AUSTRALIA: Australia should be prepared for grassfires on a scale never seen before, warns a new report, saying that the spring and summer of 2023–24 could witness widespread fire risk “supercharged” by the climate catastrophe.
The Climate Council and Emergency Leaders for Climate Action report also said that from now until April, there is a higher risk of grassfires starting in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia.
This summer, firefighters have fought numerous grassfires in rural Queensland and NSW. As per fire officials, consecutive La Nias in eastern Australia has caused a profusion of vegetation growth.
In its study, the Climate Council reported that due to recent high rains, fuel loads in some inland areas, which typically ranged between 0.5 and 1.5 tonnes per hectare, had increased to between 4.5 and 6 tonnes per hectare.
Heatwaves and dry weather were now turning those regions yellow and brown, resulting in what the report called “powder keg” conditions for future fires. Models utilized by the Bureau of Meteorology show that three years of above-average rainfall might give way to a hot and dry El Niño period this year.
The summer of 2023–24 will very probably witness a return to normal or above-normal fire conditions, as per Greg Mullins, a former commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW and the founder of Emergency Leaders for Climate Action.
“Every level of government needs to grasp the growing risk of deadly fires and step up preparation right away,” he said.
Grassfires can be just as dangerous, even though they are typically less severe than forest fires. They may move up to three times as quickly as a bushfire and can surprise people with their quickness. The research shows Australia’s largest grassfires occurred in 1974 and 1975 after a protracted La Nina.
Since then, the climate problem has worsened, and extreme weather has become more frequent, raising fears that large-scale grassfires could be more lethal and destructive.
“Firefighters worry that grassfires in hot, dry, windy circumstances exacerbated by climate change might spread on a scale never previously seen, potentially overtaxing emergency services at times and putting people in grave danger,” Mullins stated.
The Climate Council and emergency leaders make many suggestions for climate action, including more funding for disaster response by land management organizations and emergency services.
In their report, they urged the federal government to create an all-encompassing plan for disaster preparedness and climate adaptation and to provide greater money for community-based initiatives promoting resilience.
It states that emergency management organizations and state and municipal governments require permanent mechanisms in place rather than ad hoc ones for long-term disaster recovery operations.
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