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.