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"I saw fires a metre high burning across mown lawns while fighting fires at Batemans Bay" says former fire chief

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Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire residents travelled to Canberra this week to take part in a People's Assembly outside Parliament House, calling on the Federal Government to take the climate emergency seriously and act urgently. Image courtesy Kathryn McCarthy.

A COALITION OF 31 former fire and emergency chiefs has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the proposed bushfire Royal Commission must examine the role of climate change, otherwise it will be a waste of time and money. 

“Climate change drove the record hot and dry conditions this summer, and the unprecedented and deadly fire weather that devastated communities across the country,” said Climate Councillor and former Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, Greg Mullins.

“Climate change has increased fire danger so much that fires now burn freely through areas that have undergone hazard reduction burning recently. I saw fires a metre high burning across mown lawns while fighting fires at Batemans Bay on New Years Eve,” said Mr Mullins. 

I have written to the Prime Minister emphasising that we cannot manage escalating bushfire risks without taking urgent action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’ve been fighting fires for almost 50 years and this summer I’ve seen things I never imagined. Normally, fast moving animals like kangaroos can escape, but these fires have been so ferocious I saw them jumping from the bush burning.

The former chiefs say a Royal Commission should establish how climate change has affected the length of fire seasons, the number of days of Very High Fire Danger and above, how it has reduced rainfall and increased temperatures and wind velocities across fire prone parts of Australia.  

Lee Johnson, former Commissioner, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, said: “Experts warned a decade ago that climate impacts would lead to the conditions we’ve seen this summer. They are warning again that inaction on climate change will fuel even worse conditions in the future.

“The Royal Commission’s focus on recovery and rebuilding must acknowledge how climate change is also exacerbating drought impacts, floods, storms, and cyclones; and recognise that deep and rapid emissions cuts are essential for the long-term safety and security of our country. 

“Ultimately, Australia is a major global player in the climate fight, and the steps we take here have an impact in our own backyard and beyond. Whether or not a Royal Commission goes ahead, there is a lot of meaningful progress on climate we can make right now,” said Mr Johnson.