The truth and misconceptions around Australia's Bushfires.
Unless you've been living under a rock you have no doubt seen and heard about the current bush-fires raging around Australia. It has made international headlines and footage and images spread along social media faster than the fires themselves.
I live very close to some of the current fires burning in Victoria, by close I mean we evacuated the wildlife rescue at the prison and at our home last week in preparation. Thankfully the animals were able to return home a day later as the winds changed and sent the fire away from our little town. The same town was not so lucky in 2009 during the Black Saturday fires when 30,000 ha was burnt and 29 homes lost.
As someone who lives here, who is good friends with members of the CFA (Country fire authority, a statewide volunteer group dedicated to fighting bushfires) and knows how to do a simple google search to see if something is bullshit or not, thought I might share with you some of the knowledge I have and an insight from people who know what they're talking about. There is ALOT of misinformation being spread around, including fake maps, fake images, fake stories and then just downright lies perpetrated by politicians and media for their own agendas.
We have had worse fires in the past.
Hmm, this is tough because how do you quantify how bad a fire is?
Would it be the intensity of the flames themselves, the area burned, the lives lost, the property damage or the economic cost? What is it that determines bad from worse.
Australia has had fires for century's, that is undisputed. The damage however seems to be increasing in almost all quantitative ways.
This 2019-2020 Bush-fire season recording began on the 5th September 2019, in that time there have been:
29 human deaths.
2560 homes destroyed.
approximately 8,000 buildings destroyed.
18.6 million Ha of land burnt.
Estimates of over 1 billion animal deaths not including frogs and insects.
It seems a lot, but other fires have had higher numbers for a lot of those statistics.( I would of preferred a better term as I don't really like referring to dead people and animals as "statistics")
The 1974-75 bush-fire season saw over 115 million hectares of land burnt
The Black Saturday fires saw 173 people lose their lives.
Ash Wednesday saw over 2,400 homes destroyed as well.
In light of this is it fair to say the fires are getting worse?
Yes, because straight numbers don't really mean anything.
When 115 million hectares burnt in 1974-75 it was in the middle of nowhere, most of the damage and the extent of the fires were only found out afterwards due to satellite images. It happened in barren remote areas where not much of anything lives bar a few lizards and insects. Sure it was a lot of land but the damage was very little both in terms of monetary, human loss and environment loss.
Black Saturday saw a lot of lives lost but in a small area. The fires occurred in a fairly small area that had a fairly high population in comparison to other bush-fire prone areas. It was also mostly in areas that weren't usually as threatened, more water supplies and higher rainfall in the area was standard and the bush was closer to rain-forest in some parts, an unseasonable 3 year drought had dried these usually moist areas and allowed them to burn faster and harder than they normally would of. this resulted in a large loss of life over a small area.
The other thing is, the current fires aren't over, we cannot fully compare the damage yet. These fires are, so far at least as bad as the others, given we still have over a month of Summer left we aren't out of the woods. *If there's any left to be out of".
The blatantly fake stuff.
Greens stopping backburning.
Arsonists caused the fires.
The fake maps.
The fake fire damage photos.
The Greens have made no attempt to prevent hazard reduction burns, sometimes confused with back-burning. Back-burning is done during a fire, hazard reduction is done in the off-season when they are fully controllable and is used to reduce the dead fuel load on the forest floor.
Now aside from the Greens political party having absolutely 0 power over current government fire management policy, the Commissioner of the NSW fire department has himself come out and said that there has been no greens intervention in their ability to do hazard reduction burns and instead said that they still do them but the frequency and the window in which they can do it safely is shrinking.
This has stemmed from a number of areas but mostly because of a small number of activists who call themselves "greenies", they are not the political party, they are just environmentalists with the wrong idea. In a small number of cases these activists have chained themselves to trees and otherwise interrupted planned hazard reduction burns, citing that the areas are home to many species of animal that need it to survive. These people have no affiliation with the Greens party. different things.
Arsonists caused the fires
Yes and no. Arsonists are responsible for the starting of some fires, but not really any more than any other fire season in our history. There are fake reports of 200 people being arrested for arson but these are false. 29 people last time I checked had been charged with offenses relating to starting a bush-fire, this includes people using machinery inappropriately and starting grass fires, irresponsible campers with campfires and people starting fires by littering cigarettes. 200 people have been interviewed or arrested on charges relating to fire, most of these have nothing to do with starting a bush-fire though and are therefore irrelevant.
Even if arsonists started every fire in our country right now, that does not explain away the ground conditions, the lack of rainfall or any of the other factors that have contributed to these fires. Multiple people within the CFA that i both know personally or have spoken publicly have said "these fires are different, they are not behaving in the same way as fires we have experienced before. They are jumping containment lines they never used to, are moving faster and less predictable. In some areas we have done hazard reduction burns it hasn't made any difference, the intensity of the fire and the speed destroy everything and the lowered fuel has not served to slow it even a fraction"
This doesn't mean that hazard reduction doesn't work, it just means that it isn't as effective as it once was. Fires are jumping containment lines 100 metres wide, something most of the firies have never seen before in their 40+ years.
Arson might explain how a fire started but has no bearing on the fires damage once begun. the same fire could of been started by lightning and there would be no difference.
The fake maps and images.
Yes the fires are large and very damaging, we don't need to be lying about it. Some of the maps aren't necessarily lies but they do not paint an accurate picture, when you zoom in on the vicemergency map it shows where the fires are and where the sections have been burnt out. if you zoom out however it simply shows a small fire icon and the further you zoom the larger it gets, when zoomed out on the whole countrry or even just the one state it makes it appear as if the entire eastern seaboard is on fire and most of my state.
The reality is Australia is huge almost 770 million hectares. 18 million in comparison doesn't seem that big. the size though really isn't the issue.
So why are these fires so bad.
I believe in climate change and I believe it has played a role, however lets look at the other reasons these fires have been so bad.
We are in a drought. it is dry out there, in a lot of places there hasn't been proper rain in years. the forests are recording lower rainfall than ever before, even my hometown is down 200mm from last year, which is a lot since they only get 900mm on a good year anyway.
Another reason it is drying out more is, there is less forest than ever before. rainfall needs trees, the ground without tree cover drys out faster, has less dead matter to keep moisture in the ground and is less hardy against fire. Trees in Australia have evolved over millions of years and most of them deal with fire quite well, some species require fire to germinate seeds and kick-start production of new flowers and plants. Others even produce flammable oils/secretions that help them to eliminate the weaker competing species around.
When we clear this land, for farming, logging, crops, whatever it may be. we reduce our environments ability to balance itself. Grasslands and shrub will burns up almost immediately in a fire and fuel it on-wards at a much faster rate than a fire that is within a forest. At the same time though we have been reducing our forests ability to save itself, water mining out of the grounds leaving everything a little drier, clearing huge swathes of rain-helping trees and just generally taking from the environment with no regard.
For whatever reason our government failed to heed the warning of many scientists, fire chiefs and other field experts who tried to raise the alarm. Earlier in the year the the state fire chiefs met and informed the PM that this season would be incredibly bad for fires and more resources would be required as well as more preparation. They were ignored.
Irresponsible management of our country was a large contributor.
At the end of the day these fires are a result of a lot of factors. Either way it shouldn't be lied about regardless of what you believe. put forward the information that is correct and let people make up their own minds. if you need to lie to make your point then maybe you don't really have one.