when it's over.

"Hopefully we can see the rain around at the end but the flip side of that is if we say too much rain, we have to move over to that other footing.

"More and more people are moving into that interface zone between the rural and the urban areas. So there's more risk. There's more houses and more people's lives at risk in those areas."



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