Research indicates major travel destinations including the Blue Mountains and NSW Central Coast will be heavily impacted by grass fires this year.
These regions, along with Sydney's leafy suburbs, Newcastle and Wollongong historically burn in the wake of a triple La Niña, and with a dry spell now expected, former NSW Fire Commissioner Greg Mullins is warning the conditions could be “diabolical”.
“We know that after floods we get massive growth. It dies. Then it burns,” he told Yahoo News Australia. “So we could get a double whammy — we’ll get big grass fires and then we could get major bushfires immediately following summer.” He expects the worst bushfires will begin in October, peaking over the Christmas period and into January.
Mr Mullins' prediction comes after the Climate Council released a new report warning widespread rain has escalated vegetation growth, resulting in “powder-keg like conditions for fires”.
It warns "widespread grass fires on a scale never before experienced" with increased risk this year in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
Tourism set to be smashed by next fire season
Forests will be incinerated and species facing extinction like koalas will likely be pushed further to the brink, but there will also be an immediate impact on the livelihoods of many Australians.
University of Technology’s Dr David Beirman is the author of Tourism Crises and Destination Recovery, which was published after the 2019/2022 Black Summer bushfires, and he spoke with Yahoo News Australia about the disaster’s impact on regional Australia.
He explained the last fire season was “very bad for tourism”, with coastal areas that are dependent on summer visitors hit particularly hard. “Tourism numbers in many popular places dropped by 70 per cent in some places, but even the state capitals like Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra the air was pretty nasty, so people really didn’t travel.”
Despite tourist numbers being down during the fire season itself, he did notice a rebound during the recovery period. “In many cases people come and show support for affected communities,” he said.
With Australia set to be impacted by severe fires once more, those living in vulnerable areas will need to prepare their properties to help minimise their impact. But people in urban areas, particularly those with respiratory issues may wish to consider planning to leave to avoid the smoke. While then Prime Minister Scott Morrison was slammed for taking a family holiday to Hawaii during Black Summer, Dr Beirman doesn’t think the general public has to worry about such scrutiny from their neighbours.
Emergency services will be unable to cope
Mr Mullins said tackling the climate crisis is key to tackling the threat of bushfires, as no amount of preparation can “beat Mother Nature when she is angry”. “Whatever arrangements you have with emergency services, they won’t be able to cope with 2040 conditions.”
“Within our lifetimes we’ll basically get to a stage where we can’t do anything,” he said. “We’ll just have to build shelters and hope for the best when the fires come through.”
Mr Mullins has joined forces with other former state fire chiefs, forming the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action coalition. They are concerned by predictions that by 2060 the Black Summer fire conditions will be considered exceedingly cool.
“We are trying to get across to people that this isn’t a game, it’s not a case of waiting 10 years for the next bushfire, they’re now five or six years apart on the east coast,” he said. “Then you get floods, so you’ve got back-to-back disasters. As you’re trying to get back on your feet from the last one, the next one bowls you over, and at some stage you can’t get back up.”
Despite Australia ramping up efforts to reduce its emissions, the climate wars continue, particularly in the United States. ‘I don’t think the human race is smart enough to save itself,” he said. “In millions of years, some archeologist will come along and say: Who were they? They didn’t last long. I hope not. But it’s a shame that politicians run the world.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.