National Parks across New South Wales and Queensland, including the Blue Mountains National Park, are closed ahead of a catastrophic fire warning for tomorrow.

Nearly a million hectares of NSW has already burnt to a crisp in the recent bushfires, with 40 still burning uncontained across the state. Shit.

We’ve lost 150 homes and 3 lives already, so before I say anything else:

Don’t Go Into The Bush Tomorrow

Damn, never thought I’d be agreeing with Gladys on something. But yeah, tomorrow is looking gnarly. Wind and temps in the 30s have forced the Rural Fire Service to crack out the catastrophic fire danger rating for tomorrow. That’s right, the black and red one that we all had a bit of a chuckle at when it was introduced 10 years ago is literally describing how potentially-cooked things are gonna get.

I was talking to a Rural Fire Service volunteer the other weekend and he said that we’d need 80mm of rain over a week to really pull back the risk to something normal. Hmm… it was kinda cold the other day? He also described the grass as ‘cured’, like smoked meat, which scared the bejesus outta me.

The NSW state of emergency is statewide, but the real hotspots are the Greater Sydney region, Greater Hunter, the Illawarra and Shoalhaven. Fires are already heavily raging up north, diverting resources from as far afield as New Zealand, but down here it’s still mostly kindling.

Gaia Scarf, three sisters, mt solitary, hazard reduction burn, @gaia.scarf

Hazard reduction burning last year in the Blue Mountains | Photo by @gaia.scarf

National Parks Closed

Ahead of this very dangerous time, NSW National Parks have officially shut large parts of their national parks. It’s all detailed on their alerts page but to be honest, I’d be staying away from all bushland if I could help it. Schools are closing, Ausgrid are taking the day off and smoke’s going to make the air quality pretty dodgy. I don’t usually say this but, maybe just stay inside tomorrow.

Update: WAE contributor Saphira Schroers just messaged me to say that Queensland health are actually advising people to stay indoors due to poor air quality. So there’s your get out of jail free card.

This also probably goes without saying but there’s a Total Fire Ban. Not a park-wide fire ban, not a I’m-just-gonna-have-a-small-fire-for-this-photo ban. No fires. It’s not even cold. Don’t burn shit. Go buy some Cornettos or something.

Have a read of the Rural Fire Service’s Plan and Prepare page while you’re at it. Sydney’s literally throbbing with reserves and eucalypt forests and most places less-urban are probably worse. The RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has already said that they ‘can’t guarantee a firetruck at every home’, so it could pay to be prepared, and know when to leave.

Even if you’re living in a sharehouse where using the phone torch in the toilet is a decent solution to a blown lightbulb, knowing the risks and being prepared to evacuate is a responsibility, to yourself and the already far-too-stretched fire service.

What’s caused these dangerous conditions?

Time to dispel a little fake news, RFS funding hasn’t been cut. I saw a little meme on Facebook and was happy to believe that the state government had ripped $65 million dollars out of the RFS. Yikes. Luckily that isn’t the case, and it serves as a reminder to not believe everything you read, especially on social media.

But what’s caused this shocking situation?

Greg Mullins explains it pretty well in this article for the Sydney Morning Herald. In short, and in part, us.

These fires are different. It is drier than it should be and they are getting worse. He’s spent half a century fighting fires and barely seen a pyroconvective storm (a storm so intense that it changes the weather, creating thunderstorms). Now he seems them regularly.

It’s so dry that the rainforest is on fire up north and old-growth forests in Tasmania burnt out recently and may never recover. The old ‘Australia is meant to burn’ misnomer gets trotted out all the time, but it doesn’t apply to these environments.

The Guardian starts this article by providing evidence that we’ve made the planet warmer – because we’re still trying to convince people about that – before explaining that yeah, a rapidly warming climate does make bushfires worse.

School Strike 4 Climate is protesting outside NSW Parliament tomorrow at 8:30am. They’ll be debating a bill that’ll let planning groups ignore the overseas emissions of the fossil fuels they dig up. I like to call it the ‘don’t think about it’ bill. It’s a terrible idea because, huge newsflash, we all live on the same planet. That’s like selling someone a gun when you’re both in a space shuttle and saying ‘go ahead, pop some off’.

I’ve said enough. Stay safe tomorrow, and tell the government that thoughts and prayers aren’t gonna be enough.


Feature photo by Iain Bennett

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