It was disappointing to read the article by Greg Mullins that was published in the Sunday Telegraph on Sunday 20th Jan 2019.
Mr Mullins is a well respected and long serving Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW. That respect was attacked by many readers as they posted comments on social media after reading the article.
From a VFFA perspective, it was disappointing that Mr Mullins failed to address the issue of FUEL loads as he blamed climate change for the wildfire problems we are facing.
The VFFA has always stated that “regardless of where any individual sits in the climate change debate, there can be no doubt that large fuel loads result in larger fires”.
I would like to go one step further by saying that proper land management that includes cool burning has the potential to save the environment and save us (fewer property losses and massive monetary savings). When asked if adding fire is desirable, I state that fires are natural occurrences when lightening strikes, perhaps we should not have been putting those out in the past (when fuel loads were not as bad as they are today).
Feel free to add your own comments and thoughts after this article.
Greg Mullins: Australia faces ‘new normal’ of year-round bushfires
Greg Mullins, The Sunday Telegraph
I’ve been battling fires for almost 50 years. In 1971 I worked alongside my dad as a volunteer firefighter in the northern Sydney suburb of Terrey Hills.
During my career, I rose to become Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, a position I held for almost 14 years. I’m now back serving on the frontline where I first started as a volunteer.
Over half a century I’ve been burnt, lacerated, gassed, bruised and broken.
I bear mental scars that aren’t as easily fixed as the physical ones.
People often ask me whether fighting fires scares me. The truth is, like most of my colleagues, I rarely think about the dangers when I’m focused on getting a job done. I must admit though there is something that frightens me and many other firefighters.
It’s climate change.
Extreme bushfire conditions in Australia are becoming worse as our climate warms. My dad saw it coming way back in 1994. He was a man who observed the natural world closely.
I remember him describing the 1939 heatwave when “the sky seemed to be on fire every night”.
Dad taught me a lot of bushcraft over the years; how to recognise the possibility of an approaching bad bushfire season by noting the times that certain trees flowered, certain insects arrived, and how there seemed to be weather cycles — 7 years, 11 years, 21 years.
But in 1994, during the massive NSW bushfire emergency, I remember him shaking his head and saying: “Something’s really wrong. You just can’t predict the fire seasons anymore.”
Of course, he was right. He didn’t have a name for it but what he was observing was the result of a changing climate. In NSW in 2018 there were only two months where we didn’t have fires.
Homes were lost on the far south coast at Tathra at a time when the fire season should have been winding down, rather than producing the worst fire weather ever experienced there.
In April, after the official danger period, a fire scorched its way through south western Sydney. Major fires started in August with the earliest ever declaration of a Total Fire Ban in early September. None of these events are “one-offs” — they are part of a sustained, worsening trend.
I fought fires in California in 1995 and the resource base of fire engines, helicopters, large water bombers and people was enormous.
Despite this, according to my colleague, Ken Pimlott, who recently retired as the head of CalFire, these resources are no match for the year-round fire season they now face. The reason I fear the future? Like California, we in Australia also face a “new normal”.
The baseline temperature has increased, night-time temperatures have increased, and fires often exhibit behaviour, even at night, that is uncontrollable.
We are experiencing a significant increase in the number of days of Very High fire danger and above, and fires are burning in areas that should never burn, at times when there should not be fire.
Fire agencies, including the sadly depleted National Parks services in almost every state and territory, are struggling to deal with this new reality.
Firefighting strategies and tactics have changed just in the past few years with both NSW and the Victorian governments leasing heavy waterbombers from the northern hemisphere, something we never used to do; and the Australian Government has now recognised the need nationally.
Overlapping fire seasons between the two hemispheres are making the regular exchange of firefighters and specialist equipment more and more difficult.
When I retired I wanted to continue serving the community, so I went back to where I started as a volunteer firefighter in Terrey Hills.
Another opportunity came along recently — to work with the Climate Council. I grasped this opportunity because I believe it is my duty to explain to people that climate change is not something that might cause problems in the future. It is affecting all of us right now. Decisive action on climate change is crucial.
During my career I saw strong, principled, disciplined and informed leadership, with a dash of courage thrown in, on many occasions at fires, disasters and major emergencies.
The same sort of leadership is needed from our elected representatives in order to protect us from an uncertain future.
The price of inaction will increasingly be paid in lives lost and communities shattered. That’s not a price that any of us should be prepared to pay, and I expect our leaders to step up.
Greg Mullins, AO, AFSM, Climate Councillor and former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW
Comments from Telegraph
Raymond: What a load of codswallop
Kevin: Summary – “I put out fires and my dad said it’s getting hotter = expertise in the physics of not just global climate patterns, but solar variations and their consequences in a chaotic system”.
Daryl: What a ridiculous assertion. The vast majority of bush fires that have resulted in loss of lives and property were started by people, either deliberately or by accident.
Mark:A shame to end a lifetime of service as a mouth piece for the climate change crowd.
On the bright side sea level rise might extinguish these hell fires if we are to believe all this stuff.
John: Retiring as FRNSW Commissioner, he would have to be on a very very comfortable super / pension for life yet he wants to stick his nose in the Climate Change Council’s financial trough & spruik their rot. Spare me….and Tim (It’s never going to rain again) Flannery is the Council’s Chairman? I’m bent over LMAO
Warwick:Seriously. You are basing your assumptions on the anecdotal evidence of your father said something was wrong. Really.
Margaret:So the fact that councils, under the thrall of the Greens and assorted other nutters, refuse to do what sensible councils did in the past and burn back in winter and clear fuel from forests is not worth a mention.
We know the climate is changing but it seems a convenient excuse for the kind of nonsense that is perpetrated by those who should know better. Instead of preaching this mantra I would have admired your service had you taken on local councils to do their job.
Robert:Greg. Thank you for your service to the community. Whilst the climate is important and may have influence, what about the constant development of housing further into areas of risk
Stephen North of Sydney: I appreciate your efforts to fight Mother Nature when fire is her weapon of choice to clean her house .You should have a clear understanding of how it works after all of those years . The Climate crowd got you , show us where the temperatures have increased enough for you to make those claims, and I’ll agree with you . Until then, please retire, and be grateful you were not seriously injured playing with fire.
A:Please save us from idealogues like this bloke!
When I was growing up the fuel load was continually being managed. Now there is not a fraction of the fuel reduction burning. The climate is no different now than it has ever been, but rules that prevent fuel reduction are very different. So now when it does burn the damage is much worse making it much easier for these blokes to justify their existence.
Gary: Agree there A, just had the bush near me back burned after 30 years of fuel build up
John:Bushfires rely on 3 things, heat, oxygen & fuel. You can’t get of the first two but you can remove the third & where there’s no fuel there’s no fire. Simple
Kevin:The other factors you’ve left out are that more homes are in risky areas and those homes and their contents are much more valuable, making the effects seem so much greater.