Recently the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition discussed the ever-increasing threat from fire to biodiversity, humans and our built environment, and decided there needs to be an urgent review of fire management across the country.
The decision to lobby for a review was triggered by the fact that the Clarence Valley had been ablaze for over a month with fire-fighters brought into the district from elsewhere, along with water-bombing aircraft, to support local brigades who had been stretched to the limit for weeks. Many of the scores of fires that erupted during the month were illegally lit, and many more remained uncontained for days or even weeks. And this all took place in winter!
The catalyst for this frenzy of burning was seemingly the announcement by the Rural Fire Service in the last week of July about bringing the “fire season” forward to the 1st of August. Since that announcement landowners, pyromaniacs, arsonists, and the just plain stupid, have been dropping matches everywhere across the valley, and residents have had to endure the choking smoke haze that has blanketed the valley ever since. Stinging eyes, blocked sinuses, and sore throats being only minor irritants compared with what asthmatics and those with lung ailments have had to endure.
Climate change is having an enormous influence on fire behaviour, not just here in Australia, but around the world. Unmanageable fires are now commonplace despite the introduction of new sophisticated techniques like fire suppressant chemicals and aerial water bombing. Catastrophic winter fires are now being reported on a regular basis on both sides of the equator, and this year summer fires even caused problems within the Arctic Circle.
No country is being spared. The human toll is mounting as is the cost of destroyed homes and infrastructure, but that comes nowhere close to the toll on the environment and wildlife. In short in many areas of the world, biodiversity declines as a direct result of fire, are leading to ecological collapse, something I fear we humans will feel the impact of in the not too distant future.
- John Edwards