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Fire Fighting for Dummies

We had rain.  Not enough, but a bit more than 25mm or an inch over the last couple of days.

I feel so very lucky.

For the last fortnight we have had our tanker trailer with 1000 litres of water and a pump hooked up to the ute, fueled up and ready just in case.  We have a new ring road fire break and dams front and back. We’ve had our water barrel with mop on the verandah full of water. We’ve had the top cement tanks dedicated for fire fighting full. We’ve had our overalls, boots, goggles and face masks ready.

And still, our fire plan is that in conditions like those we have been experiencing with record Spring temperatures and strong winds, we will just leave.  When they say ‘extreme weather”, this is what they mean. This is not even an el Niño year – next year could easily be much worse. We’re on track to hand our kids a whole new definition of extreme.

I feel so much for those who have lost homes, but also, I feel powerless.  I’ve had enough years in the Rural Fire Service to know: there are fires you can fight successfully on the ground, and there are fires that you can only fight politically, and it seems we are going backwards in fighting them politically. There are the heroic people who are out there with fire hoses, and there are the self-deluding people who conspire to give them bigger and bigger fires to fight each year. We need self sacrifice and heroism on the political front to match the fire front.

Or not even self sacrifice – just self interest. The way this one plays out is that insurance premiums rise to the point where carbon pricing is dwarfed by rises in insurance premiums, and in the taxes needed to reconstruct whole neighbourhoods, and in electricity prices to rebuild all those burnt poles and wires.  More people can’t afford insurance, so the risk is shared fewer ways, which bumps it up again. It’s self catalyzing.

We do just need to get through this one, this fire season, this summer.  Take care of the people suffering right now. But we do also need to seriously talk about how this is a natural disaster in the same way that a crash by a drink driver is an “accident”.  You can’t drink drive. You can’t burn coal. The risks are too great.


{ 9 comments… add one }
  • celia October 20, 2013, 5:23 pm

    Take care, Linda. Lots to think about and mull over in your words, thank you. xx

  • Pat Machin October 20, 2013, 10:16 pm

    Stay safe.

  • Carleene October 21, 2013, 1:06 am

    Wonderful post Linda:) please be safe and my thoughts are with you, we had to leave our home twice back in January here in Victoria..so I know your anxiety…I feel sick about the future and how extreme weather will get:( and I also get the feeling no one is talking! I looked at all my regular blogs that I have a look at every day and you are the only blogger I found that was talking about it!

  • Jude Wright October 21, 2013, 6:16 am

    I couldn’t agree more. We are in the same situation; if the fire comes our way, we would just leave, these conditions are just too extreme. Fire was always a big risk in the Australian bush, now it is a certainty.

  • Tricia October 21, 2013, 9:37 am

    Hear hear!

    I read this post yesterday Linda – and its been on my mind. We have to have the courage to speak out about the relationship between climate change and increasing wildfire (even if some get criticised for doing so). Thank you for being an inspiration.

  • Ruth October 22, 2013, 5:34 pm

    I’m glad you are safe so far. I have been wondering if you were in the fire zone.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Vanessa October 23, 2013, 2:00 pm

    Good to hear you’re prepared and realistic about the danger of fire. I hope it doesn’t come to either option though. Hoping for rain soon!

  • Karen Thompson October 24, 2013, 7:21 am

    Hi Linda

    I am also a firefighter and volunteer community educator for QFRS. It continues to amaze me just how many people live in the bush and are not bushfire aware. It’s almost as though they think someone will come along and sort it for them when it all goes to poo.

    At Clear Mountain there are about 450 houses and we have 2 trucks so “no people”, a truck will not always turn up to save your house. People need to think about these things, plan ahead and take action yourselves – be prepared. Our communities are losing their resilience, I think it’s really sad. We need to get people to step and and take responsibility for their own futures.


  • Sarah November 10, 2013, 12:13 am

    I live on the Northern Beaches in suburban Sydney and even I have been making fire plans – we live in a little pocket of bush that on the wrong day, could go up and take a dozen homes with it. It’s a terrifying thought and our plan is simply to get out of the way and hope for the best.

    If only our politicians had the fortitude to stand up to business and demand change.

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