A haunting photo of an out-of-control grass fire burning in Victoria has escalated fears that Australia could be in for its worst bushfire season next summer.
The country has spent the past three years suffering intense rainfall and record-breaking floods due to La Nina, claiming lives and destroying countless homes.
But experts have warned a new threat is looming over the horizon once the rain and clouds clear.
Prolonged rainfall helps grass and vegetation grow but once the weather changes, that dries out and turns it into the perfect fuel for fires as conditions become drier and hotter.
Former Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins warned fires are likely to wreak havoc around New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia this year.
A grassfire is seen near Flowerdale in Victoria on Tuesday night. Experts have warned the recent La Nina will increase the risk of fires in Australia
He explained that while grass fires were less severe than forest fires, firefighters knew that ‘grass fires followed floods’ and their unpredictability made them extremely dangerous.
They not only move at incredible speeds but the fires can ignite just hours after rainfall, and can also change direction, tragically leaving those in their path with nowhere to go.
‘Many people have been killed when trapped in the open or in cars by fast-moving grass fires,’ Mr Mullins wrote in a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.
He said Australia’s drying landscape was becoming a ‘powder keg’ with millions of hectares ‘primed to burn’.
‘All it takes is a lightning strike, a carelessly tossed cigarette, or a harvesting accident to spark disaster,’ he said.
Former Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins has warned that fires are likely to wreak havoc around New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia this year (pictured is a fire burning in Chinchilla, Queensland earlier this month)
History has shown heavy rainfall has often led to fires, with major fires seen after La Nina events in the 1950s, 70s and early 2000s.
In 1957, 1977 and over 2001/2002, Sydney and the Blue Mountains were ravaged by fires, while after a double La Nina in 1969 in Victoria, more than 200 houses were destroyed.
In that same year in Lara, north-east of Geelong, 17 people were killed when a grass fire suddenly changed direction.
They were on the Melbourne-Geelong Expressway at the time and had left their cars trying to outrun the fire before they were killed.
After another long La Nina in 1974 and 1975, 117million hectares of land across the country was scorched by fires.
Mr Mullins believes that with climate change, ‘driven by the burning of coal, oil and gas’, the risk of fires have only increased in the years since.
‘Firefighters fear that if extensive grass fires break out in hotter, drier, windier weather conditions than those experienced in the 1970s, they could be far more destructive and deadly than anything we’ve ever seen before,’ he said.
Experts have called on governments to ramp up preparedness for major fire events this summer (pictured bushfire in Perth in February, 2021)
‘Many people have barely recovered, some still picking up the pieces, but it’s chilling to think that yet another disaster could be just around the corner.’
Several communities are still reeling from the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires that claimed 26 lives.
The effects of the increased grass fire risk are being felt in Flowerdale, northeast of Melbourne.
A 700-hectare fire has been burning out of control since shortly after 10pm on Tuesday night.
As of 8am on Wednesday, no lives or houses were lost, and as many as 350 firefighters are working to tackle the blaze.
The state’s emergency alert system, Vic Emergency, warned residents who remained in the region that it was too dangerous to leave.
That warning has since been downgraded to a Watch and Act alert, but authorities don’t expect the fire to be contained until Thursday.
Mr Mullins is also the founder of Emergency Leaders for Climate Action and warned fires are also likely to wreak havoc over the 2023 and 2024 summer.
‘The summer of 2023 – 2024 will also almost certainly see a return to normal or above normal bushfire conditions across most of Australia, with previous long wet periods followed by major fires in the NSW Blue Mountains and even the suburbs of Sydney,’ he said in a statement.
‘All levels of government need to understand the escalating risk of devastating fires and ramp up preparedness now.’
He is calling on governments to increase funding for emergency services and recovery projects.
‘Firefighters fear that grass fires occurring in hot, dry and windy conditions worsened by climate change could unfold on a scale never before experienced, potentially overwhelming emergency services at times, and placing communities at great risk,’ Mr Mullins said.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE CAUGHT IN A GRASS FIRE
Quickly move indoors:
- Bring your pets indoors.
- Close all exterior doors, windows and vents.
- Turn off cooling systems.
- You must take shelter before the fire arrives. The extreme heat is likely to harm you well before the flames reach you.
- Shelter in a room that has two exits, such as a door or window, including one directly to the outside. It is important to be able to see outside so you know what is happening with the fire.
- If your home catches on fire and the conditions inside become unbearable, you need to get out and go to an area that has already been burnt.
If you cannot get indoors, last resort options include:
- Shelter in the middle of a large open area like a ploughed paddock, football oval or sporting reserve.
- Get into a large body of water like a dam, lake, river, the ocean or in-ground pool.
- Try to protect yourself from the fire’s heat.
In the car:
- If you are travelling, do not enter the warning area. Make a u-turn and travel to safety.
- If you are currently driving slow down and turn on your headlights; smoke will make it difficult to see.
If caught in fire:
- Park behind a solid structure to block the fire’s heat or pull over to cleared area.
- Try to position the car towards the approaching fire.
- Turn on your hazard lights and headlights.
- Close all windows.
- Turn off the air-conditioning and shut all the air vents.
- Turn your car engine off.
- Get down as low as possible below window level and cover up with a woollen blanket.
Source: Vic Emergency
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk