An inquiry into the recent massive bushfire disaster in Australia has found the country should expect “worse” in the years to come.
The review – which looked at New South Wales (NSW), the worst-hit state – made sweeping proposals aimed at better preparing for future fire seasons.
The blazes began last August and burned for months, killing 33 people nationally and scorching vast areas.
The NSW state government said it would adopt the inquiry’s 76 recommendations.
The “extreme and extremely unusual” bushfires destroyed 2,476 houses and 5.5 million hectares of land in that state alone, according to the NSW Bushfire Inquiry report.
The main causes were a drought which had made the land extremely dry and ready to burn, hot and windy weather, and climate change.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday: “The next fire season is already upon us.”
As deadly fires rage in the US summer in California, NSW has seen winter blazes this month – though none have posed a significant threat.
What did the report recommend?
It made far-reaching proposals, including:
- ordering residents in at-risk areas to conduct compulsory land-clearing
- better aerial firefighting strategies, including more water-bombing at night
- drawing on more Aboriginal land management techniques, such as cultural burning
- allowing firefighters to enter private properties to start controlled burns on materials which fuel fires
- improving alert systems for bush fire smoke, and research into its health impacts
- making government agencies more efficient and auditing their progress.
Ms Berejiklian said: “We have to accept also that our climate is changing and those who wrote the report acknowledge that.”
The report also noted an alarming rise in fire-generated storms – the most dangerous type of blaze. Of the 90 recorded since the early 1980s, a third took place in the past year.
- A visual guide to Australia’s bush fire crisis
Overall, most bushfires were caused by lightning strikes and embers from other blazes.
There were just 11 instances of people deliberately attempting to light bushfires, reinforcing that arson was wrongly overstated by some people as a significant cause of the crisis.
It added that this year’s season was unlikely to be as severe.