Large, intense wildfires pose a threat to people, farms, forests, and conservation interests. They are dangerous and expensive to put out. We have had a run of bad fire seasons, with multiple damaging landscape scale fires in 2011, 2012 and 2013, especially in the spring.
Questions are being asked in the press and by politicians worried about the threat posed by such significant events and the strain this puts on the fire service, communities and budgets. There is a need to examine the situation and develop new responses.
Fire danger grows as fuel loads increase. There are significant changes in land use occurring, especially in the marginal farming areas that are seeing increasing fuel loads. We already get periods of warm weather and short term droughts that dry out fuels and the longer term forecasts of climate change are that these episodes will become more severe. The continuity of fuels across landscapes is also increasing as vegetation grows. The potential for large landscape scale high intensity fires is therefore increasing.
In some areas there are fewer people around to carry out Muirburn safely, increasing the risk of escapes. Access to the countryside has improved but this is also putting people closer to fuels. We are therefore need to become better prepared and do what we can to manage fuels better, and prevent ignitions that could lead to wildfires and reduce damage.